Hard Then Soft

So I thought I'd kick a dead horse long after it had been beaten senseless by every offended AA blogger out there. I'm referring of course to Wesley Yang's incendiary article Paper Tigers, which beats down and exploits the hell out of another dead horse Tiger parenting. Originally I had no intention of commenting on Yang's article, because:

1) It was too damn long. 11 PAGES for God's sake!
2) I'm too busy parenting my tiger cub.

But I recently listened to a podcast with Wesley Yang and Jeff Yang where Wesley makes some pretty compelling points about the flaws of Tiger parenting. Wesley comes off much better in the podcast than in his article, so I don't know if his article was edited to grab as much attention as possible and piss people off the way Amy Chua's article was engineered to be an idea virus on steroids.

It's funny that Asian Americans were pissed off with Chua and her fascist style of parenting, and then were pissed off at Yang who railed against Chua's fascist parenting. It's like the proverb quoted in his article:

"The loudest duck gets shot."

Doesn't matter what you say, but how you say it. And Asians just don't like other Asians who strut around and quack too loud, even if they're quacking a truth.

Now I said "a" truth, not "the" truth. I'm not going to hit every point in Yang's article (11 PAGES!), but I do think that his article speaks to a significant subgroup within the AA population. Everyone within the Asian American community has hinted at what Yang is saying in his article. It's just that Yang said it the loudest with a big microphone.

In the 90's, I had an Asian American Studies professor say, "There is a Bamboo Ceiling. There is no denying that. But there is some truth to the stereotype that Asians don't raise hell when they hit that ceiling. You can't just be a hard worker, stay quiet and pray that your boss or your colleagues will recognize your effort."

My professor related that although a lot of Asians came to him griping about hitting the Bamboo Ceiling, not one of them asked for that raise or pushed for that promotion.

Fast forward 10+ years and you have Yul Kwon insinuating the same thing in a VisualizAsian interview: that the Bamboo Ceiling is there, but Asians as whole need to 1) step up and become leaders and 2) recognize obstacles of cultural dissonance.

I think the issue most people had with Yang's article was the tone. Yang essentially presented Asian culture as a liability and Western culture as the ideal. But let's be honest here: a lot of Asian Americans got to where they are because their steely discipline was forged from Tiger parenting. Emotional trauma and social awkwardness aside, self-discipline and the ability to eat bitterness go a long way in helping one achieve success in life.

The answer lies somewhere in the middle between Tiger parenting and Wesley Yang's "fuck this, fuck that" attitude toward Asian values. Most Asian Americans I know followed the straight and narrow path laid out before them by their parents, but somewhere along the way they wandered off.

They said, "Fuck this! I'm not happy!" and they decided to do a career change. They were successful in a traditional field, made their money and then decided to follow their passion.

For example, I know plenty of Asian cops who had a previous white collar career. A lot of former IT guys. One guy was an engineer (I don’t know what kind, but he is logical as a Vulcan). Another guy was a draftsman at an architectural firm. My very first partner used to work for Charles Schwab.  I once rented a room to an FBI agent who used to work as some kind of business-information-computer dude. He decided to switch careers, when he was at his work watching the Twin Towers collapse on 9/11.

And there are plenty of examples of Asian Americans in business and in the media who decided to break out and follow their dreams. Let me tell you a story:

There was an optometrist who was successful, intelligent and attractive, but for whatever reason she was single. Her parents wanted to set her up with a nice Korean boy, the son of a friend that they knew.

Like most people would, this woman thought to herself, "I don't know...this guy sounds like a loser."

But she decided to give him a chance, so they did a phone date. They seemed to have a nice enough conversation and she was impressed with his background. He graduated from Stanford and Yale Law. He said he worked for various companies and firms in the past. She asked him what he did now, and he said he was currently unemployed.

That of course raised a red flag in her mind. She asked him what plans he had for the future, and he said, "I want to go on Survivor."

By now she's thinking to herself, "This guy's living in LaLa Land! What loser gives up a career in law to apply to be a contestant on Survivor? Dream on!"

Suffice it to say, they never went out on an actual date nor did they even have a second phone call. She totally forgot about him. Then one night she watched the season premiere of Survivor.

And sure enough, he was on the show: Yul Kwon.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that it always better to start off hard, then soften up. You want to develop self-reliance, discipline and confidence early in your child, so he or she can rely on these traits in whatever passion s/he chooses to pursue.

They do this in the military and police academy. You start off hard with the discipline and the training, and then once your recruits pick up the skills and confidence that they need to do the job, you can soften up a bit and teach in a more relaxed environment.

So if you're a product of strict hard Tiger parenting, don't worry. You'll have plenty of time in adulthood to soften up and follow your passion.

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