A Guide to Life for Asian-American Teens
I wrote this piece for the children of the people in my father’s “Successful Parenting” class at a local chinese school. My father, Anping Shen, graduated from Boston University with a Doctorate in Education (EDD). He has altered his views on parenting over the many years and promotes a CARE strategy. Communication, Appreciation, Respect and Education are his foundations for a good parent.
This was written to help those Chinese kids succeed in life, but really it is applicable to most young people. It’s a little cheesy, but here it .
I wrote this for you. Even though I don’t know you, I know that we share some things in common.
We both come from an Asian background but have lived most of our lives in the U.S. We are both pretty young and we are trying to figure out what to do with our lives. And most importantly, we both have a very special chance to live a great life.
When I was 13, I read a book that changed my life forever. It was called 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The content of the book is stellar, and I highly recommend it. But besides what it said, it made me realize that there might be a better way to do things than the way I’m was doing it then.
I’ve spent nearly 10 years reading, discussing and thinking about what it means to do things better, to live a better life. I’ve read dozens of books and hundreds of articles on these subjects. And I’ve tried to live what I’ve learned.
Now, I want to share some of what I’ve learned with you. I can’t promise to know it all or to get it all right (honestly, who can say that?) but if you read something that you think make sense, then use it. That’s all I can ask.
When you’re ready, come join me as we learn how to seize this one chance we have.
- You have one shot at this thing called life. The average life span is roughly 72 years. Let’s say you’ve got a good 40 or 50 more years before you check out, barring some horrible accident. How do you want to spend that time? Why not make the most of it by seeking to live a great life?
- You define what a great life means. It’s ok if you don’t really know right now. There is no right or wrong. Realize that this is something you’ll be thinking about the rest of your life.
- You are in charge. It’s your job to pursue your vision of a great life your life great. No one else can do it for you – not your parents, not your friends, not anyone else.
- Take responsibility for your actions. This means you apologize when you screw up, you don’t blame others for things that happen to you. Complaining is a waste of time. Starting figuring out what to do about it.
- Understand your family’s culture. They grew up in a different time, a different place where children always respected and obeyed their parents, grades and standardized tests were the only way to a decent future and value was placed on “suffer now, enjoy later”. You’d be just like them if you went through what they did.
- You are between worlds. You came from Asia, but you now live in America where some things are different. You will never be like some of your American friends, but why would you want to? However, you have to adapt yourself to thrive in American culture.
- Families love each other. Understand that your family loves you and that deep down inside, you love them. But sometimes you might disagree. This is ok. Your family can still give you great advice about a lot of things, but perhaps not everything.
Planning for the future.
- Don’t plan everything. Don’t let anyone make you plan out your whole life or commit to something before you’re ready. Life RARELY ever goes according to plan – everyone figures things out as they go along or they are just being blind.
- Embrace change. In the 21st century, people go through an average of half a dozen careers. Things become obsolete fast. New knowledge accumulates quickly. Everything is moving faster. You have got to be able to change: your attitude, your skills, your knowledge.
- Experiment to find passions. Try different things to find a few things (not just one) that you’re passionate about. Give a strong honest effort. There’s no point in half-assing it. When you are passionate about something you care about it, you learn about it, you talk about it, and you will be willing to invest the effort to get good at it.
- Assess the market value. Consider whether your passions lead to something that people get paid to do if they are good enough. If you have to be very good, or it doesn’t pay very well, or the definition of “very good” is highly subjective, you might want to think about having some backups as well.
- Don’t be afraid of failure. As long as you aren’t doing something illegal or highly dangerous, no failure is final. You can always, always bounce back – if you believe in yourself. This is completely a case of positive thinking saving the day.
- Don’t fear success either. Everyone has the right to live the best life they can.
- Learn how to learn. The way things are going, you’ll need to be learning something everyday for the rest of your life. Enjoy it; get good at it.
- Learn how to be social. Learn how to meet new people, to strike up conversation, make someone laugh, ATTRACT somebody.
- Learn where to find resources. Knowledge resources, material resources, and especially human resources. The final one is so important for Asian Americans – having mentors who can help you is critical and building a “network” for the future is so key. You can only work with what you’ve got, but the more you can get, better off you are.
- Learn how to use and take care of your body. It’s the one you’re stuck with for the rest of your life; it can either help you or hold you back. Pick up a sport or at least stay active. Try to eat well and get enough sleep. It’s worth it. You’ll feel a lot better.
- Learn how to get organized. Unless you become a hermit, you’re life will get crazy. You will have many things on your plate and be expected to handle them all. I’m not saying you have to be a neat freak but you do have to
- Master those five and you are good to go. Once you have those skills, you’ll be able to figure out what you need to do in most situations. Usually it involves learning about your situation, figuring out what the best thing to do is, and then doing it.
- You have it so good. You are richer, healthier, and better off than 90% of the world. If you consider past people, you’re better off than 99.9% of all the people that ever lived. Ancient kings had to ride horses, couldn’t watch movies, use working toilets and only got servants fanning them when they were hot. Everyone else’s life was even worse.
- Luck plays a big part in everyone’s life. Be humble about your success, and don’t get too down about your failures. Just do your best and that’s all you can do.
- Be kind. Every person, every living being is connected through a special bond. Try to avoid doing harm whenever you can and help out whenever possible.
- Live in the moment. Life happens in everyday moments. By all means reflect on the past and think about the future. But life is lived in the here and now.