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But what is doing better?

As an Asian immigrant myself I have no shortage of people in my circles who are absolutely miserable being upper-middle class white collar workers.

Asian upbringings do not optimize for happiness, nor even physical well-being. It seeks to maximize income - and it does quite well at that.

We're taught from a young age that we must work hard in school. Why? So we can test well and make it into a good high school (it works that way in much of Asia). Then we must study hard - to make it into a good college. Then we must study ever harder - to excel and be considered for a well-paying job.

Then the progression stops, and the advice runs out. All your life the entire raison d'etre for you has been The Next Step, but now there is none. You've done it, you've hit the end, trumpets are supposed to blare, and... and...

And then what?

You have an entire generation of people who pushed, prodded, and hauled their entire existence to work hard so they may have a good life - but in that process they were never taught what a good life was.

I found myself in that position going through college. I sacrificed socialization in exchange for raw academic performance, and found myself unable to connect with the people around me. I was making six figures out of college, but had nothing to spend it on, save gadgetry and fast machines - tools that allowed to bury myself in a world where I wasn't a mostly socially-retarded 20-something that had stunted social skills, no artistic or creative inclinations, no hobbies, and a circle consisting mostly of equally lost young professionals like myself. It's taken every ounce of effort and time (and a not insignificant sum of money) to start digging myself out of this hole - and I suppose my warning to people is to never dig that hole in the first place.

If you're going to waste away your teens just so you can waste away your twenties catching up to the rest of the world, don't.




About a month ago I was doing some nonprofit work for a local youth organization, and was working with a 16 year old who was already taking college level pre-med classes. He explained that he was going to be either a doctor or an engineer "because, you know, I'm Asian". Someone else later asked him if he wanted to be a doctor, and he replied "it's sort of the family business", as though he had no choice in the matter. (his father is a doctor at a very prestigious clinic).

All the while, he seemed very interested in the development work we were doing, but being "merely" a web developer would not be an appropriate profession. I got the feeling that even if he had no interest in medicine or engineering he felt compelled to pursue one of those careers to satisfy expectations. I wanted to tell him just to slow down and enjoy being young a bit, but it wasn't any of my business, and it wouldn't matter anyway. I just feel bad that this poor kid is going to miss out on some of the best parts of college because he's too focused on reaching a goal he probably doesn't even really want.


Arnold Kim got his MD and even practiced for a while before retiring from medicine to work on Macrumors.com full time.


And wouldn't it have been nice if he could have saved himself a decade of the pain that is medical school, residency, and practice, by leaping into the tech industry earlier?

It would be one thing if he had been making all his own choices, but Arnold Kim lost several years of his life strictly due to his parents' misguided ideas. He very likely could have found the thing he loved sooner without their overbearance. That's a tragedy.


I feel obligated to respond, since I was mentioned, though I'm not sure I have any great insight into the matter.

It's one of those situations in life in which where you end up makes sense only in retrospect, as all those steps led you to where you are. What would have happened if I didn't go the pre-med/medschool route? I'm not entirely sure. I was a computer science guy in college, so absent pursuing a medical career, I probably would have ended up as a programmer somewhere after college ('96). Maybe I would have gotten rich in the craziness or maybe I would have been a victim of the .com crash.

I do think that if I was in college in the past few years, the startup culture and iphone app opportunities would have infected me, and I probably would have had to make an earlier decision.

Though, if I hadn't gone down the path, I don't think MacRumors.com would exist, as there was a timing/luck element to it. Not that I think success is entirely dependent on luck but a matter of taking advantage of circumstances as they arrive. I got married and had kids during that med school diversion, so certainly have no regrets there.

As for parental pressure/expectations on kids, it's something I've thought about especially after becoming a parent. I think as a parent, in many ways, you try to right the wrongs, fulfill the desires, or fix the challenges when you grew up. For immigrant parents, financial stability is probably the #1 hurdle they had, so they want their kids to go to college, get a white color job. That's what they've been struggling with. As someone who grew up financially stable, and being well off now, my priority for my kids is more of a focus on happiness and doing what they want. But that's a luxury that you can afford once financial stability is a given.


Yes, if nice == more efficient. Who's to say he would have even thought of leaping into the tech industry had he not been in med school?


It's definitely a cultural thing, but everyone always misses one angle of the story. Asian parents tell you to work hard and become a doctor or an engineer not necessarily to make yourself happy, but so you can provide well for your family.

It's a mentality that was wholly familiar to our grandparents, but seems to have skipped the baby boomer generation and I'm not sure the country is better for it.


> Then the progression stops, and the advice runs out. All your life the entire raison d'etre for you has been The Next Step, but now there is none. You've done it, you've hit the end, trumpets are supposed to blare, and... and... And then what?

You must have either seen this or you don't need to.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ERbvKrH-GC4


I first saw that right when I was going through this whole existential crisis after college. Suffice to say it got me sad and mad all at once - sad that I haven't seen and comprehended this video earlier (though tbh, it wouldn't have made a difference), mad that it took me this long to realize the fundamental truth of what it posits.


A lot of old Alan Watts recordings are still played on KPFK and perhaps other Pacifica stations. There was a time when the West coast avant garde consisted of both artists and nerds, less so now.


"My father never went to college so it was really important I go to college. After college, I called him long distance and said, now what? My dad didn't know, so he said get a job. When I got a job and turned twenty-five, long distance, I said, now what?" -Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

It's not a quality unique to an Asian upbringing. Chuck Palahniuk was born in the Tri-city area in the state of Washington.


Yes, but the freedom to ask "the self-fulfillment question" is new to some families.


May I ask where you grew up and what schools you went to? I grew up and went to college with Tiger cubs and high school/college was the best years of our lives on top of great grades, honor societies, and successful post-grad careers. Not to rub it in or anything, but work hard / play hard is the motto. What did you during free time? Study more? That's hard to believe on my end.


I'm a Taiwanese-Canadian, first generation. Grew up in Vancouver, went to college at Waterloo.

Everyone in my peer group at college has successful post-grad careers - it doesn't mean squat in terms of general happiness and life satisfaction, though. We're all making way more money than we need, but many are feeling rather empty otherwise.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed college, in so far as one enjoys a nearly-continuous 4-year stint of drunkenness spliced with pedal-to-metal studying.

But after we left, what did we do? Few of us had real hobbies - our time in college was either studying our asses off or doing keg stands to unwind, not exactly a lot of room for self-development or figuring out your passions. So we just kept doing it after graduation - hell, we were real ballas at the club now, not just broke-ass students!

The novelty of that didn't last very long. Some of us are still at it - but a lot of us are starting to wonder why we just spent all this time not having a life, studying our asses off, and now we're just a bunch of under-cultured, under-learned 20-somethings making too much money, with nothing more worthwhile in our lives than flashing money at chic high-end lounges and doing shots of expensive liquor.

Some people might look at this and think we have it great - and maybe you live this life also and think it's awesome. Personally - and for many of my peers - this is a nightmare. We lead an excessive, vapid existence despite having the resources to live fulfilling, rich lives... because we never bothered to slow down and learn how.


Funny, I'm friends with a Taiwanese-Canadian first generation that grew up in Vancouver. He starting off working for the man straight out of college and now leads a team just after a year. I don't know about passion but he's well off in terms of rising the ranks.

What you seem to be talking about is passion, and finding your passion is a lot harder with a typical Asian upbringing. I'll agree to that. However, it's how our education system works. As a kid, most only know to go to a good school to secure a job. It's even what the movies teach you. I guess my main point is, for me, my work is my passion and I love what I do (make social games and side projects). My question for you is, are you saying you really have no hobbies and/or passions?


I'm not Asian, but I can sympathize. I've been working to change that for a few years now.




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