How’s the perfect kid like in your parents' eyes?
I feel very fortunate. My parents never put expectations on my brother, sister, and I to be perfect in any way. Yes, they wanted us to be “successful.” But they supported whoever we were, whatever we did, and whatever we wanted to become. More than anything else as our parents, they just taught us to be good people.
To back up a bit, I’m an ABC who grew up in the U.S. I went to a good university and have an MBA. But I always tell people that I’m the dumbest person in my family. At least, I’m the least educated. My mom and dad have PhDs. So does my sister. My older brother doesn’t, but he has two Masters. One’s an MBA. The other is in Biochemistry.
Growing up, I was the happy-go-lucky, easy-going kid our family. I just loved running around playing with my friends. In fact, my mom used to call me her “playboy son” (I made her stop saying this as I got older. She was giving me a bad reputation!). I loved sports, so played lots of basketball, baseball, football, and tennis. At home, I was lazy and watched TV a lot. Frankly, I had no ambition. But I was likeable and made friends easily.
My dad was a very good civil engineer, but not so ambitious. He was also into sports and being with friends. Like me, he liked to enjoy his life. But my mom was different. She had an incredibly dedicated work ethic and sense of purpose for her career. She wanted to positively impact the lives of others, which she did.
Like many Chinese moms, she hoped I’d become a doctor. So I’m sure it bothered her that I was lazy and rarely applied myself. I didn’t try very hard in school. In fact, I didn’t really care where I went to college. Just going to the local one with my friends was fine with me.
But while my mom and dad would occasionally discipline me, they never really pressured me to be something that they wanted me to be. They always encouraged me and accepted who I was. Maybe she said it to justify my laziness and lack of ambition, but she’d always tell everyone (and me!) that I was a “late bloomer.” She’d say that once I found what I really wanted to do, I’d do some very good things with my talent.
She was right. In my mid-20s, I had an awakening during my first trip to China. That trip was a life-changing event for me. It was the first time I began to take my life seriously.
Today, I’m dedicated and committed to what I do. It took me a while, but I’m proud to say that I take after my mom a lot these days. She’s never looked at what she does as a job, or even a career. She calls it her life’s work. It’s the same for me.
But becoming more ambitious, harder working, and more purposeful with my life hasn’t changed one bit how my parents view or treat me. I remember my dad once telling me, “Your life will be viewed as successful as long as you’re a decent, kind-hearted person.” My parents never cared about our academic achievements, or career or financial success. Ultimately, they just wanted my brother, sister, and I to be happy, and encourage us to do what’s important to us. Despite the growing pressures of today’s world, that’s the kind of parent I plan to be for my two kids too.