Learn to be difficult

Random thoughts on "learning to be difficult when it counts."- Tim Ferriss in The 4-Hour Work Week.


"Learn to be difficult when it counts. In school as in life, having a reputation for being assertive will help you receive preferential treatment without having to beg or fight for it every time.

Think back to your days on the playground. There was always a big bully and countless victims, but there was also that one small kid who fought like hell, trashing and swinging for the fences. He or she might not have won, but after one or two exhausting exchanges, the bully chose not to bother him or her. It was easier to find someone else.

Be that kid. " - Tim Ferriss in The 4-Hour Work Week.


I was honestly in shock when I was reading this in the middle of a chapter. Maybe because this is the extreme opposite of what I was taught growing up.


"Learn to be difficult"?! I was told to not be difficult my whole life, not make trouble for other people. I was taught not to speak up, stick my head out. I was told to keep my heads down and stay quiet. I was taught to be obedient to authority figures. It's disrespectful if you speak up or disagree with them. Even to this day, my mom still tells me that when I tell her some of the work and life struggles I'm going through.


Last year when I was doing my self-discovery work, I asked my cousin to answer a few questions as part of my inner child work. So one of the questions was, "What were my best traits?". She wrote, "Before coming to the U.S., you are very, very, very obedient!". She thinks I've become more difficult after moving to the U.S. because I'm less obedient.


The truth is I've been torn between American and Asian values for a long time. Remember there are times my parents told me they should've not have me coming to American, so I won't change and lose all the Chinese values (which I didn't). In their mind, I'm not a good daughter if I don't live with them, I'm not a good daughter if I say no to them, I'm not a good daughter if I don't act like a normal Chinese girl in China.


I understand their struggles. It's hard for them to live somewhere they have no friends and do not speak the language. It took tremendous courage to pack up and leave their country in their late 40's. Mind you, they don't have any college education. They grew up under Cultural Revolution in China. When they are supposed to get their education, they got sent to the rural area to work as part of the movement. (The campaign aimed to get educated urban youth to go and work in the countryside and mountain areas as farmers).


Because of the experience they had, their whole generation is exceptionally focused on their children's education. Education above all! My parents and my friend's parents, everyone was willing to sacrifice anything to make sure their children go to college. This is where there was so much pressure to study and be a good student growing up. There was so much pressure to listen to authorities and not make any trouble in school so the teacher can have a good impression on you. There were also not many ways to get into college in China. The only way in college is through the exams at the end of the high school year, like the SAT here in the U.S., it used for college admissions in China. Unlike SAT, it's not an option. It was the only way to get into regular college.


Feel like I'm going off-topic, but this just bought up so many memories. So this past year, with Covid 19, the BLM movement, and the rise of Asian hate crimes, I've been leaning more about American racial issues. I know my parents would definitely against me talking about them and will tell me to stay quiet. Not speaking up as Asian women is definitely generational.


I've learned the term "model minority" lately. Interesting how people like to put a label on everything. Asians are good at math, Asians are quiet and obedient, Asians are hard workers, Asians are successful, etc. Whenever I see topics on racial bias, I rarely see Asians being included in it. I know racial bias towards Asians exists, but why so few people talk about it. Why is that? Why are we so invisible in these conversations? Why are so few Asians in leadership roles (bamboo ceiling is another term I've learned lately, very interesting)? Why are Asians so overlooked in research, clinical outreach, and advocacy efforts (Countering stereotypes about Asian Americans)?


So many questions to be answered, and I don't know all the answers. All I can do right now is learn more and share our stories. Encourage myself and others to step up, speak up, and don't hesitate to step into leadership roles to help create more meaningful changes for future generations.


"The bottom line is that you only have the rights you fight for." - Tim Ferriss in The 4-Hour Work Week.