Culture, family, friends, expectation…

Man is a child of his environment – Shinichi Suzuki

In Po Bronson’s book, What Should I do with my life, there is a Cuban lady that became a very successful banker. She realized her destiny was to help the needy and became a social worker. In Cuban culture, a social worker is very low class. Her family disowned her. She would go to party and her family would tell her not to tell others what she does. Her aunts discussed on sending her to a mental institute. Her story can be find here.

How should she choose? Follow her heart and help others at the expense of her family? Or follow her family and remain unhappy?
How does your culture (enviornment) define you? Or do you define it?

A couple of weeks ago, I had a very interesting discussion with a friend. He is a salesperson in a computer company and see no future at it. His reason, because Chinese culture look down on sales position (I wonder which culture doesn’t). He then talk about going into law school because it was the easiest to get in compare to other professionals that Chinese culture respect.

I joked back saying..”geez I don’t want any of that. I guess I must be a black sheep.”

The Chinese culture, especially those coming from Hong Kong, believe reputation and status is very important. You have to dress nice clothes and drive brand name cars. Cell phone and other fancy gadget must be the latest in the market. I also find it very similar to Cuban culture. The pressure to rise up. To stand above the crowds.

In regards to family, you have to respect your elders. Getting good grades are important. University is a must. Doctor, engineering, accountant, business, IT, lawyer are the way to go. Afterall, that’s where the money is. Who father or mother doesn’t like bragging to their peers that his/her son is a doctor?

I am fortunate to have parents that ain’t like that. My mom wants me to go into computers but she never push me to become a doc or a lawyer. My parents live a humble life and in such I have learnt to do so as well.

My culture sounds quite superficial and materialistic. Money is important. That’s how you take care of your family. It is your responsiblity to make sure you earn enough money for your family. Maybe it all started with parents wanting the best intention for their kids so they can take care of themselves. But along the way, it seems that getting to the top school or land a good job become the talks among the parent.

Recently, my friends start asking me about retiring, career, buying a house, finding a g/f and so on. Three years ago, I would have some sort of plan. Right now, I don’t have everything figure out. I ain’t going to sit down and show you a game plan. (I know someone above is taking care of me)

And I think that’s ok.

The journey to Ironman. There is a lot of fear in taking this journey.

What do I do when my culture, family and friends is in conflict with my journey?

Do I duke it out?
Do I reach a compromise?
Do I submit?

What about my values?
What do I do when my values are in conflicted with what society expected?

This is more than just Ironman. More than just a race. This is about life.

….will finish up in the next post. Knowing thyself, fear…


  • Conflict – unfortunately it’s everywhere in life. But you’re right. How you handle it is what makes you who you are.

  • Interesting Cliff. Unfortunately, you find this in every culture. Do what truly makes you happy or do that which affords you the means to do the other things that make you happy.

  • My dad is Hawaiian. I am a happa-hoalie (1/2 Haw) and it is the same in our culture…always talking up about the kids and what they do. it does get a bit creepy when he asks lots of questions about my business and how much money I make and my profitablity and things, b/c sometimes I don’t know if its from his paternal concern or information to lord over other members of the family, whom I personally care not one wit for.

  • “This is more than just Ironman. More than just a race. This is about life.”

    Right on the nail.

  • Well…. your conflict sounds similar to mine: Ironman vs. Family and Life. It may sound pessimistic but I feel like they each lose out to the other. This bothers me. But not enough to give up Ironman…

  • I’m kinding of going through the same thing. Trying to figure out which path to take. They’re are so many choices! My in-laws are really pushing for us to move back to WI but I’m not ready (and maybe never will be). On the other hand, I’m very blessed to have so many choices and opportunities. Many people feel trapped, and I feel like I have the world at my fingertips. A happy problem…as my mom would say.

  • Interesting thoughts. I’m glad to be in the same boat with parents who really let me decide how to life my life outside of our cultural background.

    Besides, there really is only one man’s lead that we should try and follow. Whatever He would do in whatever situation is the one you should choose! 🙂

  • Cliff – you’ll figure it out. You know who is in charge and He will show you the way. Keep the faith…

  • I tried to order that book from Amazon, but it never arrived. Robin told me it was a great read. Do you agree? Is it a must read?

By Cliff

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