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What if your parents don't approve of your choices?

Your parents want you to become a doctor or lawyer.

But you want to chase YOUR dreams.

What should you do? 父母不同意你选的方向,怎么办? 👇

Every time I've spoken to groups of Asian Americans, someone always asks: “My parents want me to [insert prestigious/high-paying career], but I want to chase my dream. What should I do?”

I can relate. 


Joy Chen family

Here are my parents, with my brother and me. What my parents wanted was for me to:

🕛 Go to Harvard 
🕛 Become a doctor or lawyer
🕛 Get married by age 28 to a Harvard-educated doctor or lawyer 
🕛 Live in a nice suburb and make nice babies, preferably boys
🕛 Lead a nice, quiet, stable life

Here’s what I actually did:

🎨 Never applied to Harvard
🎨 Have had 5 careers on 3 continents – so far
🎨 Wrote a best-selling book for the women of China called “Do Not Marry Before Age 30” 《30岁前别结婚》
🎨 Did not marry until age 38, to state-university graduate
🎨 Had 2 baby girls who sometimes are nice but mostly are themselves
🎨 Led a big-dreaming career, and expect to do same for 40+ more years (I’m 52 now)

My parents ended up happy with my choices, but for decades, they were REALLY unhappy. 

After all, both had endured war, then immigrated from China for Ivy League degrees, then spent decades scrimping and saving to save up to send us to college. 

If my parents had ONE goal for me, it was that I would marry a nice Chinese boy from Harvard. Ideally, he would also be a gourmet chef, family doctor, and multiple-passport holder. They wanted to get me safely adopted to a new Daddy.

Fact is, they just wanted someday to rest in peace knowing I am safe and secure, in an America they saw as confusing and sometimes racist.

And that’s the key: If you’re Asian American, YOUR parents just want for YOU to be safe and secure, in an America that IS confusing and sometimes racist.

So, if YOU feel like your parents’ vision for your future is making it impossible for you to chase your dreams, here’s my advice: 

🎯 GO FOR IT. Go chase your dreams. Someday, your parents will be gone and you’ll be alone to live your life. Start now.

🎯 BE SECURE: Most dreams take longer than expected to realize. Meantime, how will you pay the bills? Start chasing your dreams as a side hustle.  

🎯 LIE. AND LIE BY OMISSION. There is no need to tell your parents about all your life choices if doing so will only cause them needless worry.

🎯 BE PATIENT. Your parents have had totally different life experiences than you. It’s possible they will never understand the choices you make for yourself. 

🎯 BE RESPECTFUL. Especially if your parents are immigrants, they likely worked incredibly hard to give you a good life. Be loving. Respect that it’s their sacrifices that now allow you to chase your dreams.

💡 What advice do YOU have for dealing with parents who have their own visions for your life? Please comment below.

🧧 For more JOY going forward, follow Joy Chen 陈愉 AND my hashtag #JoyousTips.


Joy Chen blog thumbnail

Joy Chen 陈愉

I help Asian Americans build GREAT careers 我帮你实现事业上质的飞跃 ◇ Former L.A. Deputy Mayor & Fortune 500 executive recruiter ◇ Speaker ◇ WSJ "Lean-In Guru" ◇ L.A. Times "The Networker" ◇ Come visit >>

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