But I’m not Chinese!!

Hey folks –

Yes I know that title makes no sense, but hear me out.

The Wall Street Journal recently posted an article written by Amy Chua entitled “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior” which inspired thousands of comments, both for and against Ms. Chua’s article.

Her article boiled down to a few main concepts –

1) Getting A’s is the most important thing (no sports, sleep overs, etc)

2) You MUST take piano or violin

3) Anything less than an “A” is unacceptable unless it’s gym class.

Well, I read the whole thing and to be honest, I didn’t see it as all bad or all good. There were aspects in that article I liked.

No, I’m not advocating taking away your child’s right to food, water, and bathroom breaks when practicing. I think that hammering a young person into conforming stifles creativity and self expression. But some of the ideas expressed in the article might be key to getting past road blocks in your (or my) development.

First, I would take “failure is not an option” and instead use “Aim High”. When my boys struggle to get good grades in a class, I don’t push for a B anymore. I tell them “There’s no reason why you can’t get an A in this class so work for it”. Even if the A doesn’t come, they will do better than if they’d aimed to get a “B”.

Second – positive mental attitude. My sons have struggled with this at times and I have too when it comes to my day job.

Four years ago I had my dream job – the one I’d worked for, gone to school for, and finally had it. I was successful, I’d built a team that was getting the job done. But a reorganization of upper management put in place a new VP who played favorites. Unaware of this, I went about business as usual and when I went on vacation (2 months before reviews) I came back to a list of complaints from my director who had gone through all my work while I was gone. The complaints continued, I got a bad review and pushed to another team. My replacement, who I met with, said within the first minute of our meeting “The VP said I had a job here as long as I want it!”.

I went to manage a team in an area I didn’t like. A year later I was moved to manage a team I liked even less. Then I was given a chance to go back to computer programming in Java again, I took it, and while the work was interesting, my new boss hated me. Another bad review, kicked off THAT team and landed where I currently am now.

Now my new boss has been fine, the work somewhat interesting, but guess where my attitude was by now? Right, in the dumpster. And it stayed that way for a while.

Recently I’ve been working on changing my attitude, if not for the company, at least for the quality of work I should be doing. With a bad attitude towards your school, your teacher, your work, your boss, there is little room for success. My son criticized his school everyday and came home with some really bad grades.

My suggestion?

Stop saying/thinking negative thoughts. Catch your self in the act “this job is horrible” – and interrupt it with something else. Find satisfaction in SOME aspect. For a student, you can watch that D turn into a C, then into a B, and finally an A.

Focus (i.e. stop being lazy): When one of my sons struggled with math, I asked him how many hours a week does he spend on soccer? His answer: 30. How many on math? 2. Guess which one he was better at?

We need to make up our mind that we are GOING to do something and it starts now. Once started, it gets easier. I hate to clean my desk. Hate it. But once I get started, I don’t want to be interrupted until it’s done, cleared, and smelling like some sort of furniture polish.

Set goals – I will do “this”, “this” amount of time or for this long or this many times a week.

The more you accomplish, the more fun something gets: This is a point that Ms. Chua makes towards the end of her article after berating and ceaselessly pressuring her 7 year old to play a piece on the piano. When her child was able to play the piece, the joy, the relief, the sense of accomplishment gives the child new confidence. Ok, this is a valid point. But for her, the ends justifies the means. I won’t do that to my kids (as much), but I will push. I will remove distractions, I will ground my kids, and I will work with them on what’s stopping them from being successful.

The same thing goes for my work. My work had been sloppy. My manager has noticed it and mentioned a few things. From here on, I plan to dot the i’s and cross the t’s – and maybe I can stay here long enough to find a new job elsewhere 🙂

Check your attitude, focus on goals, and remember success builds on success.

Spencer Out