There is an article in the New York Times about attaining success. When I read it, I could not help thinking it was all wrong. Mostly, it had to do with their definitions of success, mostly success on other people's terms, and how successful people (in the terms set by others) believe that they became successful.
Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld, the authors, believe that a mentality that combines a superiority complex with impulse control and a deep sense of inferiority is the key to success. They cite "model minority" Asian groups and Mormons and Jews as highly successful groups. Their ethnic notions are chilling and an insult to other groups of Americans, who are not likely to react kindly to being told they are inferior and getting nowhere due to their slacker ways. Nor would members of these "successful" groups enjoy hearing that they owe their success to their rigid, paranoid personalities!!!
Why do I not envy people like Chua and Rubenfeld? Why, instead, do I feel sorry for them for the way they always have to be putting it on about how successful they are? They are successful people (in other people's terms) who have decided that these traits are what have made them successful. Does this mean that Romney is successful, or Amy Chua, or Rubenfeld? And if so on what terms?
As they see it, attending the best colleges, having the most prestigious jobs, "accomplishments" and what passes for celebrity or fame these days, a big house perhaps, expensive toys...show that one has "made it." Why does this strike me as sad? It sounds like success out of a box and shows so little imagination. And it also insults the many Americans of all stripes who have managed to make fine lives for themselves without being jerks.
It is difficult to take on this issue without sounding like someone who thinks it's better to lead the simple life or that money does not buy happiness, or that we should go back to the good old days and that we should spend more time with our families, although the successful people they talk about certainly do not sound happy. It's more the question: "Is this the way to live?"
Being like those people or living their lives would be my idea of hell.
Oh, and this article is vague, ahistorical and where it does have facts, the facts are wrong. Using the Hmong as an example of a group that has assimilated and stopped achieving is ludicrous, for instance. They arrived poor and have stayed poor. If they had come from Taiwan or Hong Kong they might have done better. They are being coy about how much money Asians from some places brought with them and how that has enabled them to become successful. This, in my mind, bears little resemblance to the kind of success that Asian groups in Hawaii forged out of honest work and good values.