Reading: What Drives Success

Amy Chua, the Tiger Mom, is back, and once again, driving me crazy!  You may remember her book, The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, published in 2011. An excerpt from the book was published in the Wall Street Journal called Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior.  Chua, after being inundated with criticism, later took back alot of the seriousness of the article by saying that much of it was tongue in cheek, but I don’t believe it.  She raised one of her daughters, if not both, to be ultra-successful (her definition) adults with no screens, no sleepovers, no play.  She is proud of her philosophy of ruthless discipline, and not ashamed to show her claws. I won’t go into all of it, as you are probably quite familiar by now with what a Tiger Mom is.

Now, she and her husband, Jed Rubenfeld, have written a book called “The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America”. Here is an excerpt from the book published last week in the NY Times: What Drives Success. The title of the book refers to psychological characteristics they contend are shared by overachieving subgroups in the U.S.: a group superiority complex, insecurity about one’s personal worth or status, and impulse control, i.e., the ability to resist temptation, particularly the temptation to surrender when the going gets tough. She focuses on Chinese, Indians and Jews, but the success list also  includes Mormons, Cubans and Nigerians. It seems racist to me: about who you are including and who you are not including.  Her words:  “That certain groups do much better in America than others — as measured by income, occupational status, test scores, and so on — is difficult to talk about. In large part, this is because the topic feels so racially charged.” You can read more about their relationship and the collaboration in the recent New York Times Magazine article, Confessions of a Tiger Couple

I am interested in what she has to say, but it continually infuriates me.  On her web page she says that if forced to choose between success or happiness for her children, she would choose happiness.  There is nothing about happiness in her writings.  She drives her kids to excel and her interests are in what makes people superior.  I am not finding articles that she has written about happiness. She is an ultra-conservative wearing educational-progressive sheep’s clothing. I find her writings to be pseudo-sociology, as I don’t really see the science in it. Her articles and books are pure essay and opinion.

I cannot accept that the key to success in modern day U. S. society is having a superiority complex, insecurity about your self worth, and/or impulse control.  Maybe that can account for a certain kind of success, but I have to disagree with the premise.  Success can mean achieving a goal. We all need to accomplish specific goals in life.  But a LIFE is not successful or unsuccessful.  A good life is being true to who you are, using your skills and talents to connect with others and contribute to society, and, most importantly, to enjoy and love.



2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jerry Polon
    Feb 10, 2014 @ 00:25:17

    They make me sick too. The set-up of a competition among the races, like a World Success Olympics, is troubling. However one item in the piece interests me: what happens after the first two generations in successful immigrant families. I have observed that as groups become more Americanized they go downhill in many cases, even though they may “make it” financially. That is, they may bring all sorts of hopes and effort to the table because they were on the lower end of the scale. But life in America (its culture, media, schools, shopping etc.) may drain the good they brought with them as they assimilate into an often shallow, materialistic, ignorant, even downright silly world.



    • phernhunt
      Feb 10, 2014 @ 01:44:15

      Interesting thoughts about 2nd generation successful immigrants. I haven’t given much thought to that. Are you second generation?…then Mina would fall into your analysis as 3rd generation?…in a way, yet she is first generation, but only literally. BK is 2nd generation, making G a 3rd generation in a successful immigrant family. ???



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