Category Archives: Social and romance

Explores the social side of Asian American life and living, such as dating and romance, friendships, and personal interests.

Disconnect from your phone! A New Year’s Resolution Every Asian Should Take to Heart

Happy New Year everyone!I hope you all had a restful holiday.

I for one am ready to get going in 2015 and have my resolution picked out. I know some people–especially at my age–think resolutions are lame and antiquated, but I beg to differ. Resolutions are a great way to get energized and motivate oneself for healthy life changes.

My resolution this year, as it has been every single year since college, is to be more awesome. And so far, I have never failed—except in 2005, the year of eternal darkness. 2005 was the year of the monkey, who is a great enemy to pigs, my animal spirit (I was born in 1984). Anyways, I don’t talk about 2005 anymore; I turned 21 that year…

In order to achieve greater awesomeness, I have specifically resolved to disconnect my work email from my smartphone. I know what you’re thinking, “OMG. O.M.F.G. How can a man who works at a non-profit afford a smartphone?” Relax y’alls. It’s a Windows Phone.

Now-a-days, everyone talks about how kids are always on their phones. What adults don’t realize is that we’re exactly the same way! But instead of using our phones to Snapchat, Tweet or play Candy Crush, we use them to work. As if I don’t get enough of work at work.

There’s been a lot of talk in America about a dangerous trend toward overworking, especially in regards to white-collar workers and exempt staff who don’t punch cards to track their hours. Many conversations I’ve had with my Asian peers anecdotally confirm this trend. “I just got scheduled to another meeting this evening.” “My boss keeps emailing me at 2 am.” “My inbox has over a thousand emails!”

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I too have felt the constant need to work from my phone. Though it’s hard to pinpoint exactly how or why, I believe it is a product of cultural norms and external expectations. Things like having to be the highest achieving student later translated into being the highest achieving worker. Others might say that Asians have a culture of obedience, which frankly, I don’t really buy. We Asians can be very vocal and opinionated when we want to be. Besides, everyone is working more! Not just Asians.

Motherjones.com provided an excellent summary on this topic. Here’s some pretty alarming data.

  • 60% of smartphone-using professionals kept in touch with work for a full 13.5 hours per day, and then spent another 5 hours juggling work email each weekend. That’s 72 hours a week of job-related contact.
  • 68% checked work email before 8 a.m., 50% checked it while in bed, and 38% “routinely” did so at the dinner table.
  • People who make more than $75,000 per year are more likely to fret that their phone makes it impossible for them to stop thinking about work.

Unfortunately, the result isn’t increased productivity—just the illusion of it. The reality is we’re inundated with more distractions and stress than ever. In my own work, I’m finding it harder to focus on tasks and projects when a new email is interrupting my workflow every minute. Most of them aren’t even important. Most of them are useless bulk cc’s from other people and annoying mailing lists.

I’m learning that a smartphone, while amazing, is also draining my energy. A smartphone has increased my volume of work, but not necessarily the quality. It has allowed me to extend my work day up to 24 hours, and even send  emoticons too, like 🙂 and :p. So not only did others see me working more, but they also thought I was happier doing it. That’s a recipe for burnout. Technology has made our work increasingly flexible and mobile; yet this same technology has also increased our overall workload. Because we’re now able to literally carry work in our pockets 24/7, we have also felt compelled to work 24/7.

I admit, I didn’t mind the constant connection at first. I love what I do and am grateful to have the opportunity. In fact, a good day work actually gives me energy. But overtime, I have come to realize that it’s not the only thing I love doing. Spending time with my friends and family, playing sports, camping…all of these activities give me energy too, as well as wonderful memories.

I fully admit that work, for some people, has evolved beyond the traditional 9-5. Some people are most productive at night, others in the mornings. And that’s great. I personally prefer the 10-6 schedule. But again, this doesn’t mean we have to work every single waking hour or minute just because the phone is in our pockets. There are more important things we can put in our pockets…like quarters, chewing gums, hands and puppies.

While I may have made a conscious decision to disconnect in my own life, all around me I have colleagues, peers and partners who haven’t. So there’s still that external expectation and pressure to immediately reply emails. This needs to move beyond an individual decision. As employers, we also need to recalibrate our standards and expectations in order to create a new norm for all of our staff.

The bottom line is: you should disconnect anytime you’re not at work.

***

It’s been two weeks since I have disconnected my work email from the phone and it’s felt like walking on sunshine. I’ve danced with bartenders in pubs, enjoyed fireside chats by the ocean, and received a $50 Olive Garden gift card from my mom. Who knew disconnecting from work could bring so much happiness? To be fair, it was the just holidays and many folks were out, so only time will tell. But I’m feeling pretty confident that my work and personal life won’t fall into ruins because of being disconnected.

OR…

Maybe I’m wrong and shit will hit the fan tomorrow. If this happens, then I will quickly reconnect my work email to my phone, sincerely apologize to all I have hurt by my actions, and promise to make better life decisions moving forward.

How about everyone else out there? How do you achieve separation from work?

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With New Years, have too many people already hit their happiness peak?

Hello friends! Wow. We’re wrapping up another year. 2014 turned out to be pretty good for me, and I hope for you too. I published 49 blog posts (this is lucky #50!), hosted a launch party (thanks to everyone who came), and updated the name to “The Asian Slant“. I am totally looking forward to 2015 and all of the wonderful things that come with it—like another soon-to-be Seahawk’s Superbowl championship (Read What do minorities, youth and women all have in common with the Seahawks?)…and next Christmas!

Lately though, I’ve been thinking a lot about happiness. Perhaps it’s a mix of the New Year and the fact that, at 30, I’m getting settled into my professional career and am actively thinking about “the future.” Most people associate happiness with money. They chase after new tech toys, fancy cars and higher salaries; all the while taking on more debt. It’s like happiness is an Asian hot pot and everyone is rushing to get all of their fixings before the broth runs out.

Don’t get me wrong; I like all of these things too. Some nights, I wake up from a dead sleep pining for a car with bluetooth and a 3% cost of living adjustment. But honestly, I would rather buy a can of happiness from the discount shelf at Safeway than the organic, gluten-free and locally-sourced happiness from Whole Foods. I simply can’t afford luxury happiness.

Happiness has become big business. Around this same time each year I start seeing a lot of ads and articles on how to achieve happiness . Earn more money! Find a new job! Improve your health and fitness! Follow your passion! Smile more—especially Asians, who have mastered the art of smiling-on-the-inside and the happy-frown. But I’m not falling for all this marketing voodoo. I feel like that I have already achieved a reasonable, minimum level of happiness in my short life so far.

Instead, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to maintain my happiness, in perpetuity. I want to make it last as long as possible. World Life Expectancy estimates that the average Asian American male in Washington State will live 84.52 years (compared to 79.65 for all Washingtonians). That means I potentially have 53.52 years of happiness left to worry about. Ugh! My attention span can barely last through The Hobbit movie; how am I possibly expected to continue maintaining optimal happiness for another 53 years? It’s soo daunting and exhausting. The pressure feels like having to get straight As all the damn time.

Here’s how I see things. I reason that happiness has to hit a peak at some point. Or as I like to call it, “The Happiness Peak.” After that peak is reached, happiness begins its gradual descent back down to Earth. It’s like tossing an apple into the air and watching it fall. Most Americans try to reach that peak as soon as they can; chasing after the new car, buying a bigger house, upgrading to the newest smartphone. While these may seem important, even necessary, a lot of research has found that this type of happiness is short-lived. These desires can never be truly satisfied; there will always be a bigger house and a newer phone.

I advocate for delaying the happiness peak as long as possible. Draw it out! Ideally, I wouldn’t hit my happiness peak until 55 or 60. Then I’ll retire and hopefully catch a second wind. A new iPhone isn’t going to bring me happiness over the next 53.52. It probably won’t even sustain my happiness through next year. I believe it’s better to make memories and experiences with friends and family instead. That’s the kind of happiness that grows with you.

I’ve been on the losing end of peaking too early—like my height. I hit 5’6” back in 8th grade and have been stagnant ever since. If only I could have drawn that out for a few more years. On the other hand, I’ve successfully managed to stretch out my youthfulness an extra decade. At 30, I have the face and complexion of an 18 year old. And when I wear my thick-rimmed hipster glasses, I look a solid 20. But alas, age is slowing catch up. My hair is starting to grey and I wake up with constant back pain. Height and youthfulness—it’s the Asian double-edged sword.

The truth is there are few things that can substantially increase my happiness at this point (Mockingjay Part 2 is one of them). Look, we need to quit trying to cram a lifetime of happiness into a short 30, 40 or even 50 year window. It’s absolutely crazy. It’s like the Asian kid who thinks they need to get a phd straight out of undergrad. Relax a bit.

There’s obviously a lot of content to unpack here. I hope to continue exploring happiness in greater depth throughout 2015. How does happiness differ for Asian Americans? How can we achieve it? Why are some people happier than others? What is the impact of money?

But for now, I’m going to go spend New Years Eve with my family and friends. I’d like to wish everyone a wonderful and prosperous new year! Thanks for your continued support and readership.

***

What does happiness mean to you? I’d love to hear everyone’s own experience. Leave a comment below or Facebook me!

Moving in with your partner? Don’t forget to tell your parents.

Jennifer, a dear friend of mine, recently told me that she was considering moving in with her partner. I interpreted that to mean they were willing to wake up to each other’s morning breath and put up with dirty laundry…day, after day, after day. I can barely look at my own face in the morning (for much of the day in fact) so I’m not quite sure why anyone would willingly do it with another person.

Nevertheless, cohabitation has become increasingly common for the average American couple. “In 2011, the Census Bureau reported 7.6 million opposite-sex cohabiting couples in the country with a separate report listing the number of cohabiting same-sex couples at 514,735 as of the 2010 Census” (as reported by Wikipedia). No big deal, right? Right?

Wrong! A big fat WRONG!!! It is a big deal because most life decisions for Asian-Americans need to be run through our parents first. Jennifer is Vietnamese. Her plan was to introduce her parents to Steven, her boyfriend, over dinner. She was nervous about telling them what was on her mind. Why? Before I answer my own question, let’s take a step back.

***

When I lived in Cambodia you couldn’t even hang out with someone of the opposite sex without a third party to chaperone. It’s like the Holy Spirit was busy that day and someone else needed to sub in. “Sopha, eat rice already?” That’s how it would translate from Khmer. “Do you want to have lunch together?”

“Ok. Let me see if my extended family is free to join us.”

“What a delightful idea Sopha! Your family can observe our strictly plutonic and professional lunch to make sure there are no improprieties.”

Can you imagine what moving in with someone must take? There are a lot of social norms that guide dating, romance and marriage in many Asian cultures.

  • No kissing;
  • Don’t hang out alone where no one else can see you;
  • First dates are also the last date, then you marry;
  • Wedding first, house second, kids third;
  • Absolutely no living with the opposite sex before marriage.

There’s no simple explanation for why these cultural norms exist; it dates back many centuries and is very complicated. At the most basic level, Asian cultures see the realms of men and women as uniquely separate. Sometimes this comes out in really charming ways, like when my dad is expected to buy the car so that my mom can drive it (works out great for her). Other times, and quite commonly, things don’t go so well and women are oppressed and abused. They’re expected to run the house and raise the children while men can go off and get drunk. It’s basically Sunday Night Football every single day.

I admit these are extreme examples, but they illustrate why it’s hard for young Asian-Americans (man or woman) to cohabitate. Cultural norms are deeply ingrained into our thoughts and behaviors. Sometimes, we don’t even recognize it, and it may be difficult for other people to understand.

***

“My parents prefer that I marry a Vietnamese guy,” Jennifer said. Steven is White. For younger Asian-Americans, not a big deal at all. But I think Jennifer’s parents, along with many refugee and immigrant families, are concerned about the perceived language and cultural barriers.

“So how did it go when you told them you were thinking about moving in together?” I asked.

“Not good at all.” Apparently, Steven offered to cook dinner for everyone but her parents insisted on bringing something instead. It was a trap; her parents secretly wanted Steven to cook anyways because it’s a sign of being a good host. That never happened though. It was totally awkward and uncomfortable. Perhaps out of frustration, or maybe even disappointment, Jennifer’s mom finally suggested they just order pizza. For anyone not familiar with Asian culture, try to imagine the inverse scenario—going to a Chinese restaurant in New York City on Christmas. Alone. Get it now? It’s that bad.

I felt terrible for Jennifer and Steven and pondered what I would have done in their situation. If anyone is thinking about telling their parents they are moving in with their partner, here’s some advice that may help.

1. Don’t ever tell your parents you’re going to cohabitate! Just kidding. I’m a firm believer in having an open, honest and direct conversation with your parents about this important life decision, but you may have to massage it a bit. Reframe the news so it appears to benefit your parents too. “Mom, living together may actually improve my GPA and future earning potential. By sharing the cost of rent, I can save money now and invest that into a PhD program. I’ll become a doctor, and then both of our dreams will come true!”

2. Tell your partner to bring fruit. I’m dead serious. If your partner wants to show respect, they need to bring the gift of fruit. Mandarin oranges (cuties), mangos and pineapples are extremely popular choices. A cutie tells the parent, “I was at the grocery store and thought of you,” while a pineapple says “I could be your future son-in-law.” Choose wisely, but don’t go overboard. A single piece of fruit will go a long way. Trust me.

3. Take it one step at a time. I’ve learned many Asian parents need to take news in small doses. For example, before I began my career in non-profit, I joined the Peace Corps so that my mom would get used to the idea that I’d never make a doctor’s salary. The same applies to living with your partner. Talk about how expensive rent is, how you feel lonely at night, how the noises outside your window are terrifying, how cooking for one person is so hard, etc. Then break the news that you’re moving in with your partner. Of course, the potential risk here is they want you to move back home with them. Don’t do it!

4. Whatever your parents say, do the opposite. In Jennifer and Steven’s case, when her parents said they didn’t want Steven to cook dinner, it actually meant they did. Asian parents are tricky like that; you have to read between the lines. “Sweetie, I don’t care if you have children or not.” Translation: They expect 10 grandkids. “Being a social worker is a wonderful profession.” Translation: You are a failure and we need to boost your self-esteem before we crush it. “You and Steven should definitely move in together.” Translation: You two will live in our house and Steven will have the downstairs guest bedroom, far away from you.

5. Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. Finally, sometimes it takes a little finesse; give and take. Think about what you’re willing to give up in order to get what you want. “Look mom and dad, if you let me and Steven move in together right now, one of you can live with us after you retire.”

“Hmmm, you drive a hard bargain, but I dunno honey.”

“Fine, both of you!”

“Deal!”

***

When I later asked Steven about his experience, he said “I feel like I was set up for failure.” It was rough, but I really admired what he said next. “I’m trying to put myself in her mom’s shoes. They just want the best for their daughter, ya know?”

How to be a Good Lil Asian: Rules and Norms that guide Social Etiquette

Hello everyone. This has been a crazy week at work; every night has gone until at least 7:30 pm—from board meetings to community meetings. One of the challenges of social justice and equity work is that it can be very exhausting at times. You can only talk about civic engagement, race and equity, housing policy, community development, etc. for so long before your brain shuts down and your body curls up hoping that someone, anyone, will swaddle you. Though it’s been exhausting, I constantly have to remind myself to have fun and take this work one step at a time.

But life isn’t all work; we need some play time too. It’s Friday, which means everyone should be going out and having fun! Like…bubble tea, or taking pictures of your food, or attending Asian Happy Hour. To help out, I’ve compiled a list of posts about Asian Americans and social etiquette–just to make sure no one does anything unbecoming of an Asian American.

Rules to Determine Who Pays on Dates, Lunches, Dinner and more
Read this if you’re ever out with friends or on a date. There are rules that govern our behavior, particularly when it comes to who pays the bill. Ignoring these rules has consequences. It may attract a swarm of unemployed hipsters to your community, like locusts who feed upon counterculture and irony.

How to decide where and what to eat
Ever been in a situation where you need to decide where to eat or what to order, but everyone was being super non-committal? It’s probably a result of being either a Seattlelite or Asian. Whatever the reason, here are some tips to determine what to do in these types of situations.

Everything you ever wanted to know about the Asian Flush
If you’re Asian, you probably know what it feels like to get red in the face. Not because you farted, but because you probably just had a shot of cough syrup. Hello Asian flush. This post will tell you how to manage a flush with dignity.

Winning pickup line for Asians, Activists and Nonprofit workers
Disable your OkCupid account. Put away your Tinder app. These winning pick-up lines will turn your boringness into awesomeness. And if they don’t work, then you have my permission to take Tinder back out.

5 terrible mistakes I made with women and how you can avoid them
Pick-up lines may be fun and all, but don’t get carried away—especially all you guys out there. When it comes to women (all people actually), it’s important to show respect and support. Basically, don’t be a jerk. Here are some mistakes I have personally made and what I learned.

We’re Not on Asian Time!
Have you ever had a co-worker come 10 minutes late to a meeting? Or a friend who texts you that they’re running behind. Or a date who thought you were meeting up next week. There’s a word for that, Asian time—and it sucks. Here are the dos and don’ts of Asian time.

How To Be a Good Host
Asians are famous for being great hosts. We will always feed you, even if you’re full. Some of the most legendary Asian hosts of all time have also been known to massage your feet and give you a warm towel. They might even do your taxes for you over dinner. But don’t be intimated by this, anyone can be a good host—here’s how.

Being a Nguyener: Why Asians need to celebrate success

When I was in the third grade, my now best friend (back then he was just another 80s baby with a mullet) invited me to play on his soccer team; his dad was the coach. Soccer provided a wonderful and much needed escape from the rigors of school and homework. Even though I was only in third grade, my parents already had me doing calculus, performing surgeries, coining their backs, and giving them their annual dental exams—my tiny fingers gave me a competitive advantage in oral health.

I loved playing soccer. But it was never a passion or excitement that my parents shared. I remember one game in particular. During the game, I scored my first goal ever and became rabid with excitement. Yes, rabid. My first goal! Who knew when the next goal would ever come (answer: 9 years later in a high school JV game).

Afterward, when my teammates and other parents came up to congratulate me, my mom was there and she replied “He’s so proud. He’s so excited.” As a kid, that stuck with me vividly because I wanted my mom to share that pride and excitement too. I wanted her to feel like it was her goal, even though, let’s be real, I did all of the work.

This has been one of the ongoing challenges of growing up Asian; feeling like your hard work goes unnoticed. Can anyone else relate to this? Or is it just me? I’m not talking about the big stuff like graduations or birthdays, but little things like soccer games and winning Halo deathmatches. I’ve also been in situations where other people diminish my successes. How many of us Asians have had a parent tell us a B+ isn’t good enough? Or even an A-? Or that we will never succeed if we don’t go to med school?

Anyways, curious about how other people celebrate success, I googled it. A lot of the results that came back gave advice like:

  • Buy yourself a banana split from your favorite ice cream store.
  • Give yourself permission to take a day off and relax.
  • Go to lunch with your best friend.
  • Buy yourself a new shirt.
  • Get yourself an iPod.
  • Whistle.

I spent a good 15 minutes browsing through the list and thought “This is the worst advice ever.” First off, I wouldn’t even know what to do with 1000 iPods (Get it? I’m saying I succeed a lot. 1000 times a lot!) And whistle? Really? Some people actually whistle to celebrate success? My problem with this sort of advice is that it doesn’t actually celebrate success, but turns it into a series of rewards. If you read my post on success vs failure, you’ll understand why I can’t stand this. And seriously, I don’t need to give myself permission to take a day off and relax; my boss does.

Celebrate everything

I think we have become paralyzed with waiting for “the right time” to celebrate success: waiting for the weekend, combining it with another occasion because it’s more efficient, etc. I’m of the mindset that we should celebrate everything…immediately. Big things and small things. Success and failure. Perfection and mediocrity. B+’s and A-‘s. Why put off a good thing?

Share appreciation

The second thing we should start doing in regards to success is share appreciation. Basically, don’t keep good thoughts to yourself. If someone did something remarkable, you should tell them! “Way to get into grad school Susan! Just steer clear of predatory lenders and you’ll be just fine.” Even if someone did something mediocre, you should still affirm them. “Way to get into grad school Susan! Just steer clear of other Asian students and you’ll be just fine.” I don’t know how we’ve come to this point in society, but we rarely share our positive thoughts directly to our friends, family and colleagues; choosing to silently post updates on Facebook instead. Look, if someone did something awesome, you should let them know.

As a quick reference, here are a few scenarios you and your friends may have encountered in life and the appropriate responses for each.

A Beginners Guide to Celebrating Success

Scenario Appropriate response
Got a B on your O-Chem test? High five!!!
Applied to ten different jobs and only one called you back. You are deserving of a gold star.
Talked to a random stranger in the bar because you can tell from across the room that they are glimmering with inner beauty and has a 75% chance of sharing your passion for social justice and racial equity? Next round is on me, champ 😉
Started a career in community development. Here’s a lucky red envelope full of money. You’ll need it!
30 years old and still unmarried? I know someone. They’re an artist, will make your life beautiful.
Recently discovered that you want to marry an artist? More red envelopes!!!
Failed your first driving test? Don’t worry, paralleling parking got me too.
Your Executive Director just left to start a new organization. Karaoke party!!!
Never mastered the piano? Here’s a subscription to Pandora!
Scored a goal in soccer? Aww, so proud of you! Now you must practice 10 hours a day and score every time.

How Asians can manage their stress effectively

These past couple of weeks have been excruciatingly stressful for me. It has probably been the lowest point in my entire career.

FML.

I wish I were two years old again. My mom can swaddle me and make everything better. Two is an appropriate age to be swaddled, right? Meh, forget it. Someone needs to swaddle me right now.

Anyways, I’ve been receiving advice and support from various colleagues and peers in order to help me navigate this challenging time. Here’s what I got.

Organize your tasks: Someone suggested that I write down everything I have on my plate and organize it using the “Urgent/Important Matrix.” You start with items that are important and urgent, and then move counterclockwise in the matrix. I thought it was a superb idea and recommended the matrix to other staff members. Unfortunately, I myself haven’t around to using it because I listed “Use Urgent/Important Matrix” in the not urgent and not important square. I should have planned that better…

Important Not important
Urgent Start here. This is third.
Not Urgent Then move here. Do these last.

Learn to say no and take a step back: Another piece of advice that I got was to take a step back. It has always been really hard for me to say “no” to other people. It makes me feel like I’m letting them down. As an Asian American I feel an intense pressure to always take on more and more work. As a result, I’m taking things on faster than I can clear them off of my plate. I’m learning that I need a break too. I used this strategy last weekend in fact. “No mom, I can’t come home to see you this weekend. I’m learning to take a step back and trying to figure out what kidneys do. Love you!” Whew, I felt so much better.

Assume everything is in your control: In the Greek mythology, Sisyphus was forced to roll a giant boulder up a hill only to watch it fall back down, and to continue this for all eternity. That’s how I was feeling–powerless and helpless. Whenever I cleared one thing from my plate, two more would get piled on. It happened over and over again. A lot of people have told me to just admit that not everything is in your control. I completely disagree. We need the opposite kind of attitude. Everything is in our control. One of the biggest challenges people face when they are stressed out is feeling helpless. But if we give into this feeling, then we surely will be. We need to start believing that we have the skills and competencies to affect change in all aspects of our lives. Just because a solution isn’t readily apparent, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Ask for support: To be clear, just because everything is in our control, doesn’t mean we need to do everything by ourselves! Everyone needs help and support. I have often felt a very competitive “go at it alone” approach within the Asian American culture. Our parents are always comparing us to other kids, and medical schools are only going to admit so many applicants. The #1 thing I love most about working at VFA is that my coworkers are always asking me “How can I support you?” Sometimes, I tell them; other times I reply “I don’t know how you can help right now, but thanks.” It is such as relief to know that other people are looking out for you. Sisyphus would have had a much easier time pushing that boulder if he had some friends to help…or if he had gone to medical school instead of working for a non-profit and can afford to hire movers to do the work for him.

Stop being the model minority: Asians have been telling the world for decades that we’re really not as perfect as everyone thinks. We’re not the so-called model minority. We’re not all good at math; not blindly obedient; we don’t all know karate (only 89% of us do); we’re not all bad kissers; and our English is pretty good. So when it comes to stress, we must also push back and show the world we’re not perfect. Awesome yes, perfect no. We must resist perfectionism and tell people how we feel. Showing frustration and emotions are ok; bottling up your stress and anger is not. It’s like shaking up a can of soda. Sooner or later that can is going to explode and create a big, sticky, sweet, delicious mess.

Take a deep breath and be nice: Yoda once said “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Stress works the same way. For example, we fear failing. If we don’t manage it safely and positively, that stress can turn into anger. Has this ever happened to you? You’re having a bad day when a coworker makes an innocent, well-intentioned joke or comment and you go off on them. You want to punch them. Maybe you do. At the very least, you start yelling at them and then they’re like “Huh? I’m was only kidding. Calm down. Geez.” This only makes you more incensed. If you ever find yourself in this situation, take a deep breath and remember to be nice. Always be nice, especially when it’s hard. Be nice, and then ask for support.

Have fun! My official moto for work is “Fun and done” (trademarked). I think there’s a lot of truth to this. Work isn’t about being miserable, but about having as much fun as possible. We should do what we love and enjoy, even when bad days are inevitable. Have fun and get your work done. That’s it.

Even after defeat, the US Men’s Soccer team can still teach important lessons to America

Wow. What an amazing run. Yesterday, I took the afternoon off from work to make my way down to the viewing party at Centurylink. The event center was packed. I think there were over a thousand people there. The atmosphere was lively and loud! The crowd chanted “USA USA USA” and “I believe that we will win” in what has become our rallying cry this World Cup. It was spectacular. Amazing. Unforgettable!!!

And we lost.

Despite losing to Belgium, I am incredibly proud of our US Men’s National Team (USMNT). The past few weeks have been an emotional roller coaster ride for me, to say the least. Though there’s still a couple more weeks left in the World Cup, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on what Asian Americans can learn from the our USMNT.

Sometimes being the best doesn’t mean you’re good enough. Landon Donovan is without a doubt one of the greatest American soccer players ever. Period. So when Jürgen Klinsmann cut Donovan from the team roster, everyone thought he was crazy. It was a huge gamble.

Then our team went on to beat Ghana, outplay Portugal, survive Germany, and break a couple records—Dempsey’s 30 second goal and Howard’s 16 saves in a game. Not only that, we did it all without our target forward Jozy Altidore, who lasted just 20 minutes before his World Cup ended.

Klinsmann put together a team that was able to compete. More importantly, our boys supported each other and stepped up whenever it was needed. When Fabian Johnson went down after 32 minutes against Belgium, DeAndre Yedlin came in and gave an inspiring performance.

I’ve previously written about a pattern of Asian Americans pursuing traditional careers like doctors, lawyers, accountants and engineers. These careers are seen as the “best” by parents for a variety of reasons like high perceived salary or respected social status.

Lesson #1: Yes, we have great doctors, engineers and entrepreneurs within the Asian American community, but a vibrant, healthy community needs everyone to realize their full and unique potential. A community without creative artists and poets, strong leaders, caring social workers, and other careers, is flat and one-dimensional–sort of like England’s defense. Equally important, our community needs to support each other in order to have widespread success.

Not everyone thinks we’re “real Americans.” There was a lot of controversy earlier this year with the number of “immigrant” players on the USMNT. For example, Business Insider wrote that the USMNT has 11 immigrant players, including starters like Tim Howard, Jermaine Jones, and Jozy Altidore. However, Politifact looked at these claims and found that “none of these 11 individuals are considered immigrants by the United States, they’re all actually natural born citizens.” In fact, “six of the players were actually born in America.”

When I tell people I’m watching the World Cup, they always ask me which team I’m rooting for. “The United States, duh!!!” It makes me wonder if they’d ask me that question if I were White. I’ve written about the issue of Asian Americans being viewed as foreigners before. You wouldn’t believe the lengths we have gone to prove to the rest of the country that we are genuine, patriotic Americans. We started wearing sunscreen and recycling, talked about our “feelings,” gave up meditation because it too exotic, and practiced meditation when yoga became hip.

Lesson #2: Being White or speaking English natively isn’t the same as being American. If the motto for the USMNT is “One Nation, One Team,” the motto for the United States should be “One Nation, 319 million people and counting.”

Invisible and flying under the radar. For decades, the USMNT has been invisible on the world stage. No one took us seriously. Many analysts didn’t believe the USA would even survive the “Group of Death.” But we did. Not only that, we outlasted Spain, England, Italy, and Portugal…just to name a few. Suddenly, the world is taking notice at the grit and perseverance our team has shown.

The same can be side of Asian Americans; we’re invisible when it comes to sports. Sure, we have some recognizable names in individual sports like golf (Michelle Wie), figure skating (Kristi Yamaguchi and Michelle Kwan) and tennis (Michael Chang). But when it comes to professional teams sports, we’re nowhere to be seen. Though Jeremy Lin has been a great example of a successful Asian American athlete, there are plenty more out there with skill and talent. We just need an opportunity to compete.

Lesson #3: The USMNT never quit. Ok fine, maybe they took a little break during the last 30 seconds against Portugal, but overall our guys played their hearts out for 90 minutes, over and over again. Asian Americans need to keep pushing and go a full 90 too, especially when the odds seem stacked against us.

Our numbers are growing. World Cup viewing parties are popping up all across the country this year, from California to Alabama. Next door to my work, someone even rented out an empty office for the month just to host a World Cup pop up. The New York Times wrote that “television ratings in the United States blasted through ceilings, surpassing those of the N.B.A. finals or the World Series.” Soccer has suddenly become a mainstream sport and not just relegated to youth leagues and moms with minivans. “Fourteen percent of people between the ages of 12 and 24 said professional soccer was their favorite sport, second only to the N.F.L., according to Rich Luker, who runs a sports research firm.”

Likewise, the US Census reports that since 2010, Asian Americans have been the fastest growing racial and ethnic group in the United States. As the population continues to grow, and Asian Americans become more civically engaged, it will become harder for elected officials and other policy and decision-makers to ignore the needs of our community. This issue isn’t exclusive to Asian Americans though, many minorities continue to be marginalized and invisible, such as refugees, immigrants, and even women.

Lesson #4: Size and numbers alone aren’t enough to move the needle in society by wide margins. If Asian Americans want to move beyond the perception of being a perpetual foreigner, it is critically important that our community becomes active in the civic process and make our voices heard. We can do this by voting, writing our elected officials, leading community organizations, and more. At the same time, it is important for our systems and institutions to recognize that the Asian American community isn’t homogenous. We’re varied, diverse and popping up everywhere, from California to Alabama.

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So there you have it. American soccer is on the map. Even though our brand of soccer is by no means the prettiest, we showed the world the good ‘ol American spirit; our “can do” attitude and never quit mentality. Of the 209 countries that make up FIFA, we were in the final 16. To all of the folks who ever doubted our team, I dare you to do better. Now who wants to get some bubble tea with me to celebrate a win for America!?