When I was a freshman in college, way back in 1980, there was a one-hit wonder from the Vapors called Turning Japanese. Here’s a YouTube clip of the song.
Now for the life of me, I have no idea what this song is about. But I included it here because it makes a nice segue for the point of this post. And what is the point of this post? Asian-Americans are kicking ass. And although it may not be politically correct to say so, white, Hispanic, and black Americans would be better served if they renounced a lot of their respective cultures and started turning Japanese—er, I mean, turning Asian.
Some Very Enviable Statistics
A short while back, I came across a book called The Chinese Secrets for Success. It looked at Asians worldwide, but largely focused on Asian Americans. And according to the author, Yukong Zhao, Confucian values are good things to have in a highly competitive world that rewards discipline, vigor, and brains but is chock-full of temptations.
Is Mr. Zhao right? I don’t know. But judging from the following statistics, which I culled from his book, I’d say Mr. Zhao is on to something.
- In 2009, the median household income for Chinese Americans was $69,502. For Japanese Americans, it was $64,231. For non-Hispanic Whites it was $54,671.
- As of 2010, the percentage of adults 25 or older with a bachelor’s degree or higher in the US was 28.2. For Chinese Americans, however, it was 51.1. For Japanese Americans it was 46.1. And for Korean Americans it was 52.6.
- Ninety-two percent of Asian American high school graduates go to college versus 70% of all high school graduates.
- Eighteen percent of Chinese American college students major in science or engineering. Nationally, only 5% of college students major in science or engineering.
- As of 2008, Asian Americans made up 5.6% of the US population but accounted for only 1.1% of those arrested for a violent crime.
- In a 2007 study done by the Department of Education, Asian American high school students used alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs less often than their white, black, and Hispanic peers. They also had fewer teen pregnancies.
Are those stats freakin’ groovy or what? Very impressive. And to drive home the point of how well Asian Americans are doing, I did a quick google search of student demographics in some of our elite colleges. Here are those numbers.
|College||Percentage of Asian Students|
|California Institute of Technology||45.0|
|Massachusetts Institute of Technology||24.7|
|University of Pennsylvania||19.8|
Remember, Asian Americans are 5.6% of the US population. In every one of these elite schools, Asian Americans are over-represented by at least a factor of three. At Caltech, they’re over-represented by a factor of eight. Again, very freakin’ impressive.
The Keys to Financial Success
Back in my public service days, I would frequent a particular Chinese take-out joint for lunch. I loved their sweet and sour soup. And whenever I happened to be in there during the summer, I noticed something very interesting. Behind the counter there were always a handful of adults working their asses off. In front of the counter, over in the first booth on the right, there were always two Asian American children poring over their math workbooks.
What a sight to behold. Because their parents had to contend with the lunch-hour crush, these two kids, a boy and girl both under the age of 12, were basically unsupervised. And what did they do with this respite from parental control? Did they jump around like fools? Pester one another? Make fart noises by expertly cupping a hand under an armpit and then utilizing an abrupt arm movement? No. They sat quietly and did math problems. Let me repeat that. They sat quietly and did math problems. AND IT WAS DURING THEIR FREAKIN’ SUMMER VACATION!
Was what I witnessed in that Chinese take-out joint the personification of Confucian values? Maybe. I don’t know. All I know is that the “Asian way” seems pretty damn honorable. And pretty damn conducive to building wealth. In fact, let’s look at the behaviors exhibited in that Chinese take-out joint, and the behaviors exalted in Mr. Zhao’s book, and see how they give you a leg up financially.
Avoid crime. Being a thug isn’t cool. Not only is it immoral, it’s highly detrimental to building wealth. Lawyers cost money. Convictions reduce the amount of time you’re in the workforce. And felonies limit your employment opportunities.
Avoid partying. There are only so many hours in the day. The more hours you spend getting stoned or recovering from excess, the fewer hours you have for studying, honing a skill, or working.
Avoid out-of-wedlock births. Raising children is the ultimate team activity. Children are expensive and time consuming. You can try to do it alone, but very few single parents can nurture their children and build an emergency fund. And save for a home. And save for college. And save for retirement. Heck, two-parent households have a tough time doing all of these things. But two-parent households have a better shot at pulling it off. So it’s best to have children with a committed partner.
Take education seriously. Not everyone has an aptitude for calculus. But just because you’re math-challenged, you don’t get a pass on taking education seriously. The world needs plumbers and electricians too. And learning a trade isn’t a snap. If you want to master a trade, you’ve got to apply yourself.
Study hard subjects. But if you do have an aptitude for calculus, or any other mentally grueling subject, you’d be foolish not to take advantage of it. Doctors, engineers, and programmers make a lot more than bus drivers, cashiers, and day laborers.
Work hard. Horatio Alger knew it. The Puritans knew it. And our Asian American brethren know it as well. There is nobility in hard work. Not only does it enhance your earning capacity and limit your exposure to temptation, it seems to be a well-spring of good fortune. In other words, good things come to those who work hard. As the legendary producer Samuel Goldwyn once quipped, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”
Save. I don’t think I have to elaborate on the connection between this trait and building wealth. All I’m going to do is leave you with two thoughts. Compound interest is perhaps the greatest financial invention of all time. Those who save take advantage of the power of compound interest.
Cultures Are Free
When I was a highway foreman, I used to return to the yard every weekday around a quarter to three in the afternoon. Just before the entrance to the yard, there was a nondescript brick building with a little sign on it that read, Long Island Academy. Waiting to go inside this building were about fifty Asian American kids. And they weren’t waiting to play video games or play dodge ball. They were waiting to study. Here, for example, are the current course offerings of Long Island Academy. I’m sure the curriculum back in the early 2000s was very similar.
Now here’s the groovy part of this little vignette. I don’t remember the circumstances, but about three years ago during a trip to New York I found myself driving by the Long Island Academy again. And those waiting outside were no longer exclusively Asian (in the Chinese, Japanese, and Korean sense). There were a sizable number of Patels, Finkelsteins, and Smiths in the mix. And it brought a smile to my face. Why? Because cultures are free. You can observe what successful people are doing and you can copy them. It’s your choice. If you want to embrace the Asian way, have at it. There are no barriers to entry. It doesn’t cost a dime to respect your neighbors. It doesn’t cost a dime to be sexually chaste. And it doesn’t cost a dime to spend your free time in a library. It’s all on you, my friend. You can adopt the habits that bring fortune. Or you can adopt the habits that bring misery.
Freedom + Kick-Ass Culture = A Strong Likelihood of Success
Freedom + Lame-Ass Culture = A Strong Likelihood of Failure
Okay, groovy freedomists, that’s all I got. What say you? Are you turning Japanese? Or have you already turned Japanese?