Both my parents immigrated to the U.S. from Asia when they were only 25 years old. Like many Asian families, they went through all sorts of struggles, including war, famine and poverty. Every person from an immigrant family living here today has their own unique story of how they overcame some challenge in order to become successful in an area far from home.
As a 26-year-old who graduated college not too long ago, I am around the same age as when my parents first came here. The only difference is, I grew up in a comfortable life that they’ve worked hard building for me. Looking back at what my parents have gone through, there are important lessons to be learned on what it takes to succeed. Here are six lessons I’ve learned from them.
You’re not better than any job.
My parents started off by working at restaurants when they first arrived in the U.S. My mother started out as a dishwasher, while my dad was a busboy. My mother wanted to get a corporate job and my father wanted to start his own restaurant business, but with no resumes or proper English skills at the time, they knew they had to start from the bottom. As people who both carried office jobs back in the motherland, they had to put their egos aside and spend long hours washing dishes and waiting tables, all while being constantly yelled at and made fun of by their peers because they were immigrants and didn’t know the language.
While it’s good to aim high, you have to start somewhere and take it step by step. There are no shortcuts to success. You have to do the bitch work in the beginning. If you’re too good to start from the bottom, you don’t deserve to ever be on top.
You have to make sacrifices.
My parents had to let go of their own selfish desires to gamble on creating a beautiful life in an unfamiliar place. To be successful, you must be willing to make tough sacrifices in your life. If you are not willing to handle loss for potential gains, you are not cut out for success.
Luck doesn’t just appear — you have make it on your own.
After working their way up to the ranks at the restaurant, my parents managed to get stable office jobs through networking with successful customers. As the old saying goes: You can’t win the lottery if you don’t buy the ticket. Though they had shitty jobs, they saw every day as life giving them a free lottery ticket for possibly better days to come. In the end, successful people aren’t simply lucky — they’ve worked hard enough to create their own luck.
You have to want it bad enough.
During their restaurant days, my parents’ schedule went something like this: Wake up at 5 a.m. in time for the 6 a.m. bus, get off at the stop and walk 15 minutes to the subway station, take a 45-minute subway ride, and then finally walk another 20 minutes just to make it in time at 8 a.m. to prep for the restaurant’s opening. They would then get off at 5 p.m., walk 20 minutes to the subway station and travel to the local community college to take night classes to learn English. After all the traveling, they’d get back home at 10 p.m., study until 12 a.m., sleep and then repeat the whole thing all over again. Many of us cannot fathom having such a rigorous schedule, but most immigrants know the price they need to pay if they want to survive and succeed. You need to be willing to do at least a fraction of what these people did if you want to succeed in what you do.
Ignore the haters.
My parents got negativity from all fronts. They were made fun of and ignored by their peers because they weren’t familiar with the language and culture. Even worse, their family back home was trying to convince them to return because they didn’t believe they could make it. When you have a grand vision of where you want to be down the road, you need to work towards it without looking back. External forces will try and hold you back, but it will be a test as to whether you have a winner’s or loser’s mentality. My parents defied all odds in the end because they didn’t care what their haters said.
Success doesn’t mean money.
People typically align the idea of success with getting rich. Being the son of old school Asian parents who pushed me towards higher paying careers, I thought for some time that they just wanted me to be rich. It took me longer than it should’ve to figure out that success to my parents didn’t mean me having money, but rather it meant seeing me be comfortable and living a happy life. When building something yourself, it’s not about seeing what you create make tons of money. Instead, it’s about helping build something that offers great value to the world. When that happens, you as its maker can stand by and be proud.
In the end, my parents gave me everything, while keeping nothing for themselves. They did this because they believed in better days to come. They put all their chips on me with the full confidence that I could succeed and be better off than they were. That’s the same confidence and relentlessness you need in order to be successful in any venture you pursue.
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