I always get crazy looks whenever I tell people that I started studying for the SATs in 4th grade.
Or when I attended nerd camp in the 7th grade and completed Geometry, Algebra and Trigonometry in the span of 3 weeks.
“Man, you must have had the worst childhood ever. Did you have any fun as a kid?”
Looking back, I’m proud to say that my parents did an awesome job raising my brother and me despite the perceptions from the outside.
Here’s what most people don’t understand about the culture of Asian parenting.
- It teaches you the discipline to follow through.
- It teaches you the proper habits to get things done.
- It teaches you that good things come with pain and sacrifice.
As a result of my upbringing, here are 3 life lessons that I’m instilling in my two kids to foster their growth.
And yes…all of these lessons apply to business as well.
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Life Lesson #1: You Have To Get Used To The Grind To Be Successful
Whenever parents tell me that all they want is for their kids to be happy, I always shake my head and chuckle inside.
First off, kids don’t know what’s good for them.
If I let my kids do whatever made them “happy”, they’d be playing games on their IPads 24/7. They’d be eating candy for dinner and getting sick. They’d be skipping school and watching YouTube videos all day.
Just because you are “happy” doing something doesn’t mean that it’s good for you.
And if you let kids do whatever makes them happy, they’ll never realize that much of life is about grinding away at unglamorous tasks.
So they better get used to it!
For every success story, there’s a behind the scenes tale of crap work and drudgery.
But behind the scenes, there’s a lot of grunt work that I have to deal with on a regular basis.
First off, I don’t like writing.
I’ve never enjoyed doing it and I have to force myself to publish an article per week. Now it’s gotten easier over the years with practice but I still dread Sunday mornings when it’s time to write.
So why write if I dislike doing it?
You can’t run a successful blog without great content and writing is a means to an end. Overall, the benefits of running MyWifeQuitHerJob.com far outweigh my hatred of writing so I make myself do it.
I also hate marketing and sales, especially when it comes to running monthly webinars.
Deep down, I’m an engineer at heart and giving a sales pitch is like pulling teeth. It does not come naturally to me but I force myself to do it for the benefit of the business.
Right now, I’m making my kids take supplemental math classes even though they don’t particularly like math. But forcing them to get better at a subject they dislike teaches them 2 things.
One, it’s important to be ahead of the pack. By supplementing their education, my kids are more advanced than their peers and I want them to get used to this feeling. Average doesn’t cut it!
Two, they are learning that getting ahead in life requires work even if it sucks. Would they “have more fun” playing computer games all day? Absolutely, but it’s not going to benefit their future.
One thing that I’ve noticed with my kids is that they often dislike what they are not good at. But as they get better at an activity, they start to enjoy it more once they get over the suck.
How The Grind Applies To Business
Over the years, I’ve spoken to thousands of people who want to change their lives with a small business but they don’t want to do the dirty work.
Everyday, I get questions from readers along lines of “Steve, I’ve tried absolutely everything with my online store and the sales just aren’t coming in. What should I do?!?”
But when I take a look at their site, it’s horrible. They clearly didn’t do any research or put their best foot forward.
They obviously didn’t “try everything”.
And when I confront them with this evidence and provide suggestions on how they can improve, all I get are excuses.
“I’m not good at marketing. It’s just not my cup of tea”
“I’m a horrible writer. I just can’t write good copy”
“I’m terrible with tech and I don’t want to have anything to do with it”
BTW, these are real responses that I’ve gotten over the years!
Well guess what?
Running a successful business requires marketing so you better get over it. It wasn’t my cup of tea either but you have to suck it up and learn through trial and error.
The same goes with writing. If you run a blog but you can’t write, then you’ve got problems.
And if you want to run an “online” business without knowing anything about websites? You should probably quit now. You don’t have to be a guru but at least learn the basics.
Bottom line, to be successful, you’re going to have learn and perform activities that you don’t particularly like.
Do you think I enjoyed studying for the SATs while my friends were playing outside within earshot? Hell no!
To be successful, you must expect to suffer and how you react to the suck will determine how far you’ll go.
Life Lesson #2: To Develop Perseverance, You Must Be Challenged
Every week, hundreds of readers email me to complain that they can’t get their business off the ground.
But when I dig a little deeper, I often discover that they didn’t make an effort.
It’s sad. But I often have people sign up for my course who don’t watch the videos, ask questions or attend office hours and expect to do well.
It’s as if they are magically bequeathed with ecommerce knowledge by virtue of signing up.
The truth is that most people give up at the first sign of trouble. And this behavior is the result of bad habits established during childhood.
When kids are not challenged at a young age, they develop a false sense of confidence that makes them cocky. And if they never get a chance to fail, they’ll panic at the first sign of adversity.
Here’s a real life example from my own childhood.
When I was a kid, school always came easy to me. As a result, I didn’t have to try very hard to get good grades and my teachers used to shower me with praise and compliments.
As a result, I became a cocky little nerd.
In fact, my parents sensed that my head was getting a little too big so they sent me to an accelerated camp for geeks(CTY).
And it totally kicked my ass!
All of a sudden, I was thrust into an environment where everyone was much smarter and I felt completely lost.
I was presented with foreign concepts that I didn’t understand. I felt dumber than the other kids and I desperately wanted to go back to regular school where I was at the top of my class.
In the end, I did what any 7th grader would do. I panicked, gave up and refused to go back.
But my Dad didn’t let that happen.
Instead, he patiently walked me through all of the problems that I couldn’t solve and watched as I struggled.
Even though I bitched and moaned about the difficulty level, he never told me the answer outright.
Instead, he encouraged me to talk out loud and document my thought process. He gave me subtle hints when necessary to move me along.
And over time, I learned that if I just stuck with a difficult problem long enough that I’d eventually find a solution.
Now this is just a silly story about nerd camp, but struggling through small challenges like this as a kid taught me to be persistent in business.
Our ecommerce store performed terribly during the first several months until I stumbled on Adwords and learned how to use it effectively.
My blog did not make a single cent until the 3 year mark. And it didn’t gain any traction at all until I learned how to do email marketing.
Bottom line, if you persevere long enough, eventually you will find something that works. But you have to stick around long enough to reap the rewards.
Why Asian Parents Don’t Over Compliment Their Children
If you’ve been on the Internet long enough, you’ve probably come across funny memes of Asian parents who never compliment their children.
And even though you might think that parenting this way is overly harsh, there’s a hidden lesson behind it.
First off, I hate giving false compliments and don’t even get me started with “participation trophies”.
If you are going to give your child a compliment, it should be for a real accomplishment. Otherwise, it’s just makes your kid overconfident which leads to the “afraid to fail” syndrome described earlier.
It’s true. My parents rarely complimented me as a child.
When I brought home a report card full of A’s and a single B, they would ask me why I got a B.
But here’s the thing.
The lack of compliments set the bar high and forced me to aim for a greater goal.
“Straight A’s? That’s par for the course”
“You got #2 in the competition? Why did you lose?”
“You got a 90 on the test? Isn’t it out of 100?”
Don’t get me wrong.
Whenever I DID achieve a major goal through blood, sweat and tears, my parents dished out plenty of praise and it felt AMAZING!
Bottom line, if you pat yourself on the back for something that comes easy, you’ll never know what real accomplishment feels like.
Failure builds perseverance which leads to success.
Life Lesson #3: Habits Build Discipline
When I was a brand new parent, I made the rookie mistake of believing that incentives were the key to convincing my kids to work hard and make progress.
For example, I promised to buy my daughter a large stuffed animal if she learned a certain number of vocabulary words by the end of the summer.
But even though she really wanted this toy, she quickly became overwhelmed by the monumental task of learning hundreds of new words all at once.
She tried to cram all of her studying in just a few days, got frustrated and gave up.
As a result, I put her on a bite sized schedule.
Every day after camp, she would try to learn just 20 words per day and I helped her through the process by explaining each word and giving her a short quiz at the end of the day.
I also tried to make things fun by creating ridiculously memorable sentences with the vocabulary words. Anyway, by the end of the summer she learned almost 500 new words and she was amazed by her progress!
The same goes with business success.
If you don’t set aside time to work on your business regularly, then you’ll never make consistent progress.
Most people start out with unsustainable intensity and eventually burn themselves out. They spend so much time and energy launching a business that they don’t have anything left in the tank.
The key to being successful is consistency. And consistency is the result of creating healthy habits and routines.
So here’s what I tell my kids.
If you want to be good at anything, then you need to make practice a part of your regular schedule. And you have to tell yourself that you’re going to maintain this schedule indefinitely.
Even if you feel like giving up, you have to stick with it for at least a couple of years.
I also remind them that they may not see results right away. But small incremental improvements over time will eventually lead to big visible gains.
Patience my child:)
What Are Your Thoughts?
Whether or not you agree with my style of parenting is up to you. And I’m not saying that Asian parenting is the best way to raise a child.
But I do believe that kids (and adults) are way too coddled today.
- Everyone wants quick wins.
- Everyone wants to enjoy life.
- Everyone wants to be happy all the time.
But none of that exists without pain.
You can’t enjoy your wins unless there’s suffering that precedes it.
So you have to prepare yourself to do what you don’t want to do. You have to be willing to learn what you don’t necessarily want to learn.
Everything sucks in the beginning and your ability to endure the suckage is what will allow you to succeed in the long run.
The truth hurts but a wise Asian father once told me, “if you beat something into your brain long enough, it will eventually sink in”
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Steve Chou is a highly recognized influencer in the ecommerce space and has taught thousands of students how to effectively sell physical products online over at ProfitableOnlineStore.com.
His blog, MyWifeQuitHerJob.com, has been featured in Forbes, Inc, The New York Times, Entrepreneur and MSNBC.
He's also a contributing author for BigCommerce, Klaviyo, ManyChat, Printful, Privy, CXL, Ecommerce Fuel, GlockApps, Privy, Social Media Examiner, Web Designer Depot, Sumo and other leading business publications.
In addition, he runs a popular ecommerce podcast, My Wife Quit Her Job, which is a top 25 marketing show on all of Apple Podcasts.
To stay up to date with all of the latest ecommerce trends, Steve runs a 7 figure ecommerce store, BumblebeeLinens.com, with his wife and puts on an annual ecommerce conference called The Sellers Summit.
Steve carries both a bachelors and a masters degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University. Despite majoring in electrical engineering, he spent a good portion of his graduate education studying entrepreneurship and the mechanics of running small businesses.