This might be some type of culture shock, but, hey, you’re here to learn! I’m a Vietnamese-American creative opportunist. I say this because, look, my parents are not big fans of entrepreneurship.
Just a disclaimer, my dad passed away October 2016, but, to this day, I still refer to his presence as if he’s still here. So when I say parents, yes, I mean both of them.
But back on track, “say whaaaat now?”
Yeah. You read it right. While this parental opinion may not apply to ALL Vietnamese-American or Asian-American families, it’s pretty common in my own circle of friends. My parents worked a lot of odd jobs and, luckily, got the jobs they’ve held for the past 10-15 years. They believe that holding down one stable job is the only way to be self-sustaining. So this sense of owning your own business just didn’t click with them.
My parents’ idea of the American Dream is to be self-sustaining through one job. Just plain ‘ole working a 9-to-5. I totes get it, though. They just want me to have the best—and that, to them, means working a stable job.
Honestly, I felt like they thought I was a knucklehead, too, so they really didn’t think I could make it owning my own business. I’m not here to give you some intricate step-by-step guide; everyone’s situation is different.
My parents, specifically my dad, would actually yell at me every week from 18 to 20 years old about how I shouldn’t go to work—how he could provide for me. I started my very first job a month after I graduated from high school. I was working in retail and got off at like 12 a.m., because I was cleaning up and busting my butt. This really pissed him off, because he didn’t see why I needed to work so hard.
I would explain all I could though:
- “Dad, I really need the experience.”
- “Dad, I can’t help it if the store keeps me longer. I’m working for them, and they need me.”
- “Dad, you can’t provide for me forever, I have to know how to grow up.”
He still wouldn’t get it. But I know a part of him knows he works so he can provide for me (very common in Vietnamese families). So why would I need to work? The other part is him caring about my safety. I was an 18-year-old girl leaving work in a really shady area at midnight.
Fast forward, it’s been about two years at that retail chain. I told myself, “It’s time to get out.” After I left that job, that’s when I began picking up odd jobs. At some point in 2017, I was working at least three jobs.
I’ll save you the spiel about those jobs, but when I said I worked my ass off in college—I worked my ass off in college.
But why did I work so hard?
The classroom was nice, and I was getting a really good education, but there’s only so much I could learn in school.
What about the real world experience? What about learning how to face failure?
Working outside on these odd jobs really helped me understand everything I do now about business. It may not be everything about business itself, but I’d be so lost without those experiences.
My parents would always wonder why I worked so hard. It could distract me from class. It made me tired. I wasn’t hanging out with friends as much. I think having a culture difference and a language barrier made it hard for me to explain the importance of ‘gaining experience.’
Even so, my mom was actually very supportive and granted me a lot of freedom to pick and choose my own path in life. She didn’t baby me, which made me want to succeed even more.
My dad’s passing made me feel like I have to succeed for sure.
This all comes down to “what is success?” To my mom and dad, that meant sitting in an office in a professional setting. Success does not mean entrepreneurship (or no boss).To me, as long as I’m providing for my own family and myself, I am successful. I feel very successful with my corporate job in that, it’s stressful but it’s a job I can see myself doing long-term to help fuel my business ventures.
I think my parents’ and my ideas of success were similar but just never aligned in method. I still always believe that in order for any of us to be successful, experience and network is key. But what success means to you… I’ll let you determine that.
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