I grew up in South Korea and was raised by a typical Asian Tiger mom and a not-so-typical romantic Asian dad. Since I was 4 years old, my mother made sure that I spent all my time studying and participating in after-school programs, except for 6 hours at night when I was allowed to sleep. My dad loved the piano and played piano music for me ever since I was in my mom’s womb.
When I was 4 years old, my mom discovered that I could play the piano by ear. She immediately made me take vigorous piano lessons, because that was one of the possible very successful career choices for women in South Korea. Back then, while doctors or lawyers or presidents were not viewed as a woman’s career in South Korea, a world pianist or an ice skater was a great stepping stone into a good marriage. The piano teacher my mom found lived with us. Every time I turned around or had a moment to breathe, there he was, standing by. He would grab me and make me play the piano at every opportunity.
I hated piano. Though I may have been talented with it, I never loved playing the piano, and being forced into lessons made me associate the piano with punishment. When I became a teenager, the first most rebellious thing I did was not sex, drugs or rock n roll. I said “no” to piano. My mother was shocked. And I never played the piano again. With all the piano talent my mom was convinced that I had, I didn’t become a professional pianist.
I came to America as a college student and met many American parents who raised their kids so differently. The parents were like friends with their kids. And most of them advised their children to “do what you love to do, and you’ll be successful.” While this sounded beautiful, I thought it could be a flawed model for success.
Does that mean American kids grew up with this beautiful American lie and kept seeking what they loved to do as a career? One thing I know is that if you keep doing what you love to do, you will continue loving it. I don’t know if you will be good at it or make money doing it.
Here’s my hypothesis. I love to sing. But, I’m a terrible singer and have no rhythm. If I’d decided to be a singer, I wouldn’t have made a dime and eventually been miserable for the failures of my professional singing career. I may even have come to hate singing, due to the frustrations and disappointments I had to go through trying to be a professional singer without talent.
The most important distinction between a career and a hobby is money. Career is where you make money and hobby is where you spend the money you earned as a result of your successful career. I made money in my career that I love and built a Karaoke system at home since I still love to sing with friends as a hobby.
Many people claim that your hobby can be your career by quoting that if you love what you do, you will never work one day of your life. Fabulous idea! Agreed! But if you are not good at the job you love and what you do doesn’t bring you the basic needs of your living standard, it’s just not sustainable as a career. Thus, money is an important component to consider when choosing a career. How much money depends on your needs and wants.
Many of us also grow up with the misconception that money is a dirty commodity that shouldn’t become the focus of your career. While money can’t buy you happiness, poverty can certainly kill your happiness.
Let’s take two very important components that make a successful career: Your Talent and Passion. Unfortunately, not many of us know exactly what we are good at and what we are truly passionate about. If you’re not sure, it’s time to date yourself and take a 30-day inventory to get to know you better. You may be the most interesting and fascinating human being you will ever meet!
Below is the framework I have used with many Fremont College students during their first interview process for acceptance to their programs. Please complete it yourself first. Then, give it to your parents and close friends to share their observations about you.
This framework will assist you to find what you’re good at and what you’re passionate about, so that you can see the best viable career options that could make you financially successful using your potential.
There is one more ingredient that I would call the “secret sauce” which your career can actually make you happy or happier — purpose. Have you ever met very successful people who are also admired and loved by all? I have. Most of them are driven by purpose. For those who are lucky enough to do what they love and be good at it while driven by purpose, money becomes a byproduct of their great and hard work. Contrary to some belief, not all rich people are bad people. Money is not good or bad – it’s neutral. How you earn and spend money makes money good or bad. And yes, many people abuse that journey which ends up giving money a very bad rep.
This “purpose” is the final and essential ingredient to complete your career and success framework. How can you have an impact on the world? What can you contribute to make the world a better place? What would your imprint look like when you’re ready to leave this world?
I look forward to sharing this framework in future blogs while sharing my life and career journey and how I got to where I am today. I hope my story — the lessons I learned from my life, and my successes and failures — will give you the framework for finding your calling and purpose in life. Please find your passion and talent to fuel a career that is not only successful, but also impactful. When you do that, you will then have the tools necessary to change your own life and help transform other people’s lives for the better.