The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Asians

September 9, 2008 by trooce · Leave a Comment 

After reading the book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People” by Stephen Covey, it had such a profound impact on me that it inspired me to come up with my own list, this one specific for Asian Americans.

It is my sincere hope that the list I’ve come up with will provide some insight into the intricate workings of Asian socio-economic dynamics, some helpful hints on how to improve your own productivity, and perhaps most importantly, allow me to sell twelve kajillion books.

In the interests of full disclosure, let me first say that I am an Asian American, who is writing from a particular perspective.  Therefore, the opinions that I am about to express may not necessarily represent the opinions of this publication.  Having said that, if you do not believe in everything I am about to say, then your mama wears army boots and you are a complete chowderhead.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, and without further ado, let me present the definitive list entitled, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Asians.”

Habit Number One:  Rice – A staple as well as an adhesive
While rice is a staple crop like potatoes and wheat, it is not widely known outside of the Asian culture that rice also serves as a be all, end all of adhesives.  Go into any typical Asian home, and it is quite likely that you will not see any tape, glue, or paper clips.  As most Asian kids learned at a young age, any time you asked your parents for some tape or glue for a project, they would eventually direct you to the refrigerator and a bowl of leftover rice.  Take a few grains of day old rice, mash them together between your fingers, and Voila!  Instant glue.

I recently helped my son build a treehouse using nothing more than some lumber, paint, and five bowls of leftover chicken fried rice.

Habit Number Two:  Banners – Not necessarily a sign of the times
The next time you visit a Chinese, Vietnamese or other Asian restaurant, be sure to check out the restaurant sign out in front.  More likely than not, you will see a “Grand Opening” banner hanging not too far from it.  Asians realize that it makes no sense to invest hundreds of dollars on a “Grand Opening” sign only to use it for the first few weeks of a brand new restaurant.  No, if it was a good idea to have the sign up for a few weeks, then it makes even more sense to have the signs up for the long haul.

When I was a kid growing up, I thought the name of my favorite Chinese restaurant was called “Beijing Gardens Grand Opening.”  It wasn’t until a few years later that I started to get suspicious when the same restaurant changed its name to “Beijing Gardens Grand Opening Under New Management.”

Habit Number Three:  Never judge a seat by its cover

When invited over for dinner in an Asian household, you may notice upon sitting at the formal dining table that all the chairs have the thick, transparent plastic sheet covering the seat of the chair that came with the furniture when you bought it.  You may also wonder whether your host may have inadvertently forgotten to remove the cover after they got the dining set home.

This is a common misperception by people who have not closely studied habit number three of the seven habits.

While most people assume the see through plastic covering is used only to protect the seat fabric while the furniture is in route from the furniture store to your home, it is a little known fact that this plastic material is an industrial grade product, manufactured to withstand liquid spills, sharp utensils, hot pans, and low grade nuclear explosions.

My aunt once proudly explained that her dining room seat covers were custom made using intricately hand woven silk from a rare silk worm that only lives in one nearly inaccessible area of China.  She described the design of the seat covers in great detail, which she had to do by memory since you couldn’t see anything through the faded, now yellow-colored plastic covering the seat.

But take my word for it – if anyone could see under the plastic I’m sure those seat covers would have been beautiful…and pristine.

Habit Number Four:  Tea’d off yet squeaky clean
Habit Number Four is a daily ritual performed routinely on the lives of young Asian children throughout the world by their mothers.  Asian mothers are convinced that tea is a magic elixir that will not only quench thirst, but is also a natural disinfectant that can clean anything known to man.

It’s the same image the world over – an Asian mom holding a small towel in one hand and a pot of tea in another.  Next thing you know, the tea is poured out onto the towel, and whatever the object – tabletop, chopsticks, 57 Chevy, is now clean.

Unfortunately, the object of my mom’s disinfecting skills was often me and my brother.  During the course of any meal you could predict that my mom would eventually pour hot tea onto a napkin and wipe our faces with it.  While our faces would certainly end up clean, I’m not sure whether the tea was really effective or whether applying any liquid the temperature of scalding lava to a child’s face would be a good disinfectant since it’s likely to kill germs as well as burn off a few layers of the kid’s epidermis.

I hope these habits will have a positive impact in your life.  And for those of you who have noticed that I only got through four of the seven habits, hopefully you’ll be able to find them in my upcoming book. <Note:  I will write the rest for the book!

How else am I going to sell twelve kajillion copies?

A Tale of Forbidden Fruit

September 4, 2008 by trooce · Leave a Comment 

As a service to our readers, I have taken it upon myself, in a never-ending quest to unravel the secrets of Asian culture, to seek out and uncover, at some personal risk to myself, the mysteries of Asia’s forbidden fruits.

That’s right – I’m here to tell you about all the weird fruit they have on sale at my local Asian supermarket.

Now, it’s fortunate that I’ve been able to travel to Asia frequently and I’ve seen the variety of fruit available over there.  There’s nothing in the Asian markets here that I haven’t seen for sale over there.  Still, I can imagine the initial shock of anyone walking through the produce section of an Asian supermarket for the first time.

Let’s take the pomelo, for example.  A pomelo is the largest fruit in the citrus family.  The term “large” is an understatement.

How big is it?

A typical pomelo is roughly the same size as a full-grown golden retriever.  I once saw a pomelo fall off a fruit stand and roll down a grocery aisle forcing women and children to flee in horror from the marauding citrus boulder rolling towards them.  A family of four could live off of one pomelo for a week and a half.  In some countries when you file your taxes you can claim your pomelo as a dependent.

It’s that BIG.

Rambutan is a fruit from Southeast Asia that has a very pleasant taste and is shaped similarly to lychee, except that the outside shell is round and covered with soft, crimson red tentacles. I don’t know how else to describe the look of rambutan except to say that it seems oddly perverted.  When holding rambutan in your hand at a local Asian supermarket, I have a tendency to look over my shoulder to see if anyone’s looking in my direction as if I’m doing something seedy.

The few times I’ve purchased rambutan at the market I’ve discreetly asked the bagger to stuff them into a plain, brown paper bag.

Then there’s the durian.  A durian is about the size and shape of a football covered with sharp, spiny, green thorns on the outside, looking a lot like a grenade on steroids.  Cutting a durian in half, you see two sacs, each filled with a grayish yellow gelatinous mass that looks a lot like the forensics scene from the movie Aliens.

Let’s not forget about the famous durian smell. Encyclopedia Britannica describes the durian smell as a “pungent foul odor.”  How would I describe it?  Take one pair of dirty gym socks, stuff them with some moldy cheese, drive them to your nearest dairy farm during the warmest time of the day, and voilà!  Pungent foul odor.

Despite the fact that the actual taste of a durian is sweet and creamy, what puzzles me is that some point at the beginning of time, one of our ancestors came upon this ominous looking fruit for the first time with all it’s spiny thorns, alien-like innards, and locker room smell, and was still curious enough (or desperate enough) to wonder, “Sure – it’s scary looking and smells like my feet, but I wonder what it tastes like?”

Maybe he was so famished and exhausted from lugging around the pomelo he found that he was ready to eat anything.

A Home of Good Fortune and Little Patience

September 4, 2008 by trooce · Leave a Comment 

A Home of Good Fortune and Little Patience

I have always been struck by the stark contrasts between rationality versus spirituality in Asian culture.  On the one hand, as typified by my father, you have the rational – an electrical engineer who sees everything at face value.  He believes that whatever “luck” he has had in life came upon him by virtue of hard work.  My dad will resole his old shoes when they become worn not because he doesn’t want to spend the money on new shoes, but because there’s nothing wrong with the rest of the shoe.

On the other hand, as typified by one of my favorite aunts, you have the spiritual.  She believes that there are spirits and forces among us, good and bad, that can influence our lives for better or worse.  In my youth, I can recall many instances where she would describe how to attract good luck while warding off evil spirits.  She once told me that when eating a steamed whole fish, it was bad luck to eat every morsel of the fish because having leftover fish will invite good fortune to return.  I only wish she had mentioned that a little earlier in the meal.

I would tend to be 99% rational, 1% spiritual.  I believe that one’s life is a result of choices made.  On the other hand, I don’t think it hurts to leave a little fish on the plate.

This contrast became abundantly clear as my wife Maya and I started looking for a new house.  Let me say that Maya works amazingly hard managing home and career, but she also believes in Feng Shui, which literally means “Wind/Water”, and is a methodology meant to attract positive energies, often times through the design and position of one’s home.

I would say Maya is 75% rational, and 75% spiritual.  (Don’t bother doing the math, I was never very good at statistics).

We hired a well-respected feng shui master to do a reading of several homes we were interested in. He looked through various room layouts, analyzing the positive and negative aspects of each design.

In order to be a supportive hubby, I was determined to be open-minded.  I was sure the spiritual aspect of feng shui could work in harmony with the rational needs we had of our future home.

The type of homes we liked were one-story ranch homes, usually with a courtyard near the front door, with the kid’s rooms on one side of the house and the master bedroom on the other.  If we needed to add a window here or hang a mirror there, that was fine with me.  That’s the least a supportive, open-minded hubby could do.

After spending five minutes going through the room layouts, the feng shui master made the following observations.

Having a courtyard near the front door at the center of a house was inappropriate symbolically because it was akin to having an empty heart.
Having too many rooms on one side of the house created an imbalance, which would create an imbalance in our lives.
To improve balance, instead of a long, ranch style home, we would be better off with a two story, square-shaped house.

Upon leaving the feng shui master, I may have inadvertently muttered something like, “Well, why don’t we just buy a house in the shape of a toaster and be done with it?”

Bad, bad, closed-minded, skeptical hubby.  Perhaps the feng shui master was right – we were already channeling negative energies.  Unfortunately, the negative vibes were all emanating from my mouth.

Not the Best or Worst of Times – But Somewhere in the Middle

September 4, 2008 by trooce · Leave a Comment 

Everything in moderation.

The basic idea is that life has its ups and downs and the best way to make your way through it is to avoid extremes on either end.  When all is said and done, you’ll find that besides winning the lottery and falling off a cliff, most of your life will be spent somewhere in the middle.

In much of Asia, it’s called, “The Middle Way”, and it’s a rule of thought that is prevalent throughout Asian culture.  Don’t get too exuberant or too distraught.  Keep perspective on things.  If many Asians seem to be reserved in their demeanor, I would venture to say it’s because of “the middle way.”

It’s a concept that seems to have lost favor here in the West.  Our lives are filled with extremes.  Just look at the movies.

When was the last time you saw a “good” movie?  If you go by the one or two line reviews in the movie section of your local newspaper, none of us have seen a “good” movie in years.

Oh, I’ve seen movies recently that I’ve really enjoyed.  But it wasn’t “good”.  According to the reviewer, it was a “Swashbuckling film, bristling with excitement and one of the finest cinematic adventures in years.”

I see.  I must have missed something.  I just thought it was a funny movie.

Then there’s the “Two Thumbs Up!” rating that reviewers Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper give to movies they recommend.  From my understanding, there’s no amount of publicity a studio can buy that is worth more than getting a “Two Thumbs Up!” rating from Ebert and Roeper.

The problem is, nearly every movie in the movie section has a “Two Thumbs Up!” rating by Ebert and Roeper.  How is that going to help me decide which movie to watch?

The other day, I saw that one movie ad with a rating from Ebert and Roeper using the words, “Two Thumbs Up!  Way, WAY UP!”

What does that mean?  What am I supposed to do with that?

Apparently, the fact that their thumbs are up is no longer enough to help me in my movie watching decision.  Now, I need to pay attention to the elevation of their thumbs in the air.

So, the question I have is, how would they rate a truly once in a lifetime, groundbreaking film?  I mean, they’d have to write something like, “Two Thumbs Up!  Way, WAY UP!  We are standing on chairs with our thumbs up high!  If we could surgically remove our thumbs, we’d be shooting them in the air – that’s how UP we are!  Look!  We are waving our feet in the air!  Our thumbs as well as our toes are UP!!!”

On the other hand, the other end of the spectrum isn’t safe from our excesses either.

Last week I was watching a sports program devoted to the latest controversy around Barry Bonds and the use of steroids in baseball.  According to the experts, the prevalent use of steroids has become a “tragedy of mythic proportions” for baseball.

I don’t know the exact criteria you would use to determine a tragedy. But in the greater scheme of things, I’m not sure taking an illegal drug to help a player hit a white ball out of a stadium could technically be considered a tragedy of mythic proportions.

I’m not saying I’d give it “two thumbs up”, mind you.  I’d give it a definite “Thumbs down.”  In this case, two very muscular “thumbs down.”

The Governor…

September 1, 2008 by trooce · Leave a Comment 

With all the turbulence and activity in California reaching a fever pitch in recent weeks, I have decided that as a Californian, I must do whatever I can to give back to this great state that has given me so much.  In my own small way, I will contribute to this cause by assuming a role I was born to play and am ready to assume.

In case you’re still in the dark as to what my decision is, let me be perfectly clear.  I hereby announce my plan to be the next movie blockbuster action/adventure hero.

Governor?  No, no, no, no no.  There are enough people running for that already.  Still, the California’s recall election did give me the idea for this sudden career change.

After all, for the time being, Arnold is taking a leave of absence from his action/adventure hero duties, and Sylvester, Bruce, and Clint are getting a bit long in the tooth for some of the action stunts that are part of this genre.  My time has come.

Some of you may ask, “Wayne, I just don’t see you as an action/adventure hero and besides, aren’t there already several Asian actors who are doing quite well?”

You mean like Jackie Chan, Jet Li and Chow Yun Fat?  That’s a fair question, but I believe I can fill a special niche that these fine actors cannot.  Let me try and describe my action/adventure hero persona.

First off, I intend to be the first Asian action/adventure star with no martial art skills whatsoever.  When a bad guy tries to hit me, they’ll succeed.  However, like in Arnold and Sylvester’s movies, when it looks like I’m down for the count with the fate of the world on my shoulders, I will somehow manage to head butt them which will leave my opponent completely stunned but apparently causes me no discomfort whatsoever.

If that doesn’t work and my adversary has me over a barrel, somehow, someway I will conveniently find something like a crow bar within arms reach that I can use to break free or possibly some kind of mechanical lever that when pulled will suck my enemy into some ridiculously dangerous mechanical contraption.

I have a cousin who has managed to land a few bit parts in movies and the types of roles he’s played might serve as a guideline of what I am trying to avoid.  He has played the son of an Asian crime lord who is snuffed out before the end of the opening credits.  He has played a clumsy Chinese waiter who is snuffed out before the end of the opening credits.  Then of course there was what would have been his “breakthrough” role (which ultimately ended up on the cutting room floor in order to save room for the opening credits).

If that doesn’t work, I still have plenty of options.  But if it does, my new career as an action/adventure star is just a stepping stone to my real dream – just think of it…Senator Wayne Chan.