bamboo ceiling

Invisible Asians: Where are you from?

Asian Pacific Islanders (API) are the fastest growing population in the US.  We have achieved many things in this country. And from the superficial data of education, income, and overall poverty, APIs are the "most successful" ethnic group including whites in the country. 1 of 19 Americans, 1 in 7 Californians, and 1 in 6 LA County residents are API. The largest alumni population for hundreds of the top schools will be API in the next decade. It is conceivable that API college grads will exceed both African American and Latino populations by 2025. You combine the Model Minority Myth with the low profile of APIs and you get the subordination of one of the greatest assets of this country. You also bury the real needs of the poor and vulnerable APIs because we are not capable of dis-aggregating the data of the multiple ethnic groups which make up APIs in America.

Consider these facts:

  • The parents of Cambodian Americans suffer greater levels of PTSD than returning vets from Iraq, according to Rand.
  • Poverty among API populations has increased at almost twice the rate as African Americans since the recession according to Pew. Now more than 2 million APIs live below the poverty line in the US.
  • Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander groups are more likely to live beneath the poverty line than any population in the nation. 

APIs like any pan-ethnic group is diverse and complex, defying generalizations and stereotyping. Averages mask the depth and breadth of the 42 sub-ethnic and islander groups. So the stereotypes prevail. Asians-racism-sandbox-748086

APIs are okay. Let's not talk or worry about them. They don't make any noise, they don't have large political caucuses, or clout in the media, so you can ignore them with impunity. So very few polls on anything show the voices and opinions of APIs. (As if we don't exist) A national discussion of Boys and Men of Color excludes APIs ( I guess we don't have enough color? And how do at-risk Cambodian, Pilipino, Laotion, or Samoan young men react to this?) I could go on and on.

A very recent Wharton study of 6500 top university professors revealed the following:

  • Faculty were most likely to respond to e-mails from white males. But more surprising was the high level of racial bias against Asians and Indians -- professors were likeliest to ignore e-mails from these students.
  • The pernicious nature of the "model minority" stereotype of Asians, and the fact that Asians are still viewed as the most foreign "other" in our American culture -- perhaps the biggest outsiders in the politics of "not like us."

It makes no sense.This country does not value APIs and APIs have not done themselves any favors by flying under the radar and not making their voices heard. APIs are invisible and most Americans look by us and through us. 

Thanks John for the interesting dive into API data. What does this have to do with SWiVELTime?

The way I look and the way people perceive me has impacted my networking and mentoring throughout my whole life.

I am a fully assimilated API. Oh I have been criticized for "selling out" and for being less Asian than I should be. My parents wanted me to be Americans first--to fit in after their experiences in the internment camps.  That's why my parents named me John instead of Toraichi. Why my parents sacrificed to move us into a white school district to get a better education and to facilitate my Americanization. So I am guilty by assimilation. 

I have also tried to single handedly combat the Model Minority Myth by getting low grades in math and science in high school! It made my teachers crazy! :)

So I have tried to fit in and to engage others to fit in. Even though I have been the first and only Asian so many times I have lost count. I am grateful to my parents and for the opportunities I have been given. (even though I was almost always considered "under-qualified") I have been lucky because some people believed in me and I have made the most of it. 

And yet, I have encountered incredible ignorance, covert discrimination, and overt racism. 

 Just want to point out what everyone who looks like me faces.

Every day someone ignores me or says something about "Asians". And then they say "Not you John. You know what I mean."

These are statements made to to me this year:

"Don't we have too many Asians here?"

"You are the best Asian speaker I have ever heard!"

Were you born here?

Not going to even try to pronounce your name. I am really bad with Asian names.

Are you John Kobara? Oh I thought you were Hispanic? What kind of name is Kobara?

I have presented to thousands of API leaders. And I can tell you there is a widespread corporate, non-profit, government, and legislative bias to not advance  APIs. Even for APIs who have exceeded the metrics, requirements and expectations. Like the well known anti-Asian bias that the Ivy League schools have erected to limit API admissions. Jeremy Lin had a much tougher time getting into Harvard than starting in the NBA!

Anti-Asian bias exists in every organization,it is a silent and pernicious prejudicial haze that influences and limits promotions and career paths. Bottom-line is executives do not see APIs as leaders. They see us as "competent and efficient." About as attractive as a blind date with a great personality. So we don't benefit from diversity recruitment, management opportunities--that's why APIs are the most under-represented population in the corporate board rooms.

We are invisible to many. But we are here. And we have to let our presence be known.

We  are neither victims or the entitled. We are not acknowledged, we are ignored and therefore not understood. The consequences are brutal. As a nation we neglect one of the most diverse, high potential, highest need, populations in this country. Why?

Is it the fault of APIs because we are quiet, reserved, and inscrutable?

APIs are part of the great American story. We are from here. But do you see us? 

Thanks for reading. John

 


5 Years of Blah Blah Blog

I started this blog in 2008, just before the collapse of the economy.  350 posts, more than 30,000 words and 120,000 page views later, I never dreamed it would have taken me on this journey. I guess it is like life, if you trust yourself and push ahead then it will take you to amazing places. And it has. I really started SWiVELTime for me. I wanted the discipline of researching, writing, and thinking every week. For me it is an enjoyable struggle to come up with material every week that allows me to express my observations and learnings. (I am in awe of the Seth Godins who post every day.)

My content moved over time from the common myths and tools of networking to a more macro perspective on the potential of the individual. Over the years I have lost readers due to this change. They wanted tools and techniques. Something they can put to use right away. It is a perfectly rational and reasonable expectation. But I have always felt the need to lay the context and conditions of personal and professional growth before discussing the how-tos. And you and this blog have pushed me deeper into my root structure of understanding so I can grow. I am more consumed by my obsession about the human potential and the distractions and resistance we encounter preventing us from becoming who want to be—who were meant to be. I am more convinced than ever that we are interconnected and interdependent. That our destinies are tied to one another. That WE is so much stronger than me. That's why I have become more focused on the why over the what.

Chinese-Bamboo-Forest
Chinese Bamboo Forest

 Mentor and network for the greater purpose of helping others rather than the acquisition of an infinite and unfulfilling more for oneself.

Reminded of the amazing story of a particular strand of Chinese bamboo which only develops its roots for 5 years and then in the 6th year it breaks the ground and grows 75 feet high! (cited in Paulo Coelho's book Aleph)

This blog has refined and sharpened my presentations and vice versa. A great dance of learning and understanding between my readers and audience members. A dance of possibilities.

If I had a tatoo ( I have none:) It would bear my favorite quote that symbolizes this blog:

Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. F. Peter Dunne

I have tried to do both. As John Wooden told me, "Sometimes you have to slap people on the back and sometimes a little lower."

The feedback I have received from you has humbled me. It has taught me many lessons. It has guided and mentored me. People have revealed themselves to this obscure blogger and it has energized my belief in the incredible potential that we all possess.

Despite the millions of resources on the web, there seems to be a need for these conversations, for these explorations of questions that define our lives. Few places espouse the adoption of a lifestyle of mentoring and networking. 

Like all good teaching and mentoring, the teacher and the mentor benefit most. You have changed my trajectory, my orbit, and my path.

As my mother says when I thank her---Okage sama---Thanks to you!

Thanks for your indulgence, for your readership and for helping me continue to learn. This is not a trite way to fish for congratulations or gratitude. It is merely an acknowledgement of my deep appreciation for your contributions in making this blogger a better person and better at his job.

In this sixth year and in the spirit of the Chinese bamboo, I wish for you a great growth spurt in your opportunities and prosperity.

Thanks for reading. John


Bonsai and the Elephant

BonsaiI have always admired bonsai as a living piece of art. The idea that you could miniaturize a tree was amazing to me. I visited bonsai gardens as a child and remember seeing a forest of cypress that were under 18 inches tall.

But when I heard Professor Yunus discuss Bonsai People, I started to think about the ways we miniaturize people's potential and their dreams. How we limit our own potential and dreams. How we bonsai others and ourselves. 

As Professor Yunus says, we do build pots around many people. Pots of stereotypes.  Pots of indifference. Pots of our lowered expectations. The poor lack the base or space to grow.

Sometimes well intentioned people try to "help" others by making their goals "more realistic". The parent who tells his daughter not to become an artist because there is no money in it. The college counselor who told me I was not university material. 

These are all root trimming activities. Ways of clipping the potential of another. 

THE STORY OF THE ELEPHANT   The elephant is the strongest animal in the kingdom. But it is very strange  the way circus trainers keep the elephants tied up. Wrapped around the leg of the little baby elephant will be a great big chain; but wrapped around the leg of the huge adult elephant will be a little flimsy rope. The elephant trainer will tell you that after a few months of straining against a big chain, the baby elephant will finally give up. After that, the trainer can replace the big strong chain with a weak little rope, and the elephant never knows the difference. Even thought the adult elephant could snap the rope with one mighty tug of his foot, he never even tries. Why? Because the long months of struggling against the chain have conditioned and convinced him to believe that it's impossible!

What imaginary rope or pot limits your thinking and your pursuit of what you can be?

Some people really believe that "somebody else" will free them from their self imposed bondage. Yes, it does take mentors, colleagues, coaches, sponsors and teachers to show you options, paths and opportunities to break free from the circus trainer and bonsai gardener. You do need a network or truth tellers to give you real feedback. But you have to be open to it.

When the student is ready the teacher appears.  Buddha

Do we maintain the pots we are planted in? Are others to blame for the pot we are in?  Yes society, your DNA and your environment contribute greatly to your pot. But what are you going to do about it? 

Love it or leave it?

Break out or break through? Elephant rope

Stop complaining about the pot or rope the supposedly holding you back. Take control of your career and your life.

Met this kid who grew up in the hood and will graduate from a prestigious private school. He convinced his parents that he needed more education. He got people to support him morally and financially. He is passionate about his future and difference he will make. Hard to count the pots he has broken and grown out of. He wanted more, pursued it, got some help and now can taste it. Nobody will ever miniaturize his dreams again.

In the same week met with a former colleague who has everything. She is well educated has money in the bank and many options. But she is stuck. Her pot has thick and high walls that she imagines. No vision for her future. No desire to improve. Just hoping to get "more". More opportunities and more responsibilities. I gave her advice but it slid off of her teflon coating. She does not want to make an effort to change. She is going to wait for the "right" time. Wow. Easy to predict that she will get root rot and her pot will continue to stunt her growth. A self made bonsai.

There will never be a better time than right now. I don't mean quit your job today, but to take serious and continuous steps to break free from the little rope that has conditioned you to stay put. Not even the proverbial golden handcuffs, but paper handcuffs that are forged from your fears. Your fear of your own potential.

The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.  Michelangelo

As I have said many times big difference between ambitious and ambition. Wanting "more" is way different than going after "more". 

More will not usually come looking for you. And if it does you have to be ready. 

Bonsai are the most cared for, pampered, plants in the world. They are so dependent on this care that they will not succeed without it. Maybe you really like where you are, then stop talking about a different future. Enjoy what you have.  

So either stay in your pot and become a beautiful groomed bonsai. Or get your Shawshank on!

Most people can become bonsai. Great seeds that yearn for the light but find that their pot is comfortable and ultimately restricts their mobility. 

We have an obligation to help others break free of their constraints to grow. And to not miniaturize other people's dreams.

Thanks for reading. John


Jungle Gymnastics

If you always do what you have always done then you always get what you always got.  -Stuart Crabb, Director of Learning at Facebook

Had the chance to spend time with Stuart at an intimate conference last week. Facebook has invested  alot of time and effort to craft a learning culture at FB, from which we can learn a few things. Stuart went through the following myths that FB helps its employees overcome. Myths that can stifle career growth, mentoring, personal and professional development.

  1. I can learn most from those with more experience than me. --I learn from everyone around me. Age and tenure are not the only determinants of wisdom and relevance.
  2. Excellence is defined by what I know and what I can do well.-- excellence is defined by my strengths and what I ship-- not my efforts but what I deliver. Hone your uniqueness, your talents, and your strengths to set yourself apart.
  3. Effective learning is in books and classrooms.--Being more open to continuous education, than just formal education will make you smarter. Small bites of real time learning on the job are most powerful. 
  4. My performance review helps me stay on track and grow.--Annual reviews are archaic and too late. To grow and adapt you seek real time feedback and frequent feedback on your strengths and weaknesses.
  5. Progression in my company and industry is vertical and logical.--Career development  is more like a jungle gym than a ladder. You have to take risks and follow your heart. You have to gain lateral experiences to move up.

Jungle gym 4

The greatest skills are adaptability, flexibility, and resilience. Key skills for the jungle gym and the jungle of your career choices and experiences. No way to predict the future. No way to have certainty about your life. You will make mistakes. You will ascend and descend. You will fall. You will get back up. The questions are: How much do you learn through change? Do you lose or gain momentum at each of these junctures? 

I use to say that career development was more like Super Mario Bros, which shows you how dated, but yet relevant this analogy still is. The idea of jumping on and off of platforms. The courage to take chances on your passions. The concept of risk/reward. To have the resources, skills and "weapons" to overcome the obstacles, challenges and changes that are thrown in front of you.  

I like Crabb's jungle gym as a much better metaphor for life and career. It is more playful and accessible. It gives you a complete visual for the options you have. That there are many ways to successfully climb and enjoy your journey.

There is always someone who tries to go straight to the top. Some go up and down the slide. Others who look for creative and challenging routes and experiences. All of these paths are real and legitimate, as long as you do not believe that a linear path is your only route, it never is. Like the MD who is required to do "internships" on all aspects of medicine and the body before specializing. Having breadth and depth of knowledge and experience will always help you transfer those skills. And taking a less direct to the top enables you to discover your strengths and passions. We all know people who rise too quickly and fall just as fast. 

I meet people all of the time who want to run for-profit and non-profit organizations with little or no expertise except confidence and ambition. Real confidence comes from learning and understanding how things work. 

Jump on the jungle gym and explore it and see where it takes you. Have fun and discover who you are. Literally and figuratively learn the ropes and steps led by your passions. Then you will define the jungle gym instead of it defining you. 

Thanks for reading. John


The Asian Crossover and Our Common Destiny

In May 0f 1992, Congress declared May as Asian Pacific American (APA) Heritage Month. It was an extension of their resolution to establish APA Heritage Week 14 years before. It is a special time to raise awareness about the APA communities' history and culture. It is also a time to re-ignite pride within the communities by celebrating the many achievements and galvanizing the APA community around issues, causes and challenges within our communities. While there are many good things about APA Heritage Month, I honestly have mixed feelings about a month set aside to focus on a specific ethnic group. For me every month is APA month! When you are an APA you confront the challenges of mis-information, ignorance and just sheer discrimination all of the time.

I am an Asian Crossover. No I am not talking about a new car that is part SUV and part sports coupe. Nor I am alluding to Jeremy Lin's sweet ankle breaking dribble move. I have been an APA who has worked in "mainstream" places and organizations for my whole career. I have been many times in my professional and personal career, the "first APA to lead/head" and organization, the "first APA" on a board or the "highest ranking APA" in very large organizations and industries. No brag here just fact---plus I am pretty old :) It actually is more a source of embarrassment to me that we have to use these labels even in 2012! Sadly we do, because we still have a long ways to go. My point is that I decided early on that I had an obligation, nee, a duty to help everyone, especially my "round eye" colleagues to be more sensitized to APA issues. I have also helped those organizations and industries engage more APA talent and customers. In general, you become the local Google search engine for APA questions and referrals. It is really tough representing millions of APAs and billions of Asians! :) Banana

But being an Asian Crossover has its price and costs. Some in the APA community consider you a "sell-out" or even a banana----yellow on the outside and white on the inside. (Asians are really good at copying others---clearly inspired by the Oreo designation in the African American community) I have been called a sell-out several times. But I knew who I was and who I was trying to become.

Being an Asian Crossover is a role that I do not shy away from. I decided I would bite my tongue and help as many others understand me and other APA communities no matter what was said or happened. I chose to become a bridge of understanding, with a specific focus on non-Asians. I always wanted to share what I have learned with the APA community--push APA talent to rise. But I learned there also needs to be a pulling force from the top of organizations, which is overwhelmingly non-Asian. Being a crossover means you have to do the pushing and the pulling.

This mindset enabled me enter new worlds with a purpose. To be very comfortable being the only person of color and usually the only Asian in the room. 25 years ago I was asked by KPCC, the NPR affiliate here in LA, to do an "Asian" show. KPCC was very interested in reaching the burgeoning Asian population in southern California, especially in the San Gabriel Valley. I told them that the only way they would reach these new Asians was by doing Asian language programming, starting with Mandarin. A couple years before I played a small part in launching the Jade Channel, a new cable tv channel with an array of Mandarin programming. I had a series of awkward conversations with the KPCC execs, about the challenges these new immigrants were having to assimilate and the high levels of discrimination they were already facing. Finally I told them I would do an "Asian" show focused on raising the awareness of non-Asians. I told them I would call it Asian Understanding. They were so pleased because they got their "Asian show". So for 10 years and 455 live shows I designed Asian Understanding as a crossover talk show, building bridges to the new and venerable APA communities through the arts, news, and personalities.

How do you take the bananas you are given and make a great banana milkshake? :)

Last Friday I was honored to be the keynote speaker at Southern California Edison's APA Heritage luncheon. All SCE's execs were in attendance, as well as SCE's APA partners, a smattering of SCE employees. It was a very formal and elegant luncheon filled with music, inspirational awards, and of course wonderful food. My speech themes followed my path as an Asian Crossover. To build bridges of understanding. To connect APAs with other communities. To strengthen our connection to our common destiny.

Here is an excerpt from my speech: Download SCE APA Heritage Final 5.4.12:

The greatest limitation to our advancement is our own imagination, our own concept of ourselves. We impose many constraints on ourselves. Yes there is discrimination, prejudice, racism and stereotyping. Sad to say these are omni present forces that can hold us back. But we must rise above these enemies of our growth and ambitions by becoming stronger. We have to grow to be more visible, more assertive, and better leaders. We cannot wait to be recognized, to be invited, we must seize our opportunities.

This is our time. Right now. To remember our ancestors to appreciate our opportunities. But what will we do to honor them?

It's not about me it is about we—our destinies are tied to one another

We have to live a life of passion and compassion.

We have lead by example and live our legacy.

We are many but are we much? We have much for which to be grateful. But what will we do to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. What will each of us do to make sure our kids understand the roots of their past and give them the wings to their future?

Each of us can crossover to other communities to build bridges between and amongst our communities of interest. And to discover new communities, new people, and new things along the way. This is the lifestyle of networking and mentoring. To connect to your own identities and to connect with others.

So I mark this 20th anniversary of APA Heritage Month, inspired by what has come before us and challenged by the road ahead. Any chance to remind myself of who I am and what I stand for is a great month. But next month and the month after are just as important times to use our uniqueness to connect our commonalities to strengthen our communities.

Thanks for reading. John


Linside Us All

The Jeremy Lin story is literally omnipresent. If you have to be on another planet or dead to be missing this compelling saga about the Asian-American basketball phenom who graduated from Harvard, was overlooked by 12 teams and who has recently emerged as the star point guard for the NY Knicks. His Cinderella story of benchwarmer and couch surfer to superstar is an American story about hard work and determination--it is a story about all of us. The confluence of potential, passion, mentoring and opportunity shows us what is Linside us all. Jeremy lin

First of all, our collective bias about what a successful person looks like in a particular field can not be underestimated. All of us harbor stereotypes and prejudice that limit who we hire and admire. Even in the NBA, which has undergone a tremendous multi-cultural makeover largely due to the influx of international players. And remember when Tiger broke thru the elite ranks of the PGA...... The point is we still count "firsts" and marvel at people who shatter our assumptions.

Seems like we have forgotten that the first NON-WHITE player in the NBA was Asian-American, Wat Misaka. Ironically he was recruited in 1947 by the NY Kicks, a full three years before any African-Americans occupied an NBA roster. We have to remember the pioneer shoulders on which we all stand.Misaka

The news is rife with college and NBA scouts and coaches shaking their heads and apologizing for missing Lin in their recruitment. However, according to his HS coach Peter Diepenbrock, Jeremy is a totally different player today, more muscular, better shooter and quicker. Duke's Coach Krzyzewski saw Jeremy play and says he is a late bloomer, whose talent has developed in the last few years.

Coach Diepenbrock also now says that Jeremy's race and looks did hurt his recruitment. Coaches did not give him their full attention because he is Asian. Often we are blind to talent, potential, and opportunity because it does not exist in a form we expect. And we miss it.

Reminds me of the legendary story about Willie Mays, who was the top rated prospect by the Red Sox scouts passed over by the Red Sox General Manger Joe Cronin. Cronin allegedly said, "...not a Red Sox type." And the Red Sox were the last team to integrate.

Asian Pacific Americans (APAs) are frequently overlooked for promotions, Board seats, and executive suites. For more than 15 years there have been more Asian American graduates of the top American colleges than Latino and African American graduates combined. APAs have also received more graduate degrees. And yet APAs are woefully under represented in the corporate Board rooms (402 0f the Fortune 500 do not have an Asian board member), the C suites, and the executive management ranks. APAs are overlooked everyday. Because of how they look and the cultural ignorance of those making the decisions.  Even though 60% of the planet is Asian, APAs are still "exotic" and "inscrutable" to most Americans. If you are not on the coasts and/or graduated from college, you probably have had little contact with APAs. You rely on your instincts and what your parents told you. In other words, APAs are still foreigners.

But given the numbers of APAs in the pipeline these results must and will change.

There is a bamboo ceiling built by those who stereotype all APAs and thereby limit their growth , development and promotion AND the APAs who never pursue their true potential to lead and develop their own talent.

Last week, I spoke to a group and a man came up to me and gave me a "compliment." "Never heard an Asian speak as well as you. Excellent presentation. Thanks." I know what he meant. The surprise that an Asian spoke English well just underlines my point. It is something I have encountered my whole life.

ESPN news bloggers are fired and reprimanded for using ethnic slurs about Lin in the last few days. There have been numerous racist and discriminatory slurs used by the media in reference to Linsanity. One step forward two steps back. Would this be tolerated by the Black or Latino communities?

Despite all of our awkwardness about this new Asian name and face in the news, Lin is inspiring people around the world. Young and old are celebrating his performances, his humility, his hard work, and his Christian faith. Asian kids are captivated by a heroic and celebrated face that looks like theirs. Yes, some of them will dream of NBA careers, but most will dream bigger dreams.

The power of a role model changes lives. One person can trigger mass mentoring.

Jeremy Lin never gave up his dream. He continued to develop his talent, improve his skills and prepare for his opportunity. He had to fight off all of the doubters. The potential within us is most often stunted when we lose the battle with our own doubt. We all know people with incredible natural gifts, who take them for granted and others who give up on their passions. The other side of talent and potential is a curse if it is never realized.

But Lin did not do this alone. His parents encouraged his basketball and non-traditional paths. His Coach Mike D'Antoni believes in him and gave him the shot. You need a network of support and mentoring to get your chance. Who your boss/mentor/sponsor/coach is always matters.

We need people's dreams. To unshackle the restraints imposed on ourselves and on others that are not our type.

We are surrounded by Jeremy Lins everyday. They are kids, colleagues, neighbors, and fellow citizens. How do we see the potential in everyone regardless of our biases on how they look?

Thanks for reading. John


Paper Tigers, Bamboo Ceilings, and the American Dream

The latest article about Asian Americans to cause a stir, Paper Tigers: What happens to all the Asian-American overachievers after the test taking ends. This 9000+ word opus by Wesley Yang describes his experience and the experience of other Asian Americans to find "success" in America. On the heels of the Tiger Mom article and debate, this is the latest example of the increased media attention Asian Pacific Americans (APAs) are getting. With less than 4% of the US population, APAs would be irrelevant if they were not "succeeding" on some levels.

A few facts pointed out in Yang's article: Asians graduate from college at a rate higher than any other ethnic group in America, including whites. They earn a higher median family income than any other ethnic group in America, including whites. This is a stage in a triumphal narrative, and it is a narrative that is much shorter than many remember. Two thirds of the roughly 14 million Asian-Americans are foreign-born. Tiger

Yang attempts to unravel and reveal the truth about the struggle many APAs face in their quest for "success". Frankly, while the article is provocative in asserting the inadequacy of the total education of many APAs, which is the plight of many immigrant populations. APAs are 67% immigrants. How do immigrants become Americans? What is the right formula to adapt to American ideals and culture? How do people "assimilate", acclimate, and advance in American culture? These are the questions that ALL immigrants face.

Asians in America, driven by their homeland cultures and their DNA have emphasized educational attainment as the recipe for success. Isn't it slightly ironic that we mock a group for doing this? Why is academic success questioned in a country that has fallen behind the rest of the world and still Waiting for Superman?

And this success has led to discrimination. Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade has calculated that an Asian applicant must, in practice, score 140 points higher on the SAT than a comparable white applicant to have the same chance of admission to elite schools. Is this fair?

Yang writes: I’ve always been of two minds about this sequence of stereotypes. On the one hand, it offends me greatly that anyone would think to apply them to me, or to anyone else, simply on the basis of facial characteristics. On the other hand, it also seems to me that there are a lot of Asian people to whom they apply.

Like all worlds, the truth lies somewhere in between. Both sides have serious blind spots. We can not stereotype all APAs as academic overachievers lacking social or leadership skills. APAs are so diverse they defy simplified "truths". Parenting, economic challenges, generational differences, and cultural values, varies greatly within the APA community. By the same token, parents who do not recognize the holistic development of their children and their unique skills by measuring success solely by an academic measure short changes their kids.

Through the generational maturation and development of Asian Americans (APAs), there is a realization that additional skills are necessary to succeed in life especially in America. As a sansei, third generation Japanese-American/APA, I have gained greater insight to adapt through my parents, osmosis, mentoring, and just paying attention. My Dad pushed me to become a "public person" when I was a teenager--to become a better public speaker and to network. I learned quickly that if I only associated with people that looked like me, my path would be limited. That feeling different and uncomfortable, even discriminated against, was part of the deal if I wanted to move up. I learned that education was crucial, but I had to have much more than degrees from schools people recognized. I had to have the ability to navigate, persuade, assert myself, and develop a broader set of relationships.

It has been estimated that full assimilation takes 4-5 generations.

In 1992, JD Hokoyama the head and founder of LEAP, asked me to talk about my career to a room filled with APA engineers who were colliding with the bamboo ceiling. The bamboo ceiling is the APA version of the glass ceiling erected by corporate culture to limit the diversity of its highest echelons of leadership--management, the C suites and the board rooms. These APA engineers did face out right prejudice and were struggling with breaking out of their imposed and somewhat deserved stereotypes. At that time APAs were a tiny but growing minority in colleges and in major corps. And engineers suffered from their super technical skills and their general lack in the soft skills. Long story short, JD asked me to do the same thing again and again. Through LEAP and other opportunities I have addressed thousands of APAs and I have seen the potential of APAs and it is awesome! Out of these experiences I developed my networking and mentoring workshop, this blog and a way of life. Like Yang, I have observed the growing friction between the bamboo ceiling and the obsession of academic achievement. While some progress has been made, new immigrants and more success have increased the APA community's challenges to break through.

Yang continues, The failure of Asian-Americans to become leaders in the white-collar workplace does not qualify as one of the burning social issues of our time. But it is a part of the bitter undercurrent of Asian-American life that so many Asian graduates of elite universities find that meritocracy as they have understood it comes to an abrupt end after graduation.

APAs are seriously under-represented in all forms and sectors of executive leadership.

To become a leader requires taking personal initiative and thinking about how an organization can work differently. It also requires networking, self-promotion, and self-assertion. It’s racist to think that any given Asian individual is unlikely to be creative or risk-taking.

So I agree with the much of what Yang writes. Success is built upon personal and professional risk taking, but not just by the APA individuals, but by the employers--the corporations.

Here's the reality. The larger society in America still does not know what to do with APAs. The mixture of the model minority myth, the diversity of the multiplicity of Asian descents and cultures, and the continuing lack of APAs in visible parts of our daily lives keeps APAs out of the consciousness of America. -With more APAs graduating from college than African Americans in this country. -With greater consumer and political power APAs should be viewed as a resource and a vital part of theis country's diversity. -With so many fully qualified APAs waiting in the wings. And with APAs unheralded contributions to so many critical elements of this nation's success. The future of this country will depend more on APAs than in the past if we can just open our minds.

This country needs successes and to nurture successes. It is frustrating to me to see that some in this country do not see the greater untapped potential of APAs. It is a burning issue when potential is wasted. Some will mock the Tiger Moms and the Paper Tigers. I see enormous potential and opportunity to help a growing and under estimated part of our country continue to rise. To take the academic prowess, creativity, work ethic, and loyalty make it a more impactful and visible part of our country's leadership and her future.

Thanks for reading. John