Category Archives: Relationships

Crazy Rich Asians and Their Crazy Old Ways

Today’s post is inspired by the recent movie Crazy Rich Asians. However, I will explore more themes than were presented in the movie.

The first topic I want to discuss is Filial Piety.  The idea that it is the child’s responsibility to care for the elders’ in their old age.  This is wrong today, in 2018, because it is outdated.  Hundreds or thousands of years ago, capitalism and division and specialization of labor did not exist. As such, everyone learned life skills like farming, hunting, labor, and mercantilism.  Therefore, they are directly in contact with the activities that provide basic life necessities.  So to plant an extra plant or share spare meat for the elders was efficient and therefore logical to do.  As time went on and division of labor took shape, the profit that the children could make per hour in relation to the value that profit could provide was sufficient to supply the family with fortune and health because 1. life expectancy was low, so you didn’t have to keep everyone alive for 80 years like you do now, 2. people had many kids, so that the family income was exponentially increasing at a high rate, and 3. people had kids very early, so the family size was enormous.  For example, if each family has 5 children ( conservative number )  and they start having kids at 16 (also conservative number ) then when the grandparents are 44 years old, they have 5 children which each have 5 grand children, so 25 grand children + 10 aunts and uncles = 35 people to earn money and support the 2 grand parents.  In the modern day, the numbers are more like: parents have 1 or 2 kids at age 30. So by age 44 the kid is only 14 and unable to support the parents. Then when the parents are 54 the kid is 24 and when the child gets married and has kids at 30, they have to support a new born baby and two aging retiring parents at 60.  Meaning that the 2 parents have to support 4 grandparents and 1-2 newborn children.
As you can clearly see, the ratio of 35 working people supporting 2 elders has become 2 working people supporting 4 elders.  This alone makes filial piety very difficult to achieve circa 1900s.
Now let’s talk about the 2000s.  It’s EVEN WORSE now because in modern times, most of wealth is achieved through investment income.  You will never become wealthy working 40 hours a week. You will only become wealthy through business and investment ventures.  In particular, when you’re talking about long term capital gains and retirement savings, due to the power of compound interest, money saved in your 20s is 3x more important than money saved in your 30s (if you use average stock market returns of 11% per year over 10 years 1.11^10 = ~3).  Furthermore, money saved in your 20s is 9x more important than money saved in your 40s, and 3x more important than money saved in your 30s. Which means if you spend your 20s paying off your student loans and then having some fun, then your 30s paying for parents and new born, then in your 40s you will be sooooo worse off from an investment standpoint.
But it gets worse.  In the 2000s, real estate has exploded and rent has skyrocketed and so have mortgage downpayment requirements. As a result, if your parents don’t jumpstart you on a mortgage, then you’ll end up paying rent for yourself and for your parents which is money you never get back.  This compounded with your lack of investments means that your net worth stays near to 0 your whole life if you pursue filial piety.
In summary, it made sense to have filial piety in ancient times due to math, but today the math does not work out.

The second topic is taken from the movie Crazy Rich Asians and it’s about the importance of passing down the family’s business, inheritance and wealth to the children.  This again is an outdated practice. Today we have lawyers and financial institutions you can hire to manage your business and prevent the managers of your business from running away with your property.  Hundreds of years ago you could only hold onto your property if you can prove it and defend it personally. Under those circumstances, of course the responsibility would fall on the shoulders of the strongest male in the family as they were most likely to be able to defend the family.  Then when division of labor took place, it was a matter of intelligence and connections. Thus, the father would teach the son said intelligence and introduce said son to the exclusive connections that will keep the family ahead of the curve.
However, as more people got rich, they pooled their resources and more efficiently taught the next generation through private schools.  And then they built institutions the further utilize capitalism and division of labor to create systems to support and preserve their wealth and power.  Fast forward to modern day and the government’s legal arm, property laws, and the well developed and highly regulated financial industry and economic system that powers the world today, and if a parent wants to pass fortune to children they can hire professionals to do that. The professionals can then hire professionals to establish the family dynasty through trust funds and private wealth management and etc.  The system is resilient enough to preserve wealth through the dumb generations, which historically lose all the family’s wealth through their stupidity.
In summary, it made sense to force children to take on the mantle of running the family business from generation to generation in the past, but not today.

The third topic I want to address from the movie Crazy Rich Asians is the idea that the wife needs to compromise and give up everything to become the matriarch for the family.  Again, very very outdated. Makes perfect sense back in the hunter gatherer social-economic structure of families hundreds of years ago, but not today.  Today women are more educated than ever before in history, and they are entering the work force and building careers for themselves as well. It is now a two career household rather than a one career household.

Stemming from the growing independence of women we come to the fourth topic which is romantic love and its place in the family.  The older generation was all about: you’re married now, deal with it the best you can, but no matter what preserve the family. As a result you find a lot of the older generation of asian parents today hating each other and only staying together for the purpose of the family and children. Then they pass down this unfortunate world view and expectation to their children: get married by this age, plop out children by this next age, deal with your problems rather than consider that you should get a divorce, or not get married and instead keep searching to find the right one and develop yourself in the meantime.  What you should do is grow yourself and wait for the right one. Better to be alone than in a terrible relationship. The good thing about today is that there’s so many people, you will find someone right for you if you keep looking.

A fallacy from the movie is the idea that (spoilers ahead, stop reading if you don’t want to know the plot) the lead character Nick is emotionally mature and ready for a marriage or relationship.  He spent a year running away from his problems, and in the end it was his wife Rachel who solves them. Which means that if Rachel is the intelligent independent confident woman that the movie makes her out to be, she will realize at some point that Nick is an immature boy and she deserves better.  The movie gives no indication that Nick has grown in any way, meaning his ability to actually take on the family business is highly suspect. Also, where is Nick’s dad in this movie?
Another fallacy from the movie is the idea that Nick would NOT think it’s a BIG deal that his girlfriend doesn’t know he’s rich.  He’s probably been thinking his whole life about how to introduce his future lover to his wealth, especially since he sees how the marriages of his family and friends turn out when immense wealth marries less immense wealth. Equally so a fallacy is the idea that Rachel would have never googled Nick to find out his history.
Also…where is Nicks dad in all of this? Why is not involved at all in family affairs?
And finally, in all seriousness, wrapping dumplings is hard.

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Giving Unhurtful Feedback

I am notorious for giving cruel, uncaring, cutting feedback.  I thought that if I was clear, firm, and to the point, I would achieve perfect communication.  This is true only for robots, but not for humans with emotions.

Here’s what I thought happens when two people talk:

(idea in head) -> words spoken -> sound in air -> words heard by other person -> (idea in head)

Here’s what actually happens

(idea in head) -> words spoken with tone and expressed with body language -> sound in air and visual imagery -> other person’s emotions at the time + other person’s unconscious biases and habits + other person’s beliefs and world view + other person’s view on the relationship between you and them + other person’s feelings of their relationships with themselves and the rest of the world at that moment + what you said + what they interpret what you said meant + what they see + what they interpret what they see meant -> (idea in head)

As a result, when I say something like “Don’t do that. Do this instead.”  What I think is happening is I’m clearly communicating what needs to be addressed, and how it needs to be addressed.  What is happening is I’m 1. taking authority and command and superiority to tell the other person what to do 2. making them feel small 3. making them feel threatened 4. making them feel confused and afraid from the threat 5. making them question why 6. making them insecure about whether to trust the information or not 7. wonder about my intentions 8. wonder about the impact on the relationship and on them self if they obey and if they don’t obey 9. creating a hostile environment into which it is difficult to give feedback, ask for clarification, be equal 10. etc.

Instead, lead with intent that is selflessly benevolent to the other person: I want you to do well, so I care if something bad happens to you. I an concerned that if you do that, a unfortunate etc. thing will happen to you, which I don’t want.  So my solution to the situation is to do this because given my experience etc. will happen. What do you think?

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Don’t Overreact

Don’t overreact.  Adapting is important, but there is such a thing as adapting TOO much, and doing so will negatively affect your own life and your relationships with others. Instead, you should adapt the appropriate amount for the given circumstances.

I used to pride myself on how many things I could change in response to feedback.  From what time I sleep to the number of grams of chicken I ate in a 72 hour period to what thoughts to think when transitioning from one task to another, I controlled every detail.  But recently I’ve noticed that small external changes were triggering huge internal changes to my life. I was overreacting. Someone would say I’m drinking to much water and I’d go from a cup per hour to a cup of water per 3 hours and get overly dehydrated.  The change was too much too soon.  Instead I should scale down in percentages: half a cup every 1.5 hours instead of jumping to 3 so soon.

Also: Don’t change your behavior on TOO many occasions. I was taking advice too often: On Monday I’d read something about the dangers of overhydration and start adjusting to a cup every 3 hours, and then on Tuesday I’d read that dehydration has risks and I’d start adjusting back to one cup every hour.  The body needs time to react, generally 3 weeks to build a new consistent lifestyle habit, so all of this constant changing was just keeping my body in a constant state of defense towards foreign and abnormal behaviors which is worse for my health overall.

Not only is this bad for me personally, but it reflects poorly on me to others because I wasn’t being consistent. Inconsistency makes people think you’re unreliable and undependable, both qualities that will lose you relationships.  If on Monday I convince everyone to drink less water and on Tuesday I change my stance, eventually by Wednesday they’ll learn to just not listen to my advice.  And I don’t want that. So I need to have patience and take my time both in making the choice to make a change and in the execution of that change.

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