5 Traps for Asian Female Executives — Page 3 of 3


No matter how successful you become, your success will never be what others judge you by. You will continue to be judged first and foremost on the human level. What’s more, your success will make others expect of you even more honesty, courtesy, kindness and generosity. Noblesse oblige, as they say.

Your success will simply multiply the demands on you to be a warm, courteous and considerate human being. Fail to meet them and the superficial respect and admiration quickly sour into scorn and hatred. Since few people are saints, even among the super-successful, you’re likely to alienate as much as win over those who come in contact with you. This fact baffles some successful people, making them question the genuineness of their success.

Money is the basis for another distracting misconception. Many people mistakenly assume that success provides access to unlimited amounts of money and unlimited time and freedom with which to spend it. Truth is, only a miniscule fraction of all successful people enjoy incomes that provide unlimited material rewards.

Take Bill Gates, commonly reckoned the world’s richest person, with a fortune valued at over $8 billion. Putting aside for the moment Gate’s well-known stinginess—which helped immeasurably in his quest for success—even he isn’t free to spend recklessly. If he tried to cash in his Microsoft stock, share prices would plummet instantaneously, costing him and his company billions in lost wealth. The annual income he draws from the company is measured in millions, not billions. As head of a company that prides itself in its ability to control waste, Gates would severely damage his credibility and leadership position if he were to become a profligate spender in his personal life. More importantly, Gates is severely constrained by the need to focus his energies on running his company. He simply can’t afford the time for shopping sprees, even if he were so inclined. His chief pleasure is growing his company, not in dissipating what he’s built up.

There are many other examples. Warren Buffet, the world’s most successful investor, denied his only daughter’s request for a $30,000 loan for a down payment on a house on the ground that he owed a duty to invest his money wisely. The late Walmart founder Sam Walton, who once headed up the Forbes 400, drove a beat up pickup truck and lived out his life in the same modest home he bought 30 years earlier.

Successes who become distracted by the myth that success means profligate spending and start pushing the limits of their successes with their burgeoning insecurities provide the world with dozens of juicy morality plays every year . Who hasn’t heard of the country music star who had his estate auctioned off, the real estate tycoon put on a tight allowances, the former rock star who lives on the streets. Success takes a decade or more to build but mere months to send into the bankruptcy courts.

Successful people who lose their focus on creating value and distract themselves with the supposed rewards of success soon find themselves on the slippery slope to a humbling disaster.

TRAP 5: Fear of Failure

The fatal distraction is fear of failure. For most even the most dynamic Asian American woman the remote possibility of public humiliation and financial ruin is so terrifying that they never entertain the risk of testing themselves at the level of their abilities. Instead, they settle into a comfortable but stultifying position and tell themselves that they’ve reached their limit. For them success is never more than a pipedream, something to gawk at and gossip about from a safe distance.

For some, even after they muster the focus, faith and fortitude to take a big business or professional gamble, sooner or later the fear of failure can start becoming a distraction. It can keep you from trying what ought to be tried, taking the countless calculated risks that are the building blocks of success. It whittles down your grand success adventure into a struggle for survival.

That’s when you need to remind yourself what success is about—giving yourself the opportunity to fail. Success and failure are two sides of the freedom to take full responsibility for your actions. That’s the only way we humans build worthwhile things. Making a thousand light bulbs that didn’t work taught Thomas Edison how to make the one that changed life on earth. From internal combustion engines to computer chips, from Kentucky Fried Chicken to Microsoft, the story of success is the story of perseverance in the face of repeated failure. When the prospect of failure looms so large it distracts you from your focus on success, remember that the faster you make mistakes, the faster you learn how to become successful. If you aren’t failing, you aren’t succeeding. Prev

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