Chinese-Americans have, on average, scored disproportionately higher on SAT math scores and are hyper-represented among U.S. National Merit Scholars. Why do the Chinese do so well? Hint: Chinese people do not have an inherent IQ advantage. Their academic performance levels are accounted for when we take a closer look at East Asian value systems.
Generally speaking, Chinese parents hold their children to extremely high standards and expect for them to rise to the occasion. This includes school among other things — whether it’s making all A’s, learning a piano part, or mastering another skill, failure isn’t really an option. While the Chinese parent may push their kid to spend more time studying, practicing and working towards achievement, that external motivation doesn’t quite tell the whole story.
Don’t believe in talent, it’s overrated…
Chinese parents praise their children in vastly different ways than American families. Instead of saying, “you’re so talented,” beautiful, smart, or any other innate attribute, they’ll praise their kids for their hard work and effort. In other words, they’ll praise them for the things that can be controlled.
Conversely, American parents who praise their kids for talents or things that seem to come naturally, may be doing more harm than good. Studies have shown that children who are told they are talented become more hesitant to try to tackle difficult challenges head on, as if they are afraid failure will discredit their talent — the very thing their self-worth is built on.
How does this apply to you?
If you buy into the hype surrounding talent, you’re far more likely to be coaxed into a state of resting potential. But if you adopt the Chinese value system and take pride in your work ethic, you’ll realize that talent itself is practically a myth — the world is built with skills.
By consciously deciding to simply outwork everyone, you are acknowledging that you have the power to learn anything through repetition and the desire to evolve. You take away excuses from yourself.
Talent may be a head start, but skill, earned through tireless devotion to learning, will see you to the finish line.