English is your 2nd language, so what?

2016 is a very interesting year for me as I get to watch the US presidential election. As a new immigrant, I’m ineligible to vote for the presidency. I’m politically independent, but I am definitely inspired by the speeches from Michelle Obama. Some of her quotes motivated me to think about my own fears and challenges as an immigrant while I’m contributing my energy and passion to my growth here in America.

Never Lose Faith

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“Don’t let anyone ever tell you that this country isn’t great, that somehow we need to make it great again. Because this, right now, is the greatest country on earth.” — Michelle Obama
Don’t let anyone discourage you from believing that you can achieve greatness. You might not yet be at your greatest, but you should have faith that you are already great. As long as you aim for it and have plans to execute, you will only become greater.

There are many people like me who came to the US for school or work. We studied hard, worked hard, and tried hard to blend into the western culture. Many of you probably had similar experiences — we have self doubt from harsh lessons emanating from social bias, cultural differences, language abilities, or even just the awkwardness of our own personalities.

Language Barrier

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English is my 2nd language. I’m more comfortable writing than speaking. I ask questions during Q&A panels when I go to design events because I know what I want to learn and who I want to talk to. Sometimes I’m concerned about how I sound when I speak. Public speaking is my most difficult challenge, even when I use Chinese, my native language. If public speaking in your own native language is hard, you would triple the effort using a second language. I face this challenge every day at work, but I won’t ever let it stop me from contributing my ideas and growing.

Imagine all the fears… imagine all those possible self-doubting moments.

So What?

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Try harder!
There have been many embarrassing moments when I spoke incorrectly or typed awkwardly. If I were to count all the language mistakes I’ve made over the past 6 years in the US, one rice per mistake, I could easily fill up a large rice cooker.

Stop worrying!
People can be judgemental, but don’t let them beat you down. Keep talking even if you can’t speak as fluent as them! Keep writing even if they don’t value your hard work! Keep learning and let them judge!

“When they go low, we go high.” — Michelle Obama

I was very worried about my writing when I started posting on Medium. I kept asking friends if I should share on LinkedIn, since it is a career-professional platform and people there may judge me based on my writing skills. I also had a friend suggest that I delete my Medium article because it wasn’t written professionally in English. I hesitated until someone told me, “Who cares? Some people are too lazy to write themselves!”

That’s right! Don’t ever let anyone stop you from growing or somehow you need to speak or write professionally before you can share your thoughts. Because you are a contributor to the self-growth community!

The Greatness of Yourself

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“The greatness of the United States, has never come from folks who climbed the ladder of success or who happened to be born near the top and then pulled the ladder up after themselves. Our greatness has always come from people who expect nothing and take nothing for granted, folks who work hard for what they have and then reach back and help others after them.” — Michelle Obama

The first lady sets a great role model for everyone who wasn’t born near the top but worked herself all the way up, and then became the 44th First Lady of the United States. She grew up poor in a small bungalow in Chicago, Illinois, but she worked hard step by step to success. She graduated magna cum laude at Princeton University and then went on to get another degree at Harvard Law School. As First Lady, she made an impact on current social issues such as poverty, healthy living, and education.


Vera Wang is another example. She’s known for balancing modern designs with traditional elegance, Vera Wang is arguably the most prominent designer of bridal wear in America.

“I never thought I’d be successful. It seems in my own mind that in everything I’ve undertaken I’ve never quite made the mark. But I’ve always been able to put disappointments aside. Success isn’t about the end result; it’s about what you learn along the way.” — Vera Wang
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“As the mother of two daughters, I have great respect for women. And I don’t ever want to lose that.” — Vera Wang

I am not a parent yet, but I see the importance of being a role model to my future kids. I also want to have stories to share and make them proud. If I don’t further discover my own greatness, how can I be prepared for my next generation?

Join the Community

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Outside of work, I joined SGA (Startups Greater Asia), an organization connecting the venture community of Silicon Valley with that of Greater Asia. Its members are passionate about sharing experiences and knowledge about cross-border deal making. I am a designer, I don’t do business. However, living in San Francisco, surrounded by hundreds of tech companies, has taught me the importance of knowing how business works, especially across countries.

Contribution
I want to contribute and help SGA build a community to connect with other Asian organizations. The goal is to have everyone collaborate on something more powerful and influential as a group across cultures and countries. I want to:

  • Help up–and–coming Asians coming to or already in the US to become leaders. Many Asian immigrants still have a tough time adjusting to the American way of life or working after moving here.
  • Help showcase more Asian talent. Asians are not recognized as savvy leaders in the US (besides the known ones such as Tony Hsieh from Zappos, Jack Ma from Alibaba).
  • Help Asia learn better business practices and help the West better appreciate and understand Asia, understand Asian people.

Better and Stronger
I am just like many other immigrants but I believe one day I will stand out because of my aim to be better and stronger.

As an individual, I need to focus my energy, talents, and ambition into making myself better and stronger.
“No matter how tough the chase is, you should always have the dream you saw on the first day. It’ll keep you motivated and rescue you.” — Jack Ma

Conclusion

If you’re with me, let’s keep our heads up and stay together. Always remember that it’s absolutely fine if we were not born to be at the top. We have the power and control to work and move towards success. It’s up to ourselves to achieve that self-fulfillment level through faith and patience.

To summarize this article, I want to share a few principles for success from John Wooden. Wooden was renowned for his short, simple inspirational messages to his players, including his “Pyramid of Success”. His famous philosophy on coaching and life has become ingrained in the minds of his former players and continues to guide many of their lives today.

Pyramid of success created by John Wooden
  • Be enthusiastic about your work. Without enthusiasm, you cannot work up to your fullest ability and potential. You’re just going through the motions.
  • Accept that people will test you. When people push your buttons, don’t back down. If people challenge you on the things you truly believe, stick to your guns.
  • Be more concerned with your character than your reputation. Your character is who you really are, while your reputation is what others think you are.

Finally:

  • Perform at your best when your best is required. Your best is required each day.

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