Jeremy Lin: Slam Dunk On Your Culture For The Win
Guest Post by Ian Mackay of NextLevelGuy.com
So who we looking at?
Who’s this? Jeremy Lin
Who does he play for: The Houston Rockets
Position: Point Guard
Sport: National Basketball Association (NBA)
Jeremy Lin: Slam Dunk On Your Culture For The Win
So why look at him?
You can’t have helped but noticed the large volume of press columns that have been devoted to the recent signing made by the Houston Rockets of one Jeremy Lin. For those of you, who somehow have managed to avoid the hysteria that this signing has brought, let me explain. Lin is on of the few Asian men to ever play in the NBA. His breakout season was so well received; the hysteria of his fan base earned its own nickname…LINSANITY!
However, leaving basketball aside, I believe that Lin has done something far greater than simply being a great Point Guard in the NBA; Lin has transcended Cultural barriers and broken the stereotypes of what Asian men can do.
Lin is a great example of someone who seems unaware of what is typically expected of an Asian male to do with their lives. Instead of falling into line and working towards a career in the typical ‘Asian’ job markets, Lin has decided to flick the middle finger to that and instead has decided to chase his dreams…and even better he is now living them!
It is accepted in Chinese families that the males move towards their academic studies and aim to achieve high paying, intellectual jobs. Few, if any, ever go on to become sports stars. Unfortunately, most are held back by the tradition of getting a high paid job to support their parents in their retirement. Lin did the opposite, with his parents blessing. That is why I believe he is a great choice to look at.
Why should I care about watching Jeremy Lin?
In our everyday lives, we are controlled by external forces. These forces can have an effect on how you live your life, the jobs you work, the people you date, what you spend money on etc. Some examples of these forces include advertisements, what we see on TV, the current ’5-minutes-of-fame’ celebrity trend and so on. However, the strongest of these pulls, can be the influence of our family and its associated heritage. In ethnic minorities, this pull is considerably stronger as more traditional cultural values come into play; beliefs such as family honour, play a big role.
What makes Lin a great person to look at is the fact that Lin has ignored what ‘is expected’ of him and instead pursued and achieved his ultimate goal, playing in the NBA. Stop and think just now. It was expected of Lin to attend University and then move into a intellectual job. Asian men just don’t become sports stars – or so modern day clichés would make you believe. Lin had to fight stereotypes and all, but still raised to the top of his game regardless. Can you imagine what you are capable of doing if you can forget what your culture tells you are only capable of doing? The pull of your family is considerably strong. These are the people who have raised you, shaped your life and kept you safe. It can be a daunting thing to stand up and say no to how they want you to live your life; but we are only truly free by challenging ourselves and controlling what happens in our lives.
Regardless of our own race, creed or family setup, we can all do anything in this world. We are all human after all. There is no set structure that you must follow or no privileges’ set aside for people of a particular colour or heritage. Sure, some people have better choices in their life as they have access to money or social standing, but anything they have is still accessible to everyone else. We just need to try harder to get our share of the prize. Just because you are born into a particular sub-clan of the human race, it does not mean that you are only able to do what that sub-clan typically does. That’s the beauty of living in today’s world – there is opportunity to do anything you want, regardless of who you are. You just need to seize that chance.
You probably aren’t aware of the various forces that are currently in play in your life. You may feel that certain things are just ‘not for you’. Certain types of work will just feel normal or will be shot down by your parents. You will notice that friends and family will only work at certain jobs and date certain type of people. If you stay too long in this mindset, you will start to live life following this game plan.
The thing is, cultural values are pulling you into how you live your life. They are always with us and working against you to control what you do in your life. We all may have seen films where the main character opposes his parents wishes, ignore the outrage of his local community and achieves his dreams at the end, however sadly few young men today ever do this.
It is possible for us to become like Lin; someone who took control of his own destiny but to do so, we need to stop listening to the external pressures and live life on our own terms. How do we do that? We take out the strongest force and watch the power of the others fall away to nothing.
OK, what should I be looking out for?
• Lin forgets he’s Asian. Lin is most likely aware of that fact that he is one of the few Asian men to play in the NBA, but Lin doesn’t seem to care. He simply gets on with what he needs to do, namely train and play! Lin leaves it to others to care about his ethnicity and how it doesn’t normally happen in the NBA. Lin is mature enough to realise that he has achieved his dream but that he also ‘stands out’ he needs to work harder as all eyes will be on him. Lin works on his game as much as possible, looking to build on his strengths and lessen his weaknesses. A great takeaway lessions here; let others care what you’re doing and look like, you simply concentrate on doing it to the best of your abilities.
• He works his ass off. Lin doesn’t play up to the attention or get big headed by the media hysteria (which a lot of so called greats have ended up like); he just turns up and works his ass off to succeed. Yeah, I know, similar to the above but it needs saying twice. Lin stopped caring about the fuss he caused. You shouldn’t either. Let other people worry about nonsensical shit like that. Decide what you want and go for it.
• He followed his dreams but still had a back up plan. Lin spent most of his spare time growing up, playing basketball and honing his skills. His parents allowed him to play the game he loved (against what his community felt was right) and he dreamed of playing professionally in the NBA. However, Lin isn’t stupid. He knew that the chances of making it professional were slim, especially given his ethnicity and the amount of similar players who’ve made it. So he created a backup plan. Whilst at Harvard, he majored at Economics to have a fall back should his sporting dreams not take off.
• He has a strong network. Lin had very supportive parents. He has a good relationship with his team-mates (well he did!). He was a member of a Bible group at University and even today, he is an active member in his Church. Lin surrounds himself with people who look out for him and are there to support him when he needs it.
• Uses pain to succeed. Sadly, Lin faced a lot of racism and people who tried to put him down as he played up the ranks (unfortunately a small minority tarnish this on Facebook it seems). However, if you listen to his very articulate and intellectual interviews on Youtube etc, you learn how he uses this pain as motivation to succeed. Lin’s desire to succeed was stronger than the hatred that was shown towards him. That is why having a goal that inspires and motivates you is such a necessity. People will always try to bring down those who go against the mainstream beliefs and ‘rules’ set in society. Some people are too scared to leave their comfort zones so will try and stop you changing, like Lin dealt with. Some people are stupid and will judge you on the colour of your skin (sadly). Find that mission for your life where stupid shit like that doesn’t touch you on your way to success!
OK, pretty cool but how do I become like him?
• Decide what you want in life … not what others want for you. Chinese men typically follow academic paths and become doctors or lawyers, they are the cliché careers as it is what their parents want for them. However, no one else can or should live your life for you. At the end of the day, when you are lying in your death bed, it will be up to you, alone, to look back over your life and decide if you led a life worth living or not. Do you really want to look back in regret for not following your dreams or would you rather look back and think ‘what a time I had!’? Not really a hard question is it! Decide what you want in your life. You alone. Decide what would make you happy and what you consider success in life and go for it. Stop leaving your life direction to others. Pick a goal that will get you out of bed and excited about life. Forget what others may think. Ignore your family objections. Decide on a path that you want in life and work your ass off to achieve it.
• Always have a Backup plan but chase your dreams first. Your life choice should get you out of bed every morning desperate to start the day…however, it shouldn’t be the only plan you have in life. Lin spent as much time on the court as he could but he still planned a backup escape plan if his basketball career never took off. His qualification from Harvard meant he could fall back on that and use it or a career. You need to have something to fall back on in case you don’t quite reach your main goal. ‘Burning bridges’ to achieve what you want is OK but no matter how convinced of your success you are, you should always have a secondary plan to put into action if at first you don’t succeed. Qualifications and work experience is never a wasted experience even if you never need to use them!
• Suck it up! Lin wasn’t picked by teams at a few points in his life, and he played sparingly at some teams. He even got sent to the lower leagues a lot, but he didn’t quit; he sucked it up, worked hard and got on with it til he got called up to the big time. Lin used this time to build his mental toughness to succeed and work on the small parts of his abilities that were maybe holding him back. Sadly, a lot of people would have walked away after a few failures. Too many people give up too soon. Talking from personal experience, I know how difficult it can be to write a blog when you’re not seeing interest from your readers. Can you imagine how difficult it is with the global audience that basketball draws? Use Lin as an inspiration to continue on even when things are hard and the future looks bleak. Those are the sort of times when you learn your true character and you can find what you have been put on this earth to do. For Lin, it was to play basketball and inspire young men to do what they want. What are you truly here to do?
• Talk to your parents…still do it anyway. Lin had the support of his parents but you may not. For some people, their children’s new direction in life may be too much of a radical new direction for them to accept. I’d advise speaking to your family and friends about what you want from your life and what you plan to do to get there. Notice I said ‘speak to’ not ‘ask for permission’. I would advise simply telling them what you plan to do and hope they are OK with it. Then do it regardless. I lost some friends by stopping going to the pub every weekend to work on my website. Some people can’t accept it when you change your life and pursue dreams. However, you will meet new friends and people who are into similar things. It can be a tough road to start on but you always find companions who’ll help you travel the road to success.
• Find your network. You need to decide what you want in life and go for it. However you do it though, it will be a challenge. What can help though is for you to establish a strong support network like Lin has. Find people that will assist you on your journey. For example, friends, family, coaches, support organisations are all good places to start. Look for people who always support rather than bring you down and for those who are on the level that you wish to be. As the old saying goes ‘if you’re the best in the room, you’re in the wrong room’! Your support network should support, inspire and help you achieve your goals … and be there to help you start again if you fail. Cut out the negative people in your life and go for what you want.
So if he can do that, what is stopping you from taking on your culture 1 on 1, driving hard to the basket and dunking over the supposed culture values holding you back?
So what are your thoughts?
Does Jeremy Lin inspire you to ignore your own ethnicity and its supposed restrictions and instead strive to achieve what you want out of life? Let me know what you think in the comments below.