• Category Archives Guide
  • Conclusion: the Bigger Picture of Freedom

    By now, if you’ve thoroughly read all of the articles in my guide plus the books I’ve recommended, you should have a general idea of the mindset required to become a fully sovereign adult as opposed to being under your Asian parents’ control.  Still, I’d like to draw your attention to a few big picture issues I’ve only glossed over in the previous pages.


    Beware of Tradeoffs


    The following triangles represent the ways you can prioritize your values.  These values are: Freedom, Empathy, and Pride.  If your goal is to gain freedom as quickly as possible, be prepared to completely throw your pride down the toilet and let your empathy for your parents reach new lows.  If all you cared about was your pride, you won’t have much empathy or freedom.  Finally, if you were completely empathetic to your parents, you won’t end up with much in the way of freedom or pride.  I’m not saying that you need to be 100% focused on freedom but be aware that these 3 values will be competing for your limited attention and resources.



    Take a look at the triangle above.  Most young adults, by default, will likely spread their attention equally among all 3 values.  That’s fine if they’re not particularly serious about achieving freedom from their parents and they get to keep some of their pride and empathy as well.  But what happens when freedom becomes a major priority?  Take a look at the triangle below:




    Empathy and pride will naturally receive a smaller share of your attention when you devote most of it to achieving freedom.  Of course, once you’ve achieved freedom and have a life and career of your own, you’ll certainly be able to focus on the other two without falling back to being a slave or servant to your parents anymore.


    Take things gradually.  Don’t start focusing 100% on freedom at the expense of the other two right off the bat after reading this guide.  Gradually ease into it, making it a higher and higher priority each day.  This is much less likely to set off your parents’ “alarms” and also gives you an opportunity to test the waters and see where their boundaries lie.


    Independence Doesn’t Mean Cutting Your Parents Off


    Also, please stop thinking in black and white terms.  Many young Asian Americans believe, either consciously or subconsciously, that they must either continue to obediently listen to their parents or cut them off completely (or be disowned.)  Instead, think of them more as mentors with more life experience than you instead of a boss or king that you must answer to.  Your relationship with them is more likely to evolve to this point if you pursue freedom like a marathon as opposed to a sprint.


    Your Assignment


    “NO” is the most powerful word in your vocabulary.  Whenever you say “no”, you end up not wasting your precious time, money, and other resources which can then be deployed for greater pursuits in your life.  Learn to say “no” to anything that doesn’t add value to your life including supposed friends who don’t respect your time, parents who don’t respect your goals and values, coworkers who dump all of their work onto you, etc.  As long as the consequences of saying “no” is bearable in the worst case, don’t be afraid to use this magic word.


    Read the Power of No by James Altucher or borrow it from the library.


    Also, take a look at The politics of life : 25 rules for survival in a brutal and manipulative world by Craig Crawford for practical advice you can apply to either manipulate your Asian parents or avoid being manipulated in order to attain and maintain your god-given rights and freedom as an adult.  You can borrow it from the library as well.






  • What to Do If You’re Still in School

    Posted on by JJ

    If your Asian parents are like most, they will probably pay for your college education and maybe even graduate school.  And there will be limitations on what you can and can’t major in plus other strings attached to the money you receive for college.  I won’t be able to cover everyone’s individual situations in a single post but I’ll spell out the end goal I prescribe: your objective is to graduate from college after 4 years and start a satisfying, financially lucrative, and sustainable career.  4 Years. NOT 6 years after getting a masters! NOT 8-15 years after getting a PhD or MD! Exception: if you get a very lucrative free-ride scholarship to professional school, you can consider taking that.  If you don’t have that, then more years of graduate or professional school equals more years of having to depend on mom and dad and having to listen to their rules about how to live your adult life.


    What to Study?


    If postgraduate study is out of the question, then that limits the choices of majors you can pursue.  I’m not in the position to give you all of the answers but I’ll tell you that Medicine and Law are definitely off the table.  Also, I can’t emphasize enough but you’d need to work closely and proactively set up meetings with your Advisor and the school’s Career Center.  Find the highest paying field that you’re at least somewhat interested in, has a decent job market, and only requires 4 years of college.  Then coordinate with your Advisor and Career Center to find the right major and classes to take as well as relevant industry internships.


    What if you’re only allowed to study a field that requires postgraduate study in order to find an entry level job (i.e. Law, Medicine, etc.)?  That’s a tough one.  Your parents might end up forcing your hand and in the worst case, you may have to apply for scholarships and/or work your way through school to study a field that you can hit the ground working in right after graduation.  Unless you have a genuine interest in Law, Medicine, or whatever field they’re forcing you to study, I’ll strongly lean towards picking a major you’re interested in and paying your way through college.  You don’t want to be stuck working in a field that you have no interest in for the rest of your life even if your parents paid all of your tuition.  Besides, who would want to hire a lawyer who has no genuine respect for the Law or to be operated by a doctor who was forced by his/her parents to go to med school?  But this will not be an easy road, so you gotta remind yourself whether you want to suffer a few more years paying for college on your own or suffer the rest of your life in a career that’s not a good fit.


    (My theory about why Medicine and Law are such popular careers forced upon Asian children: it’s not just for the financial rewards but also to keep the children financially dependent on their parents for years after they’ve graduated from college.)


    Who Pays for College?


    Your parents paying for your college education should always be your last resort, even if you’re allowed to choose your major.  Even if they verbally deny that there are no strings attached with that money or they never say anything about it, there are no guarantees that that is what they meant and/or they’ll continue to keep their word in the future.  You still need to AGGRESSIVELY apply for scholarships to pay for your education.  Being able to foot part of the tuition bill using scholarships and the rest with your parents’ money is a step in the right direction.


    How to Work Hard AND Smart in College


    By now, you should realize that hard work is a fundamental prerequisite but no guarantee of success in college.  Contrary to what your parents may have dictated, you don’t need a 4.0 GPA (unless your school is known for grade inflation) but your grades need to be as high as possible without sacrificing a ridiculous amount of time and effort at the expense at everything else in your life.  A few guidelines to determine if you’re working too hard:


    • If you’re even asking yourself if you’re working too hard at your academics, there’s a good chance you are NOT working hard enough.
    • You need to recognize the diminishing returns from your efforts.  If you need to work twice as hard to get a 3.9 vs a 4.0, for example, then that last 0.1 might not be worth the effort.
    • Think in terms of opportunity costs: what opportunities are you sacrificing if you’re not spending a particular time slot on your studies?


    Some basic tactics for getting everything done:





    This guy, Ramit Sethi, managed to win over $100,000 in scholarships back in the early 2000s in order to pay for his college education.  Adjusting for inflation today, it should definitely be able to pay for a huge chunk of you college tuition if not all of it.  If you’re still in school, I challenge you to apply to as many scholarships as possible so that you won’t need to depend on your parents’ money which almost always comes with strings attached.  If you think this is impossible or come up with excuses, then I can guarantee that you don’t want your freedom badly enough.


    Also, read the following chapter from the 4 Hour Work Week: Chapter 7 – Interrupting Interruption and the Art of Refusal.  Pay attention to the following sections:


    • If Tim got anything less than an A on a paper or test in any class, what does he do?  Try using the same approach yourself.
    • Reflect on Tim’s analogy of the kid who would do anything to oppose the playground bully.  Use the same mindset to cling onto the freedom to live your adult life without any interference from your Asian parents.


    Reading Assignment:


    In addition to all of the articles I’ve referenced here, please read the following books:


    Getting Things Done by David Allen

    • Since your parents aren’t there to remind you constantly, you need a system for staying organized with all of your goals and due dates.
    • This is a robust framework for organizing and keeping track of all of your obligations in school and life.
    • Check it out at your local library HERE.


    The Power of Less by Leo Babauta

    • Are you feeling overwhelmed with so much that is being expected of you?
    • Learn to simplify your life and single-mindedly focus on a few essential projects at a time rather than spreading your attention thin.
    • If you have the bad habit of starting a ton of different projects but rarely finishing them, you definitely need to read this book.
    • Check it out at your local library HERE.





  • Asian Parents Rule with Fear. Here’s Your Solution

    Conquering Your Worst Fears


    A word of warning before I begin this section: this is probably the most important lesson in this entire guide but it’s definitely not for the faint of heart.  You could, theoretically, go all in at once if you like having your bandages pulled off quickly (figuratively speaking) but you may not be ready to handle the emotional overload from confronting your innermost “demons” right away.  If so, it may be wise to practice confronting your lesser fears first and work your way up gradually.


    The ONE Quote That’ll Change Your Life


    I’ll give it to you right here.  Like much of this guide, it’s easier said than done:


    Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with course and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: ” Is this the condition that I feared? – Seneca


    When you choose to live on your own instead of subjecting yourself to your parents’ control, you will be 100% responsible for your life.  You could end up broke and alone and with no one to turn to through no fault of your own.  When you don’t have money, your days will be numbered before you face eviction and end up on the street.  If you decide to get back with your parents at this point (assuming they’ll even take you back in after what you’ve done) then you’d end up owing them BIG – far more than when you first left!


    For many, the fear of being caught in this worst case scenario is enough to deter them from even bothering to liberate themselves from their Asian parents but YOU will confront this fear directly and be prepared to stand up to it if the worst does play out.  If you’re Chinese like me, you may have been told of the virtues of “eating bitterness” countless times growing up.  Ironically, this virtue that was likely forcibly taught to you by your parents when you were young is one of your most important assets in achieving your freedom from them!


    Exercise: Define Your Worst Case Scenario


    Sit down for 30 minutes and contemplate what your worst case scenario is and what you would do about it.  Here are some questions to guide you with the brainstorming:


    • If your parents suddenly cut off your financial support tomorrow, what’s your plan?  Begging them doesn’t count.  Let’s assume they were caught running an illegal scheme for years and all of their assets have been seized.
    • If you’re still in school, have you considered applying for grants, scholarships, and loans in case your parents stop supporting you (or use that threat to force you to do what they want)?
    • You might think what I’m suggesting on this site will cause you to “lose face”.  Is that the worst case scenario for you?  Is not losing face more important than living your dreams?


    Remember. as an adult, your parents have no legal obligation to support you financially.  If your life depends on it, being cut off especially when you’re in college and having no job or even relevant skills and experience to find one is a very precarious situation to be in.  You must make it a priority to get yourself up to speed in case this unlikely but dire situation comes up.  And if you do choose to liberate yourself from your parents’ obligations, you won’t have their financial support anymore (and even if you do, it’s highly unethical to continue receiving it.)


    Exercise: Get Used to Doing Things Anyways WITHOUT Your Parents’ Permission


    You’re an adult now.  You’re held responsible for every good or bad thing that happens to you in life.  With this responsibility comes the freedom to live your life however you choose, within the constraints of the law of course.  However, some Asian parents, in practice, do no recognize the sovereignty of their adult children so we’re gonna need to employ this sneaky tactic to exert our god-given rights to live the way we want.


    From now on, especially if you live at home, start doing what you want without asking your parents for permission.  Two obvious exceptions though: don’t do anything irresponsible or illegal of course.  That includes something stupid like charging your parents’ credit card for a spending spree in Vegas or taking the money they gave you to pay tuition to buy a sports car, for example.  But for more reasonable endeavors, they’ll likely still say “no” just to be safe if you ask them for permission.  However, if you’ve already started making plans and taking action towards something they don’t really want you to do, they might feel uneasy about interrupting you and may let you slip through anyways.  Try it out with smaller things first then gradually move on to bigger endeavors.


    Get used to doing things of a similar magnitude as the following WITHOUT your parents’ permission:


    • Want to spend the night with your boyfriend/girlfriend?  Ask for forgiveness afterwards; don’t ask for permission first!
    • Want to work at a new job or internship in a faraway city?  Ask for forgiveness afterwards; don’t ask for permission first!
    • Want to go backpacking in Europe or Asia for a month during summer vacation away from college (financed with your own money instead of theirs)?  Ask for forgiveness afterwards; don’t ask for permission first!


    If any of the above seem scary and insurmountable, then you definitely need read the books below for inspiration and learn to step outside of your comfort zone on a regular basis.


    Reading Assignments


    Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss

    Check it out at your local library or click the book below to buy it.

    If you only read ONE book, this should be the ONE!  If you’ve ever read that book, much of what I’ve mentioned in this article should sound eerily familiar so credit goes out to you, Tim Ferriss!

    You can skip the chapters on entrepreneurship if you’re not ready to start your own business but please pay attention to the following sections:

    • Read Chapters 2-4 if you’re tight on time.  In particular, pay attention to the section on “Ask for Forgiveness, not Permission.”  This will be your core tactic for asserting your sovereignty from your Asian parents as an adult.
    • Read and reread Tim’s process for defining and facing his worst case scenario in the section called “Defining the Nightmare” in Chapter 3.  What’s your worst case scenario when it comes to escaping the life your Asian parents dictated that you live?  Once you’ve defined this nightmare, you’ll be more confident when it comes to living on your own terms.


    The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau.

    Check it out at your local library or click the book below to buy it.

    Pay attention to the following sections:

    • Chapter 4: How to Fight Authority and Win
    • Chapter 6: Graduate School vs. the Blogosphere
    • The Great Apartment Disaster of 2008 (in Ch3).  Afterwards, really reflect on your current situation. Do you consider the fact that your parents have so much control over your adult life a mere inconvenience in a boring but comfortable life or are you unable to stand every single moment of having your life under someone else’s control?  If you equate the control your parents have over you to Chris and Jolie’s ordeal with having water cut off in their already dilapidated apartment, it’s time to take action TODAY! 


    Last but not least, read the story of the 5 monkeys in a cage.  Reflect on the story and ask yourself if you’ve been brainwashed or deluded into thinking you have no other options in life than to follow your parents’ life plan.






  • The Shocking Truth about Freedom from Asian Parents

    How badly do you want freedom?  Are you prepared to give up the comfort of your current life to work on your goal of single-mindedly liberating yourself from your parents?  I can guarantee you if you’re not willing to give up much, then you don’t want this badly and you WILL very likely fail at the first sign of trouble and give up.  I ‘ll also assume you’ve read the Teenager’s Guide to the Real World from the previous lesson and understand its basic principles here.


    Freedom 101


    You only need 2 things to live your life on your own terms: 1) Money to pay the bills and 2) A place of your own.  I don’t mean to insult your intelligence.  Besides, achieving these two things will be much easier said than done.  But if you wish to stop depending on your parents’ financial support and living under their dictatorship, you’ll need to be laser focused on achieving these two goals.  The vast majority of the time you spend from now on should be at least indirectly related to achieving these two goals!


    Now let’s work backwards…




    Unless you’re independently wealthy (which is highly unlikely if you’re dependent on your parents), then you’re gonna need a career to provide you with the income to financially emancipate yourself from your parents.  If you’re in college, definitely pick a major that doesn’t require additional years in professional or grad school in order to start a lucrative career.  Go for something like Computer Science, Accounting, Engineering, etc. rather than Physics, Psychology, Law, Pre-Med, etc.


    In addition to having income, you must also manage your money wisely.  It’s not rocket science but if you spend more money than you make, you’ll soon be back begging your parents for more despite having ran away to live “independently”.  In order to avoid this awkward situation as much as humanly possible, you must learn to manage your money responsibly.  But spending only slightly less than what you make isn’t a recipe for financial success either; you won’t have much savings available in the event of an emergency and you’d be back on your Mom and Dad’s doorsteps begging for more.  So even when you have income, learn to live on as little as you can until you’ve saved enough money to last you a year or so without a job – then feel free to relax you spending a little.  Oh, and don’t skimp on health or auto insurance either.  And if you can’t afford the latter, you probably shouldn’t be driving – you can walk, get a bike, take public transportation, and/or use Uber as an alternative.


    If you need more smart advice on managing your money and keeping expenses in check, please take a look at Mr. Money Mustache’s Blog.  Be warned though: this self-made millionaire retired at age 30 while working a normal job which is no ordinary feat; he will likewise hold you to similarly high standards in saving money!  If you find his system too hardcore and restrictive, then maybe check out my system (posted on my main blog) or Ramit Sethi’s in the recommended books below.




    Housing will likely be your largest expense when you’re living on your own.  Forget getting an Apartment or even a studio when you’re struggling to live on your own without your parents’ financial support.  Rent a room in a private landlord’s home instead.  A few resources for finding room listings:


    • Craigslist or Padmapper
    • Classified Listings in your local papers (in Southern California, you can find great deals in the classifieds section of the World Journal if you can read Chinese.)


    Although I had excellent credit, most private landlords I’ve encountered never bothered to run a credit check on me.  While you can’t afford to be too picky right now, you’d at least want to find a place that you’d like to call home for a while so make sure the landlord (and possibly other housemates) are generally nice people and the neighborhood is fairly comfortable to live in.


    Your Assignment


    First, take a look at padmapper.com and search for rentals in your area or the target city you’d like to move to.  Even if you already have a place of your own, take a look and see if there are cheaper places that you’d be willing to live in.


    Then, let’s take a look at your budget.  Fill in the blanks:


    Part 1: Housing = ________________ /mo


    Part 2: Food = ________________ / mo

    Health Insurance = _______________/mo

    Auto Insurance = ________________/mo

    Transportation expenses = _______________/mo

    Mobile Phone = __________________ /mo

    Internet = _____________________/mo

    Everything else = ________________/mo


    Part 3: Savings = ____________________/mo


    Part 4: Take Home Pay = ________________/mo


    Ideally, your housing expenses should be at most 1/3 of your take home pay and you should save at least 1/3 of your take home pay (see my article for further details.)  It goes without saying but make sure your numbers in Parts 1,2, and 3 add up to your Part 4 amount.  Don’t have a job or any source of income other than your parents?  Then you need to find a job!  I don’t care if you’re going to college full time – you’ll need this experience if you want to stop depending on your parents in record time!  It’s OK if you don’t have any options other than to depend on your parents’ financial support for now; remember to live below your means and stash away a bit of the money every month for when you’re ready to “declare your independence.”


    Reading Assignment


    First, read my article on simple budgeting on my main blog.


    Then take a look at Mr Money Mustache’s Blog, starting with his intro article.  Pay attention to the things he spends money on and those that he chooses to skip (like riding a bike instead of owning a car, despite being a 1%-er himself.)


    Then read the following 2 books:


    1. I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi: he also has an excellent system for managing money that’s a great alternative to mine and Mr Money Mustache’s.  Check it out at your local library or click the book below to buy it.
    2. How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World by Harry Browne.  Check it out at your local library or click the book below to buy it.  Pay attention to the chapter called “The Box” and use that framework to conquer everything that gets in the way of the life you want to live including the rules and restrictions your Asian parents impose on your adult life.







  • First, Be Grateful For Your Asian Parents

    First, Practice Gratitude.


    It’s very important to be grateful for what your parents have provided for you.  If you’re reading this, you’ve most likely grown up in one of the most prosperous countries in the world.  If not, then at least you’ve grown up in one of the better neighborhoods of your own country.  You also likely have parents who have invested and sacrificed a lot of resources including time and money to get you to where you are today.  In fact, it’s very common for Asian parents to save for their children’s college educations many years in advance so that the child doesn’t have to pay a cent; this is almost unheard of among Western families.  You’ve probably also been instilled an excellent work ethic from an early age especially if your grades at school were held at such high standards.  So realize that you could be a lot worse off.


    Philip Guo wrote an insightful article about how to understand where these Asian parents are coming from with their extreme obsession with their children’s grades.  Exam scores have determined the careers for many individuals in Asian societies for decades.  If you’ve studied Chinese history, you may have heard of the Imperial examination which was popularized during the Qing dynasty or the Gaokao (the infamous and grueling college exams) in modern China.  Even the SATs were influenced by the Chinese Imperial Exams especially since they were used for Army recruitment a century ago.


    If your main reason for wanting to deviate from the life path that your parents have set for you is because you feel you’re working too hard, then I’ll be frank with you: please stop reading this site.  In fact, be prepared to work even harder than what you’ve imagined you’re capable of if you desire to live your life on your terms.  Remember, even though your Western friends may have lower grades than you, they’ve been used to juggling a job or two while pursuing high school or college and learning valuable job skills and building their networks while you single-mindedly grinded your way through your academics to achieve your 3.7-4.0 GPAs.


    Your Exercise


    Sit down and list at least 10 things you’re grateful of from your Asian parents.


    Your Reading Assignment


    In addition to Phillip Guo’s article above, please read Amy Chua’s infamous article “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior” if you haven’t already.  Although I don’t agree with everything in that article, it provides valuable insight from the Asian parents’ perspective.


    Then, read the Teenager’s Guide to the Real World by Marshall Brain.  Yes, the title says it’s for “teenagers” but please read it regardless of your age in order to get yourself up to speed for dealing with the basic day to day challenges of the real world instead of your parents making all the decisions.  Click on the book below to buy from Amazon or go to Worldcat to search your local libraries for a copy.




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  • A Warm Welcome to New Visitors

    Your Journey Towards Freedom Begins Today


    After you’ve turned 18, you can start living your life on your own terms as long as you take responsibility for your own actions, right?  For some young adults, this freedom does not exist due to being trapped, either financially and/or psychologically, into a life path determined by their parents.  These individuals usually have their college tuition paid for but have little/no say in major decisions in their life including where they attend college, what field they study, what sort of work they find after college, and even whom they marry.  For a small minority of young adults in this situation, the parents use psychological or even physical threats to force them into following the decisions they’ve already made for them.  But for the vast majority, the very notion of a path different from what their parents have preached and planned well before their 18th birthday never managed to cross their minds.


    Although the title of this site is “Troubleshooting Asian Parents”, these principles do not apply exclusively to Asian families.  (Every time I mention “Asian Parents” I’m referring to about authoritarian parents who continue to dictate their children’s lives well into adulthood even though this stereotype isn’t 100% representative of all Asian Parents, nor is it only exclusively found among Asians.)  Being Chinese American myself, I’ve witnessed countless fellow peers raised the way I’ve described in the previous paragraph.  And when we confide with our Western friends in the many dilemmas imposed on us by our families well into adulthood, we’re frequently met with statements like “you’re age X and you still listen to your parents?” or “you’re already an adult, just do whatever you want with your life regardless of your parents’ wishes.”  Although we can theoretically just get up and go do whatever we want one day, it’s not as simple as that.


    Before I start, I’ll let you know what Troubleshooting Asian Parents is NOT about:


    • Revenge or blackmail against your parents.
    • Dating advice, getting your parents to approve of your relationships (usually with someone from another ethnic group), getting out of arranged marriages, etc.
    • Completely abandoning your traditional values and culture in favor of Western values.
    • Quitting school and becoming a bum for the rest of your life just because you can.
    • Becoming financially independent from your parents and then cutting them off just because you can.
    • Whether Western parenting is (or isn’t) superior to Asian parenting.
    • Dealing with the issues of those under 18.
    • List of quotes and empty sayings meant to make you feel better instead of taking action.
    • Waiting passively for the life you want to magically appear and/or for your parents to magically accept the life you want to live one day.


    The advice on my site isn’t guaranteed to work or pertain to your situation.  Nor has it all been tested.  Also, I’m not a counselor or any related professional.  Just take it as advice I would have given to my 18 year old self.  Good luck and enjoy!


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