Over the last two decades, China underwent enormous economic growth. Household consumption nearly quadrupled. Millions of people left poverty. And the country was hailed the new Asian tiger, poised to overtake the United States as the largest economy in the world.
But while economic statistics tell one story about China, a new study published by the Brookings Institution reveals a more sobering narrative about the country’s growth. The study shows that while China burgeoned, the people who stood to gain the most were often deeply unhappy.
Carol Graham, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, talks about this phenomenon in terms of “happy peasants” and “frustrated achievers.” The peasants in China who live out their lives in rice paddies and wheat fields are generally content with their existence. Meanwhile the achievers—the socially mobile professionals and middle class workers driving economic development in China—are often frustrated with their lot in life, as they reach for ever more professional success and fall short…. Suicide rates rose, and mental health disorders became increasingly prevalent. During the nineties, China had one of the highest suicide rates worldwide.
My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:
Boys, do you remember Mr. Ted? He is a funny, and nice man, isn’t he? Did you know that he is among the top 1 percent of all the lawyers in the US? He is a lot smarter than he looks, huh? But do you know how hard he worked to get there? Very hard.
Let me give you an example. The day after he had knee surgery, he got on a plane to fly in to work with me. His doctor said he needed to rest and stay off his feet for two days after his surgery, but duty calls. Work needed to be done. His drive and discipline are what make him successful.
Success requires both discipline and passion. No one lazy is ever successful. Work hard to achieve YOUR goals. (Define success on your terms, not those of others.)
The path to success is determined by the choices you make every moment of every day. Be disciplined. Make the right choices, even if they are difficult ones.
But, success is nothing without happiness. You can work hard, achieve your goals, but if it doesn’t make you happy, it is nothing.
So, be passionate. Do what you love.
Don’t follow the herd. Define for yourself what it means to be successful. That will bring you happiness. Don’t buy into having the biggest house, the newest car, the longest strings of letters after your name, etc., just because everyone else defines that as success. That may be success for some, but not for all.
Find what you love. Do what you love. And you will find success and happiness in your company. (Of course, I hope you will find both lucrative and rewarding careers. I am your dad. I want what is best for you.)
All my love, always,