Success in China: 8 Ideas from my Students

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the ideas of success. What is success to me? Why do I feel like I need to be successful? What does it even mean to be successful? What is success to other people? Are you successful if you aren’t happy?

Seeing as I’m in China, I decided to ask my students these very questions. I’m not sure if I have a clearer sense of what my definition of success is, but I know that it involves being happy.

Here are some of my students’ ideas on success.

1. What is success?

“The Chinese character is made up of five parts. One part means to give up something. Another is a mouth or talk. The last three are time, money, and patience. Those are what you must do to be successful and that is what success is.”

“To be happy with my family. And to travel.”

“Being a hero.”

“Health. Popularity. Money. And a sexy wife.”

List after brainstorm: Healthy, Wealthy, Beautiful Partner, Popular, Influential, Powerful, Clever, and Handsome

2. What would you risk to be successful?

“Everything. Everything except my family. My reputation, my friends, my goals. Those can change. But success is more important.”

“I think I would give up nothing for success except my reputation. Because it doesn’t matter what other people think. It only matters what you think of yourself.”

3. What’s more important, your reputation or finding success?

“If you don’t have your reputation you have nothing and you will lose everything. There will be no success without reputation.”

“Reputation doesn’t matter. I can go to another place where people don’t know me, and I will still have money.”

4. What stops you from being successful?

“I don’t know the answer. I don’t think about that.”

“Other people. Maybe every job at least 100 hundred other people— they want it. Most jobs more than 100 people. Big companies— 1,000 or more try for one job.

5. How is the Chinese dream different from the American dream?

“It’s the same. First money. Then marriage. Then house. Cars. Children. Money must come first though because you can’t have any of those things if you don’t have money.”

“House is not as important because it is impossible to buy a house here.”

6. What does it take to be successful?

“You must work very hard, and make lots of friends. And you must send gifts to important people.”

“You must be determined because you will fail many times.”

7. Is Kim Kardashian successful?

“Not in China. She’s too sexy. It’s not healthy.”

“Yes. She’s beautiful and has lots of money.”

8. Are you successful if you aren’t happy but you have a lot of money?

“No. Happy is most important.”

“I think that happiness and success are too different. They are not the same. You can be happy without success. And you can be successful without happy.”

“If you are happy, you will find success.”

“I think that it is not happiness or sadness that should be most important. It should be learning how to control your emotions so that no matter what you can see things positively. Learning how to control your emotions is more important than being happy. You will always feel sadness. You will always feel happiness. It’s more important to learn how to control those.”

What about you? What are your definitions of success? Is it more important to learn how to control your emotions, or is it more important to be happy all the time? Is success an idea that we should let go of in order to fully enjoy the moments we have? Is success irrelevant?


4 thoughts on “Success in China: 8 Ideas from my Students”

  1. To me, success is like contentment. With both, we can settle on little, although I think we approve of this much more with contentment, or can strive for more in order to achieve both. Both deal within the realm of perspective. In that vein, it is impossible to set a specific definition to success but it leaves open the possibilities that we can be successful at the age of 4 despite not having our own money or job or partner or house, etc.
    Here, I see people so focused on the next goal/success that they fail to either appreciate or celebrate past and current successes and other people who dwell so much on a past success that they then fail to look to the future for continued success. For me, I would define success where I am finding contentment but with an emphasis on not being complacent.
    All that to say, my idea of success would be one of balance.


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