How much do I want to read more? 6/10
The prologue is a bit confusing as It seems the book is going to be a lawyer's biography, which is going to be boring.
But from the first chapter, we can see there's much more to it, the girl learned to code at 12, and the values of working hard on your education she has been taught by her parents are inspiring.
The author's family immigrated from Taiwan to the United States and had to "work hard, study hard" to make it. This pattern is very common in the success area, and I tend to think immigrant have no choice but to work harder on themselves. And this alone is one of the keys to success. Another way to put it: the drawbacks immigrants face turn to be an advantage for their future success (if they have the right mindset, and are willing to work hard).
The death of the author's father was thrilling to me, as it reminds my own father loss. I felt the push to radically change my life, to be "driven to succeed", as the author says. But something was blocking. I still worked in my meaningless job for a year before I finally moved to the countryside. My life was changing, but not as deep as it should.
[quote, Toni Morrison]
“If you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.”
Prologue: “You Fought So Hard”
After leaving Kleiner I became CEO of reddit. While there I made the executive decision to remove unauthorized nude photos, including revenge porn, and overt harassment. As a result, I received rape threats, death threats, and titles like “most hated person on the internet” and “pariah of Silicon Valley.” To recap: My crime was taking down stolen, vindictively posted photos of naked celebrities and regular people.
Part I: Chasing the American Dream
Chapter 1: From China to Maplewood
I grew up firmly believing the world was a meritocracy. That’s how I was raised, and it carried me a long way. My parents grew up in China.
They also shared a belief that a great education would help them succeed.
Even if my parents felt like outsiders, they believed that if they kept their heads down and worked hard, they could achieve their goals here in the United States—and indeed they both forged excellent careers.
Together, my parents encouraged our interest in math and science from a very early age. I can recall the exact moment I fell in love with learning how things work: at age four, after playing with a toy electric train with dying batteries. Seeing and understanding how something could go from working to not working and back again seemed to me like magic. I took apart toys and puzzles and put them back together for the rest of my childhood.
My love for engineering grew after our family got our first home computer in the early 1980s—a Sinclair ZX mail-order kit that you put together yourself. My dad followed the tech world closely, and both my parents pushed us all to learn how to code at age twelve. I loved figuring out how to write a short program that could flash my name—“ELLEN!”—on the screen in colors of my own choosing.
As I became more proficient, my mom brought home a battered copy of The C Programming Language book, the now-iconic coding bible written by her coworkers, and gave me access to the servers at her office.
For my parents, life was simple: If you studied and worked hard and did your best, you got ahead—end of story.
One of the biggest arguments I can remember us having was when my older sister rushed home to tell my parents about a good grade I’d gotten before I had the chance.
In other words, he was telling me that being Asian would be a liability—enough to outweigh all the hard work, all the perfect grades.
MY CHILDHOOD HAD been simple: Work hard, respect others, obey my parents, support my sisters.
But then tragedy suddenly struck our family.
he started to talk as though he wouldn’t be alive too much longer. He shared advice, and we recorded it on tape. He talked about values and his hopes for us. “I know you’ll get into every school you apply to,” he said from his hospital bed, “but I want you to stay in New Jersey so you’ll be close to home and can help your mother.”
My father did everything he was told to do by the doctors—and then some. He tried Chinese herbal medicines and even rubbed garlic, which he detested the smell of, onto his stomach. He did radiation therapy and ingested all the pills his doctors prescribed to prolong his life.
My mother basically lived in the hospital with him.
He stayed positive. He didn’t seem scared. Eventually he was unable to eat anything; yet still he didn’t complain.
He later convinced the doctors to let him swallow a bite of watermelon, even though they knew it would come right back up. He wanted to show us it was possible to enjoy life even to its endpoint.
He died in April, several days after his last taste of watermelon and only two and a half months after that initial phone call. We were all by his side at the hospital when he passed. We stood there together for a long time, in shock. We had watched his health decline rapidly, and he had tried to prepare us, but it was still unfathomable and surreal. Even watching him die, I found it hard to imagine the world without him. It was difficult to accept that this was actually the end.
People say that when you lose a parent when you’re too young and when they’re too young, you become driven to succeed in life. The reasoning is that because you’ve been confronted with mortality, you live the rest of your life aware of the void. When I first read that shortly after my father died, I dismissed it, but over time I’ve come to appreciate the truth there.
I feel additional pressure to make his life and sacrifices meaningful through my actions.
Seeing all these young and old people, none of whom my father had even mentioned to us, bowing before him affected me very profoundly. It reflected how much he’d influenced their lives—how his teaching and his goodness had made their lives better. This was proof to me that how my parents had raised us was real: staying focused, working hard, doing a good job, but taking a stand when you had to. It was a philosophy of life that had resulted in a powerful display of respect: three deep bows, over and over again, from people who were strangers to us and hadn’t seen him for years.
I got perfect scores on almost all my work, including advanced placement exams and ACT tests.
My parents were a good team and had raised us well. They encouraged me to aim high, and so for college I applied to Harvard, Princeton, Yale, MIT, NYU, the University of Pennsylvania, and Columbia. And while as an adult I’ve discovered it’s not always true that you can do anything if you work hard enough, as a child and teenager I saw this adage proven right over and over again. Eleven days after my father died, I learned that—just as he’d predicted—I was accepted by every single college I had applied to.