By JASON LEONG
REMEMBER when our parents would yearn for their children to be doctors, lawyers, engineers? How that one annoying aunty would keep bragging about her pretentiously named son Declan (sorry Declan, but that is a ridiculous name for a Malaysian) who is studying to be an economist?
And who can forget the annual obsessive comparisons made during family gatherings on our respective career paths?
At the heart of it all, our parents want the best for us. But good intentions don’t grant psychic powers. Just like traffic in KL, your girlfriend’s mood swings, and the food quality at your favourite mamak, the future is unpredictable.
So too, are the direct outcomes of your career choices. If only life was as simple as STEP 1: CHOOSE OCCUPATION and then STEP 2 : MAKE IT RAIN!!!! *cue hip hop track that celebrates hedonism, guns and female dogs*. Sadly, life is more like a game of poker.
Some people make the best of their hand, some fold, some hold, and no one at the poker table can cry “Mommy!” when they make their calls.
I know of friends urged to be doctors by their parents who are also doctors. I also know of doctors who urge their children NOT to be doctors.
Both sets of parents in this case are giving bad advice purely because their experience with careers is embarassingly small.
See, most people have only experience with one career. ONE. A lawyer worth his salt will only know about the ins and outs of his own legal profession and nothing about say, carpentry, or chemical engineering. And so on and so forth.
So how can parents presume to advise their children on what career choice they should make?
Neil deGrasse Tyson once used an analogy to rebut people who claim that there can’t possibly be aliens in the universe because so far all the planets we have discovered show no signs of intelligent life.
“It’s like taking a scoop out of the ocean with a cup and saying there are no such things as whales because there are none in my cup,” said The World’s Coolest Physicist.
To use a colloquial example, imagine I tell you that the best mamak mee goreng in the world is in an outlet in Subang Jaya. I then tell you that I have only eaten one type of mamak mee goreng.
At that same outlet in Subang Jaya. Would you then take my recommendation, or say, “Like dude, you seriously need to get out more often”?
Similarly, if our parents tell us to either take up or avoid the career path they themselves chose, it’s an argument from very limited experience. They are limiting our view of the ocean based on their sample size of a cup of seawater.
The mamak mee goreng I had was the best because it was the only mamak mee goreng I ever had.
Of course, even worse are those who pressure their children to choose a career path based just on hearsay and “but your cousin is earning so much as an accountant!”
Let’s look at the evidence. Being a doctor was, at one point, the ultimate career choice of Asians. According to parents, a career in medicine was like a golden pathway to happiness and prosperity.
But now, doctors are striking in the UK over pay and working hours, US medics are sick of their jobs and at home, doctors are leaving the profession to be waiters. Even our health ministry is facing a budget cut of RM250mil.
I also remember parents applauding when their children worked for oil & gas companies because hey, we will always need oil, right? Now, Petronas is cutting RM50bil in spending and globally, the industry is cutting staff with crude oil prices dropping as hard as a football player diving for a penalty.
Another point to consider. Most parents only earnestly give career advice to their own children. Most parents these days only have one or two children.
So this means that parents are also limited in their experience of giving career advice. Think about it, if you are the eldest, technically you are your parents’ first and only experiment thus far when it comes to giving advice.
Put it all together and you have a very bad support system. A pair of un-informed, biased and inexperienced counsellors giving you career advice based on their often limited research and sample size.
So, dear friends, especially those who have yet to choose your careers, the take home message is this: When it comes to what you are going to do for the rest of your life, don’t just listen to your parents.
You should figure out for yourself what it is YOU want to do.
There is perhaps, no better way to end this piece than to again quote another supreme being.
In May 2014, for his commencement speech at a business college, master comedian Jim Carrey told a story about his father who wanted to be a comedian, but instead chose a safe job as an accountant, and later on was let go from that safe job.
Carrey said: “I learnt many, many lessons from my father, but not least of which is that you can fail at something you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance doing what you love.”
Now if you’ll excuse me, I am going to go have mamak mee goreng. There’s this place in Subang Jaya. Have you heard of it? Best. In. The. World.
Jason Leong is a former doctor who decided to become a full-time comedian. Guess who had the last laugh? His audiences, not him. Check out his Youtube channel and follow him on Twitter at @TheJasonLSK and Facebook.