The Power of Role Models (and why I paid premium to meet mine)

“I wanted to come say thank you for all that you’ve done for the Asian American community.
Your work and the sacrifices you’ve made have helped pave the way for us all.
Because of you, mainstream media recognized that we do have talent.
I left my full-time job in tech so I can chase my dreams in food, music, writing, and art.
When I am in need of inspiration I look to you and your videos and work.
Please continue to do what what you do. I’m gonna get on your level one day!”
— from Me to Jin

When you think of Asians in media, who comes to mind? Let me guess: probably Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee

Though these Hong Kong megastars have been instrumental in moving the Asian American community forward, they weren’t entirely relatable to a kid like me.

When I first saw Jin on television after school one day, my mind was blown.

He was different than Jackie or Bruce. He was more like me.

He was born and raised here in the states like me. He went to a school like mine. He had friends like mine. And we shared similar taste in music.

With child-like wonder, I thought if he could do it, then I could do it too.

Maybe if I work hard enough, I can reach his level one day. Maybe I can make a difference too, at least for one starry eyed kid like myself

That’s the power of role models.

Role models are dealers of hopes and dreams. They give us a glimpse into the realm of possibilities and what we can become.

They serve as evidence we can achieve their level of success, if not exceed those levels.

I stand where I am today because of all those who have helped and inspired me.

I am not a self-made man. (no one truly is, if they’re honest) All of us stand on shoulders of giants.

Because of the role models in my life, I work hard to give back to those who follow similar paths to mine.

I don’t know if anyone looks up to me. All I can do is work on myself and improve everyday.

That’s how we lift others up. That’s how we build community. That’s how we build a better future for us all.

It’s now or never

When I heard he was coming to town to perform at a local night club, I seized the opportunity. (I hate clubbing)

There was a premium VIP ticket option to meet and greet him beforehand. I could have bought a regular ticket and settle with seeing him perform live. But how often do I get a chance to meet a childhood role model? Not often.

Though definitely not a once in a lifetime opportunity, I knew it was now or never.

I didn’t come to party. I didn’t come for drinks. I didn’t come for the ladies.

I just came to say thank you.