The Importance Of Feeling Consistently Uncomfortable For Personal Growth

With the racism and sexual assault allegations that have befallen the Governor of Virginia, the Attorney General of Virginia, and the Lt. Governor of Virginia, I was reminded of all the racist altercations I experienced growing up in Virginia for public high school and public university in the mid-to-late 90s. They were instrumental for personal growth.

Given the revelations at the senior levels of Virginia government today, you know racism in Virginia wasn't unusual decades ago. Racism wasn't a constant ubiquity, but I did experience some type of racist encounter about every 10th time I went out of the house.

One of the more milder examples was while waiting in line to go to the bathroom at a gas station off I-95 heading south. A white guy behind me said, “Hey, don't you understand English? What are you waiting for? The bathroom is open!

I turned around and said, “There's actually someone in there. They just didn't lock the door. Do you understand the English that's coming out of my mouth?

He backed down with an “Oh, never mind.” But I was ready to rumble.

The amazing thing about all these racial experiences is that it's all I knew after coming to America for high school.

Getting Accustomed To Racism

I thought it was normal to be on the receiving end of racial slurs or racial innuendos every so often. I just endured and fought back as hard as I could each time.

Yes, I got suspended from school multiple times for fighting, but it was worth it to defend my honor. Kids stopped messing with me once they felt my fists of fury.

After I got a job in 1999 in New York City and again when I moved out to San Francisco in 2001, I realized that being a minority in America felt so much more comfortable in a diverse city.

My racial conflicts dropped from every 10th time I went outside to maybe every 25th time I went outside in Manhattan. In San Francisco, I can't remember my last racial conflict because we are a minority majority city.

The Positives Of Discomfort For Personal Growth

Looking on the positive side of racism, I thank my past racial altercations for having given me the extra strength I needed to endure those long work hours in banking for so many years. Racism gave me tremendous motivation to prove that I could succeed in America.

Yes, it is harder in the workplace when so few in management look like you and no one wants to mentor you. But screw that, I always told myself. Being a minority working in a smaller business in a satellite office was simply a great challenge to get ahead by being more energetic and entrepreneurial.

When I got promoted to VP at age 27, it was one of the greatest feelings ever. All of my contemporary colleagues were still Associates, one level down, and would stay Associates usually until 30-32 years old.

Getting the promotion was when I first realized the allure of meritocracy. It was also my first taste of power. When you need consensus from a committee to get promoted, you don't mess with your senior colleagues.

Ongoing Motivation To Keep Working Hard

Despite being gone from the workforce since 2012, I still have the energy and motivation as I did when I was a teenager. I have kept up my cadence of publishing three times a week every week since 2009. Grit and perseverance are the keys to succeeding.

It's like having Ironman's arc reactor, pulsating in my chest, driving me to keep going no matter what thanks to all the hate I experienced growing up.

And to be honest, this energy feels wonderful! I remind myself every day that it is this energy that has enabled both my wife and me to leave work behind at age 34.

And it is this confidence that has fortified me to take big risks in my career, in my investments, and in our online business. It's scary to take risks and fall flat on your face. However, the more you've been beaten up and rejected, the less scared you will feel.

Without this energy, I would not have been able to regularly get up by 5am for the past two years to work on Financial Samurai for three hours to then get to work as a dad. Instead, I would have probably slept in until 7am because taking care of a toddler is exhausting.

Hardship makes us better appreciate the good times.

Let's Move To Virginia Instead!

Given how much racism and bullying has given me, I think it's best for us to move back to Virginia and rejoin a 5.5% minority.

To survive in a less comfortable situation forces you to adapt. Learning things like self-defense, conflict resolution, self-deprecation, positive thinking and humor are all useful skills through our adult lives. What wonderful skills to teach our son.

Hawaii just seems like too comfortable a lifestyle to get motivated to do more than the average. When it's 79 degrees and sunny, only the most disciplined individual would stay inside and study for three hours instead of go to the beach and play.

Lovely Virginia

The Importance Of Being Consistently Uncomfortable For Personal And Financial Growth

Virginia, overall, is a wonderful state with a strong economy and good people. People are products of their time. I don't blame a minority of Virginians for thinking the way they do about minorities.

In general, I look back upon my eight years there with fondness. The good outweighed the bad. Virginia was my rite of passage into adulthood.

It's just the recent racial incidents involving Virginia's political elite that have triggered forgotten memories.

Norther Virginia is about 50% cheaper than San Francisco in terms of housing. Meanwhile, there are plenty of solid public schools. Although, there is an ongoing war on merit in the Fairfax County Public School district.

With each difficult encounter, his mother and I will mentor him by teaching him about hate and ignorance. And perhaps with each encounter, our boy will also develop a chip on his shoulder. Maybe he'll grow a FIRE to prove the haters wrong that he cannot become somebody great.

Welcoming Homogeneity

By shunning a diverse environment for a more homogenous environment, my son will have a chance to experience more racial discrimination than if he were in San Francisco or Honolulu.

I fear that if we shelter our children too much, they'll grow up to be ignorant, unmotivated individuals. They might whine at the slightest of inconveniences.

I have three immediate neighborhood households that all have adult sons still living at home with their parents because life is too easy. When your parents pay for everything as an adult, there's no longer an incentive to try.

Taking away a person's ability to provide for themselves is so sad. It feels so amazing when you establish your independence.

My hope is that by putting our son in an environment where he will have to struggle more to get ahead, he'll gain a tremendous amount of satisfaction and self-esteem as he grows older.

Besides, my mother-in-law lives in Virginia. My sister and nephew live in Manhattan. And my sister-in-law and family live in North Carolina.

Fear is the key ingredient for achieving financial independence. And I fear my kids will become soft because they live such a comfortable lifestyle.

Examples Of Uncomfortable Situations For Personal Growth

When life becomes too easy, nothing really happens. Besides experiencing racism growing up, here are some personal examples of uncomfortable situations that helped me grow:

  1. Being the new kid at school all the time. I was the new kid every 2-4 years growing up and I hated it. But I grew to have no fear chatting up anybody in a new environment, which made a big difference in my professional growth.
  2. Having to get into the office at 5:30am. Getting in by 5:30am for two years at my first job, and then by 6am on average at my second job for 11 years, never felt natural. But after about 10 years, I no longer needed an alarm clock. I was conditioned to naturally wake up earlier than my peers to get things done. This productivity accelerated my path to financial freedom.
  3. Confronting my boss for a severance. Without a manual, not many people have the confidence to argue their case for a severance. But I knew my worth, and I knew what would happen to the business if I suddenly left, or worse, went to a competitor. This confidence came from having to repeatedly stand up for myself growing up.
  4. Writing mind-benders that may offend. I go through a process every six months which I call, “The Culling.” The Culling entails publishing an article that enrages a subset of undesirable readers who are unwilling to read beyond a headline or unable to understand the nuances of what I'm trying to say. My goal is to reduce the accumulation of easily triggered readers and grow a community of intelligent readers with well-argued rebuttals.

Feeling Uncomfortable Is A Catalyst For Change

Now that I've shared such convincing arguments about the importance of consistently being uncomfortable for personal and professional growth, it's clear that we should move to Virginia and not to Hawaii.

Oh, but wait. With important geoarbitrage moves, unless a divorce is what you want, it's a good idea to have a consensus between spouses and partners.

Let's see what my wife has to say. She spent 20 years growing up in Charlottesville, Richmond, and Williamsburg, Virginia.

The Choice Is Obvious – Thoughts From My Wife

Hi everyone! Sam and I are fortunate to be quite a balanced couple. Opposites attract as they say.

He’s mostly an extrovert; I’m a total introvert. He’s very athletic; I’m a total klutz. She’s super efficient and fast at most things; I tend to be slow and cautious.

So what are my thoughts on Sam’s idea to move to Virginia? Absolutely not. My answer is, Hawaii of course!

Here are just a few of the reasons why. 

1) I grew up in Virginia and although I agree that it is a beautiful state with plenty to offer, I booked a one way ticket out of there after college graduation faster than Quicksilver in X-Men: Days Of Future Past. Virginia: Been there, done that. I’ve never looked back.

2) Racism is terrible. Plain and simple. Does it exist more in less diverse places? Probably. But sadly it exists everywhere. Our son will likely experience some encounters of racism no matter where he grows up. I also do not want to intentionally expose our son to unnecessary negativity and hatred. I do plan to teach him to respect people of all sorts through travel, reading, volunteering, and having many open discussions wherever we live.

3) I do not believe our son needs to experience racism and be a minority in school in order to be a driven, hard working individual. His personality is unique and definitely a blend of both Sam and me, although I see Sam’s focus and determination in our son as clear as day. My motherly instinct already tells me our son is going to be a good student who wants to succeed. I know he will need coaching and a supportive environment to get past obstacles and we’ll be there for him. 

For example, when our son can’t do something, like get a block to fit into his shape sorter toy, he yells out in frustration and throws the block to the ground. He has daddy’s fire. 

That’s my cue to pick up the block, put it back in his hand, help him wiggle it into the right spot, and then share in his excitement. Seeing the ear-to-ear grin on his face when he pushes the block in followed by him immediately try another shape by himself says it all.

Fight Or Flight For Personal Growth

Growing up as a multiracial kid, I was at the top of the minority list in school. I was literally the only one of my “kind” – Japanese mother, Caucasian father. I didn’t look Asian; nor did I look white. Our town was almost completely 50% white, 50% African American. 

I looked “weird” as some girls said. “What ARE you?” was another question I’d often get. Fortunately, I had a few friends who looked past my appearance and the shock that I had an Asian mother. 

I didn’t “belong” in Japan either. Everyone stared at me wherever I went in Japan. Some whispered look at the gaijin; this word for foreigner has a bit of a negative connotation. 

Others said I was so lucky to be half because I had pale skin and big eyes. Thank you, I guess. But what are they saying about people who are tan with small eyes?

Fortunately, I didn’t experience frequent bulling or racist remarks, but I still had my share. That didn’t make me want to fight back like Sam though. 

Criticism Made Me Want To Change

The hurtful comments made me want to leave. The rest were just annoying distractions. I knew they didn’t define who I was. My racial background made me unique and wasn’t something anyone could take away. 

I don’t like confrontation; I never have. When kids and adults have said mean things to me I don’t talk back; I usually stay silent and walk away. Sam sees this as letting them walk over me. Perhaps, but I don’t give people like that any power over me. 

I’m just the type of person who doesn’t want to waste any energy or time on disrespectful people who just don’t get it. 

That doesn’t mean I wasn’t hurt. I felt sadness, isolation, and frustration especially growing up. But, I really don’t like to dwell on negativity. I have so many better things to do!

Finding Motivation From Within

The Importance Of Feeling Uncomfortable For Personal And Financial Growth

The one thing I’m certain of is that we are all motivated by different things. I remember someone telling me that during management training at work and it’s totally true. 

You might be motivated by adversities, or discrimination, the desire to be the best, money, family, power, financial freedom, a better lifestyle, countless other things and likely a whole combination of things.

Growing up, I was self motivated to get good grades. Perhaps it was my perfectionist personality or the desire to be like my smarter sister. Who knows. What I don’t remember though is my parents ever pushing or telling me I had to get straight A’s.  

In middle school and high school, I was motivated to be the best violinist in school and to get the lead part in every theater production. I think a combination of wanting recognition and enjoying those activities were my main motivators. 

Motivation Post College

In my career, I was definitely motivated by power, gaining autonomy, earning money, and recognition for my niche skills and efforts.

As a parent, I’m motivated by an immeasurable amount of love, and wanting to see our son happy, develop and succeed. 

Ultimately, I believe motivation is very personal and has to come from within. I think it blossoms in supportive environments.

Some people get motivated in harsh environments, but definitely not all. I probably would have been mentally crushed over time if I was in a worse situation growing up. So I’m thankful my experiences weren’t much worse. 

Making The Right Choice For Personal Growth

Now that you've heard from both sides, we're curious to hear what you would do if you were us? Your vote will help determine our family's future.

Would you move to warm and sunny Honolulu, where life is even more comfortable than it is in San Francisco? The majority of the Honolulu population will look like our boy, either Asian or multi-racial. He'll grow up in an environment that is much more chill because most people in Hawaii are working to live, not living to work.

Or, would you move to somewhere in Virginia, where it is very hot or very cold for half the year. Such temperature will help him appreciate the other half of the year better. Our boy will feel the discomfort of being a 5.5% minority.

As a result, he'll better learn how to deal with difficult situations like racism and bullying. He'll also get a quicker taste of how cruel the real world is so he can hopefully be more motivated to study and work hard.

A Blessing To Grow Up As A Minority Who Experienced Racism And Bullying

In conclusion, what a blessing it is to grow up as a minority in Virginia. If all I experienced was love and acceptance, I'd probably still be working at my soul-sucking job wondering what else is there to life. There would be no Financial Samurai and no financial freedom.

Experiencing the bad has helped me appreciate the good. As a result, I believe I've reached a higher steady state of happiness as well.

I hope we can all have sand kicked in our face one day. Overcoming adversity is a gift.

Move to Virginia To Be More Uncomfortable Or Move To Hawaii And Be More Comfortable?

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Readers, what were some uncomfortable situations you experienced growing up that helped make you stronger? How much real world hardship should we subject our children to before they enter the real world? Are people simply a product of their times, and as times change, people change?

About The Author

158 thoughts on “The Importance Of Feeling Consistently Uncomfortable For Personal Growth”

  1. Careful some kids may get tougher from racism/bullying, but others may develop life long depression, anxiety, or even suicide.

    1. Mike is correct. This is a very possible outcome. I have suffered severe depression and anxiety for 20 years; not from racism but from age discrimination.

      I was lost when I finished high school; then decided to get a college degree. When I graduated, I was 4-5 years older than the typical college grad.

      At the consulting firm that hired me, I watched all of the other newly hired associates be assigned to clients while I sat in the office with no client assignments and no work. When I begged senior management for work, they promised to find me something; but, never did.

      At my next job; I turned around a complete product line by identifying a problem in the product that was causing adverse selection, and leading the produce redesign. In return, I watched as all my 28-32 year old colleagues received promotions. When I approached senior management about my promotion, all I got was a deer-in-the-headlights response.

      It’s been even worse at my next two jobs. Now that I am over 40, they just outright fire me. The first was a startup that was unprofitable due to poor financial discipline. I built an FP&A practice from the ground-up; then was fired so that a 29-year-old individual could take over my position.

      At the next company, I provided unforeseen strategic insights into the manufacturing process with a revolutionary (for the company) KPI Dashboarding System. 1 week after completion and I was informed that I was no longer needed and abruptly walked out.

      And my last company, after identifying $15 million in annual new revenue opportunities from a research study in customer preferences that I led, I was demoted and handed a 20% pay cut because the company “doesn’t promote people over 40.”

      My kids and family have suffered so terrible because I am in such a severe state of depression just trying to provide for them and being brutally mistreated with every step I take.

      Racism / bullying / discrimination is not a harmless activity. It is severely damaging and has a huge cost. If you’re on the delivering end of such terrible behavior; well, you’re downright sadistic.

  2. Great post! Very inspiring and interesting to follow your thoughts.
    I’d like to propose another option; Singapore. It’s a year-round sunny and nice place. Different cultures live together and you have to respect totally different concepts. Meanwhile, a lot of people are hard working and put in a slot if energy to have a good lifestyle.
    Give it a thought. ;-)

  3. Interesting post Sam,
    I had a somewhat of a reverse experience – that of growing up as a minority in Japan. Born and raised in post WWII Japan I belonged to a very small minority of “Stateless Russians”. Yes I was white. Yes I went to a private school … but we were always the outsiders. Nothing was a given. In school I worked hard to excel not so much to be able to go to a university in the US (as many of my expat classmates did) – that was beyond my parents’ ability to pay, but to be able to get one of the few jobs that periodically came up in one of the foreign companies on graduation. I was successful. But I was still a woman without a country. Eventually came to Canada and found a different approach towards work. First it was not difficult to find a job, it paid well enough. Most of the people I met were good, honest, hard working people, with good ethics and moral standards, albeit somewhat lacking in ambition … if I wanted that, I was told to go east, to Toronto (I was in Vancouver). I stayed. The incentive was not significant enough to weather the extreme cold winters and I met my husband. It is perhaps my one regret in life … the decision to stay in a comfort zone. In Japan it was not easy for us. My parents had to work hard. I had to work hard and that kept me sharp. In Vancouver not so much (I have since changed that by becoming an online entrepreneur). When your environment pushes you, you feel so much more alive. While I understand your wife’s position I’m with you.

  4. Honestly, I hated living in Hawaii. I was born/raised in Virginia Beach, VA and moved to Hawaii in 2001. Immediately moved out 2007 to attend college at UW in Seattle, WA and have loved life since. My parents are still on Oahu and I visit frequently, but I would never live there again.

      1. Hi,
        In Hawaii there’s discrimination amongst different ethnicities too. For example, Filipinos are really at the bottom of the totem pole/respect bc they were the cheapest labor on the sugar plantations. I was bullied and even got beat up for dressing so differently than the “shorts and slippers” style when I first moved there. I did not appreciate the local “pidgin”. I would go as far to say I think it makes people sound dense/uneducated. General attitudes are very laid-back/no sense of the vast world out there because you’re on one of the most isolated places on earth. That also meant no road trips. My career is in cancer pharmaceuticals and I knew Hawaii would not be a place for me to stay after high school. I also love having four seasons! Anyway, I still go there a few times a year to visit my family.

  5. Don’t let your kid suffer and bring him here to Virginia.
    Yes, times have changed since we went to school but it’s not worth the name calling and questioning. My kids are third generation Americans (but we are not white or black) and still are treated as bring different.

  6. Interestingly, my wife–who was born and lived 25 years in an East Asian nation, spent time in about four other East Asian nations, has resided about 25 years in California and has spent time in states in all regions of the USA–feels white Americans are the least racist and most welcoming people as a whole she has encountered.

  7. This was a great article, and reconfirmed some of my own choices, (but positive and negative). Thank you for such an insightful view. Most people get money and run off to a insulated, money bubble, then wonder why their kids can’t cope, or why even their own ideology is unrealistic. Experience is always the superior teacher. Thanks again!

  8. I enjoyed reading your wife’s perspective. I live in Virginia now and believe the east coast is more open minded than the Midwest where I grew up. I think travel broadens peoples’ views and help them appreciate what they have. Perhaps, some visits to VA can help your child value where he lives and lend themselves to a few of the lessons, hopefully non-traumatic, that you value.

    I have a similar view about higher education. The young people whose parents fully fund their college, where they don’t have to work towards paying for it, seem to not fully appreciate the opportunity to study and learn. I think a year of blue collar work, community or universal service, or travel would enable 18 year olds to appreciate the opportunity of higher education and not waste any of it.

  9. I think there is a difference between adversity and racism. I too want my children to be able to handle adversity by the time they reach adulthood, but I would never want them to have to deal with bigotry and hate head-on.

    I think Virginia has a more homogeneous population than Hawaii, but what this discussion seems to be about is more quality of life than racism. The climate difference, for one, leads to a big difference in culture. Living on an island (beaches, vacationers, more relaxed) vs. in-land (especially near D.C. which has a political awareness/feel, plus the hot summers and cold winters.)

    Look, no kid wants to get out and shovel when it’s snowing outside, but you learn something by doing it. Endurance, maybe? But sometimes mainlanders don’t know how to just relax for the sake of it, like Islanders seem to be able to do.

    Not sure where I’d say to go, I think Virginia has more opportunities for young adults, and for exploring by taking road trips and going any direction, rather than being confined to an island. But I loved Maui and would consider a move there, if it weren’t so far from family.
    Great article!

  10. I do agree that facing some adversity as a kid definitely produces a tougher adult. Although in today’s PC world, I’m not supposed to say this, it is more important for boys to be challenged and tested than girls (but a healthy amount is good for girls too. Just not as much). That being said, being closer to family is a big plus for VA. But taking family out of the equation, moving to Hawaii and enrolling your son in a martial art program like Brazilian ju jitsu will give him all the benefits that come from facing adversity in a controlled environment. Best of luck whatever you choose.

    1. We’ll definitely be doing martial arts. I’ve learned martial arts for a long while now, and it gave me a tremendous amount of confidence growing up. I used this confidence to physically fight back when I was a kid. I remember being on the bus when I had a kid behind me pick on my. I turned around and chopped him in the nose. He never messed with me again, and we became buddies.

      My family is in Hawaii FYI.

  11. I’m a white guy married to a Hispanic woman. Our daughter was born outside of SF (San Ramon) but we moved to WI when she was 6 months old and she lived there until she was 5. She lived the rest of the time in Scottsdale and is now in her second year of college at a well known NE University.

    We are upper middle class and she has never wanted for anything and has grown up around affluence and great wealth. She is competitive, strong, hard-working, personable, diverse in thought and actions and has a great desire to serve others and is pursuing a degree, and ultimately a career, with that in mind.

    My humble opinion is selecting a place to live that exposes your child to external forces that you think will “toughen him up” and all the other things you mention is not the best way to accomplish the objective. It is the internal values you instill and how he observes YOUR values at work and on display on a daily basis that will have the most influence. As he grows up, the people he chooses to surround himself with will also play an important role. You become who you choose to be around. Instead of putting him in a negative environment around people who may or may not challenge him in the right way, place him in the comfort of strong, principled, hard-working, spiritual, caring, giving, accomplished people that will build him up rather than tear him down. The strong values he develops in this environment will serve him well when he does ultimately have to deal with the negative side of people and life in general.

    To me, this has been the greatest gift we could have given our daughter in her overall development. She is our only child and we are very proud of the young woman she is turning out to be.

  12. Interesting post. As others have mentioned I think the problem in Hawaii is not lack of racism but simply lack of challenge. It’s a notoriously laid-back place. Although, adversities like sudden volcano explosions are nothing to sniff at.

    My problem with Virginia (at least what I know of it) is there wouldn’t be a lot to move there for other than the adversity for your son. And personally, I don’t really buy into the world view that your race/gender/orientation combo determines how hard life is. Life has a way of dishing out plenty of adversity to almost everyone. Plus, you run the risk of your kid becoming radicalized by negative experiences. The internet has no lack of enclaves of people agreeing and amplifying each others hatred for certain groups, and I think young males are especially vulnerable to falling into them. I think it would be really hard to accidentally ensure your son faces too little adversity but relatively easy to ensure he experiences too much.

    I’ve lived in South Korea for about 3 years now. Far from racist/ignorant experiences making me feel determined to succeed here, I’ve only come to understand it’s much better to live without them. Although there are other factors (air quality, job possibilities) I’m returning to the West later this year.

    I’ve seen people here that received too much ‘adversity’. Dirty apartments, getting lied to and cheated out of money, laughed and pointed at and judged, getting used as an English practice target dummy or fashion accessory rather than a true friend. Very few people are able to turn that kind of experience into a positive, even though they usually rationalize it as such after the fact.

  13. I grew up in SF and although it really is one of the most diverse cities in the US, I did encounter some racism growing up but mainly when I was in grade school. It would be kids from other racial backgrounds that would make racial jokes. I would often hear in high school of gang fights because of racial influence so it’s not like all races got along. At the same time my experiences was close to thirty years ago now so I’m guessing it has gotten a lot better with how kids of different backgrounds get along.
    I would pick Hawaii just because your wife is more comfortable moving over there. You wouldn’t want to move to an area where she didn’t have any desire moving to.

  14. Northwest Islander

    I think a couple of the (presumably non-minority) posters above simply do not get it.

    My family is white. When I was in high school, we moved from a large city to a small town in the Midwest. Simply being from “not around here” was enough for me and my siblings to become targets in school and social groups. My brother was the victim of a hazing incident that left him with multiple fractured vertebrate and permanent damage/physical pain for the rest of his life. His was the worst of our collective injuries. Adding insult to injury – one of my sibling’s assailants was the son of a local cop. It took months for my parents to get their insurance to cover his treatment because they wanted a police report from the attack and the local PD was not about to write one.

    All the character building in the world is not worth what we all went through in that backwater Red state he!!hole. I cannot imagine how much worse things might have been if we had belonged to a minority ethnic group. Completely empathize with the fears of gambling with your child’s future by moving to a place where such “discomfort” is all but guaranteed. It only takes one incident.

    1. Sorry to hear about the difficulties. May I ask why your family moved there and what city and state did all this occur?

      How are you doing in terms of grit and character after having gone through that? Does it make you appreciate life more and work harder? Or did you come away with more of a negative perspective?

      1. Northwest Islander

        This happened in NW Indiana; prefer not to disclose the town. Parents moved the family there for LCOL factors and in-state college opportunities for their children.

        You raise good points via your questioning. I became a high grit, high character, and high empathy adult. I’m not convinced those qualities would have significantly re-calibrated if we had stayed in the city. My capacity for hard work has been described as “beyond human” and the average bystander would describe me as extremely successful. But my personal life has not developed the way I’d like, and I’d venture to say that is the result of my knowing too much about humanity’s worst instincts. I am late 30s, single, and inclined to think I will always be better off single and self-sufficient – also taking care of the family I already have (parents and siblings; we are thick as thieves). Trust nobody but family; prioritize investment in tangible assets (eg real estate) over relationships and other intangibles; etc.

  15. NoVa is a pretty goddamn bleak place to live. If you have millions of dollars and are out of the rat race NoVa is not where you want to be imo. The only selling point for NoVa is the strong economy/job market and that doesn’t seem to be applicable for your family. I agree that Hawaii may not be ideal place to raise a family, but why not compromise and move to a nice neighborhood is SoCal? If I were in your shoes I would move to the following places.

    1) Carmel Valley, San Diego
    2) Boulder, CO
    3) Pacific Palisades, LA
    4) West Lake Hills, Austin
    5) Aspen, CO

    I’ve heard many highly successful people express the same sentiments about intentionally making your kids suffer through adversity because it will make them “stronger” later in life. I don’t understand the argument that you should suffer your entire life so that you can make a lot of money and then move somewhere crappy so your child can have the same painful life that you experienced. When does life get good? Live it up man! Give your kids a lifestyle you were never able to enjoy. They will be fine. There are plenty of highly successful people that were raised in “nice” places.

  16. I would choose Hawaii. Even though I don’t know what it’s like to be discriminated, I think it’s natural to keep your kids from unnecessary harm. But I agree, doing what feels right is not always the best decision.

    But I’m more than sure your son will encounter many challenges that he needs to overcome. Sharing your experiences with him and guiding him on his way, I’m sure it will all work out fine. A parent’s support is all a child needs to grow and succeed.

    Best of luck!

  17. Hawaii, because of your wife. Why is Virginia in the cards if your wife doesn’t want to move there?!

    Our family has a similar decision we are trying to make. Our son is about to go into kindergarten next fall. I am Latina and my husband is Asian. Our neighborhood school represents us demographically and offers Spanish and Mandarin language immersion, although the school is dilapidated. The majority of the students at this school receive free/reduced lunches.

    We are trying to decide if we should move closer to the grandparents to the ritzy suburbs with award winning schools. It just irks me that this community is homogeneous in regards to income and race.

    I’m leaning towards the city school as I can’t see myself living in the suburbs, even though I know the suburb school will be better resourced for my son. We are also almost done paying down our house and I don’t want to dish out more $ for another house. I also don’t want my son to think that when he’s older, his kids need to live in the suburbs to receive a good education.

    1. Because she spent 20 years growing up in Virginia and her family is still there. That’s one good reason. Further, I think it’s important to reflect on our upbringing and address racism in this situation that’s going on in Virginia right n because she spent 20 years growing up in Virginia and her family is still there. That’s one good reason. Further, I think it’s important to reflect on our upbringing and address racism in this situation that’s going on right now.

  18. Nice post. Great touch to include your better half’s point of view.

    While I completely agree that confronting difficulties and being out of your comfort zone leads to perseverance and personal growth, the main reason I would recommend Virginia to raise your young child is the proximity to friends and family (I.e. your support network).

    Many years ago I read about a study that looked at young parent’s additude towards starting a family. The researchers were surprised to initially find inconclusive results. They controlled for the obvious factors (age, income, education, etc) but still some young parents loved the experience and others would not recommend it. So the researchers went back to the drawing board and asked more questions. What they discovered was that the only significant predictor of their additudes was whether they had friends and family involved in the child’s upbringing within 90 km (European study) of their home.

    Conclusion: young parents without family within an hour drive did not recommend the experience while those that did highly recommend it.

    When we had our first we faced this decision – move to Madrid, where we knew no one or move to NYC where I’m from. My better half chose NYC and today we are happy parents.

    Whatever you decide, I wish you lots of luck.

  19. I’ve met several Asian West Coasters who seem lost not being surrounded by more Asian people. I’m used to being a minority and find it weird to be in SF where there are so many people who “look like me.” But it wouldn’t necessarily be easy street growing up around a lot of Asians either. Asian people pick on me for looking different, and both my parents are Chinese.

    1. Also that it doesn’t simply go as deep as binary Asian/non-Asian. Ask a Korean what they think of the Japanese or ask a Filipino what they think of the Chinese. On the grand scale of things worldwide being non-white in a western country is usually pretty tolerable.

  20. Very much liked this post, as always, Sam! I vote for Virginia (I am biased, I live here in northern VA). I am the grandchild of sharecroppers form Tennessee (I am caucasian), and my parents moved to this area in the late 1970s because of the opportunities. I haven’t experience racism, but have, like most women (and ones that posted earlier in this thread) experienced sexism. I think your son’s opportunities for broad cultural experiences will be better in Virginia.

    All of that aside, though– your wife needs to be happy too– and think that that’s the most important point.

  21. Hi – I’m a 40ish male born to South Korean immigrants in Chattanooga, TN. I was raised an hour north of Chattanooga in a small town with a current population north of 13,000. There were some isolated racial-laden incidents that I can remember, but for the most part, I assimilated fairly well and rarely had to defend myself because of my ethnicity. And back then, I was a small guy, so I had to rely on my wits to avoid trouble. For instance, Kung Fu Theatre on the USA Network was a very popular show with my peers back in those days. Fortunately for me, the show perpetuated a stereotype that Asians are mythical creatures that can fly, leap over walls, and kill you with just three fingers. Use your imagination.

    People from my hometown live Christian-led lives and carried a very pleasant “do unto others” disposition (even though most of the white folks still generally kept themselves segregated from African-Americans).

    I found that if you all make the extra effort people generally see you as a person and not that “Asian” person. This attitude and outlook helped me form very strong friendships, and a lot of them embraced my mom’s Korean cooking and stinky kimchi. I have nothing but fond memories for my experience and the people I got to know in my hometown.

    My sister’s story sounds a lot like your wife’s in the way that growing up in the south really bothered her due to the homogeneity and isolated racial incidents that she experienced. As a result, my sister chose to be a recluse for most of her childhood and when the opportunity arose to GTFO — she GTFO and never looked back. (I am not saying this is your wife’s experience, but she wrote a lot of things that my sister always said to me about our hometown.) Currently, she lives in the Bay Area as you all do. She loves it and is thrilled that she has friends that look like her and had had similar upbringings to ours. It’s also not lost on me that a girl’s “growing up” experience is filled with challenges that I could not even imagine.

    Back in the late 1990s when I was in my mid-twenties, I moved up to New York and lived there for four years (Manhattan, Queens, and back to Manhattan). Believe it or not, I was involved in more racial incidents in one year there then I was for 18 years living in Tennessee. Here are a few choice incidents that I experienced in New York:

    – Karate noises, “Ching Chong Chinaman,” “Jackie Chan,” etc.. yelled at me numerous times in the subway or on the streets
    – “That dude eats dog meat” directed at me from a white dude in a pub near my apartment on the UWS
    – “F—ing chinks” also murmured my way by some white dude in a restaurant

    SFO is a fine place to live if you can afford it. Something about it never really struck a chord with me as I think I’m East Coast through and through. I’m sure your kid will grow up balanced, normal, and well on his way onto the path of success regardless of wherever you decide to call your next home.

  22. As an white guy, my thoughts will be dismissed but hey I’m going to throw some out there anyway.

    There is an overemphasis on “racism” in public spectrum right now which is designed to keep the public in turmoil, NOT solve “problems”.

    In realty, the times we live in are some of the best for humans the world has ever seen. Relatively little worldwide turmoil, fairly good economic activity, improved healthcare and technological advances that make life long and easy. This ease brings opportunity to those of any race/religion/orientation/background who are willing to work with the opportunities presented.

    In fact, things are so good that it allows charlatans to come in and make noise about all kinds of things like: racism;global warming;”fairness” and other tripe. The charlatans make noise not to solve problems but to obfuscate and confuse people who they hope will turn over power to them.

    Life is not guaranteed to be risk or turmoil free. As you state, the turmoils experienced have made you better. My biggest fear is that as the charlatons claim to make a turmoil free world, we lose what makes us strong. The terms snowflakes and microaggressions come to mind.

    Note that I do not think you are a charlatan Sam. You are not trying to take power. You are just discussing how you and your family manage observations of the world to determine what works for you.

      1. Solutions?
        For individuals: How about teaching personal responsibility instead of expecting government to take care of you. Or instead of “poor me”, work to better yourself.
        For government: Stop rewarding bad behavior and punishing good behavior.

      2. I am not sure what problem you are asking me to offer solution for. The point of my comments are just the opposite of solving a “problem.” Just because someone may be “offended,” does not mean there is a problem requiring solution.

        Here are a few thoughts that could be solutions:
        1. more people could learn to think for themselves, consider how they carry themselves and their values rather than worrying about how others think and act so much.
        2. Stop listening to the charlatans who claim they have solutions if we give them power.

        Hardships i have faced?
        1. Being a landlord and finding out I misjudged character. I became better at it and yes- more judgemental. After all, we are talking about my money.

        2. Investing too much emotional energy, time and life into positions that proved to not be ‘worthy.” These experiences helped me develop disciplines around FI.

        3. Health scares have helped me evaluate priorities.

        4. Being stuck in cities full of crazy bats&^t liberals who fall for charlatans all the time.

        Our kids are now adults living on both coasts. We raised them in areas that supported our lifestyle and need, not theirs. They were kids! They just came along for the ride.

        I am sorry but I have to reject your question about whether we would raise our kids in a diverse or homogeneous environment. I find this to be a flawed question that assumes things that may not be true. To be honest, neither attribute would come into my mind. There are way more important criteria than either of these.

        I enjoy reading your articles and thanks for allowing me to respond to your inquiry.

  23. I do not see you in Hawaii, or more specifically Ohau — too limiting. I have an idea where you live in San Francisco, and I am not living there. Nothing personal.

    You are a natural Easterner. Neither California nor Hawaii have solid credit ratings – New York is not terrible, and it is where the money is, However, North Carolina and Virginia have absolutely solid ratings. Williamsburg is great – I do not see you there, nor around DC.

    A lot of people will be surprised about North Carolina; however, the Triangle area Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill is a tech and Asian paradise. The average age is under 40. I would opt for Chapel Hill myself. I see your son at Duke, so you can visit more easily.

    Here is your choice of Chapel Hill Homes. I do not charge commission

      1. Just outside NYC, and in NC.

        Very high quality of life – a more natural match for your somewhat conservative views and probably better for your son. Very tech-heavy — great colleges close by — more similar ethnicity but still diversity. Your “star” will be brighter. Lower living costs. You can buy a mansion for a million and use the extra sale proceeds for investment. One of a small number of states with across the board highest credit ratings. You can get anywhere from RDU – NYC. Duke is a true world-class hospital. Did you say you had a relative in NC – is it near the triangle? You are close enough to the ocean, which is actually warm, and the Smokies.

  24. The biggest thing for Hawaii is that your wife needs to be on board and obviously she is dead set against Virginia.

    You make some valid points Sam about wanting to get some exposure to the bad early on so that you are prepared for it as an adult but I would not make that a priority in choosing between two vastly different locales.

    I think living in Hawaii is the dream of a lot of people because of the weather and the scenery and the reason why people don’t is because of how expensive it is to live there. You are very fortunate to be in a position where this does not matter and I would take full advantage of that.

    Your kid will develop habits from you and your wife and from what I see that will make him a go getter and I doubt you will have any problems launching him from your house when the time is ready.

  25. Go to HI.

    Having lived there for a couple years as a blonde/blue-eyed Caucasian, I promise you your son will experience racism.

    Teach him it’s wrong, and to stand up for his haole classmates, etc.

    1. Tell me more about your racism growing up as a white person in Hawaii! And do you feel better and stronger because of it? You growing up in Hawaii as a white person might be similar to my son growing up as an Asian person in Virginia.

      What are the positives from your experience. Thanks!

      1. No, grew up in MN (pretty oblivious to racism), wasn’t in HI until my thirties.

        Experienced racism there near daily. Old enough to not be too affected by it, but was why I moved away.

        Positives? Did make me more aware/sensitive to racism, of course.

        The thing is: your son doesn’t need to be on the receiving end to experience it.

        Teach him to be aware of it and that it’s wrong, and (HI being the most overtly racist place in the US), he’ll have many, many opportunities there to see how best to deal with it.

  26. I’m a big believer in the phrase, happy wife happy life. But seriously, why would you want to move to a place where your significant other is unhappy and/or uncomfortable?

    Out of the two options, I’d choose Hawaii. That said, if the primary considerations are to limit both racism and complacency in your son’s childhood, there’s probably a decent amount of other cities to consider.

  27. Great article! Both of you make excellent points, but I think there is another angle to consider that neither of you mentioned in your arguments: If your son grows up in a great place that he really enjoys, he will be more likely to come back and visit more often (which is great for you and him)! For example, I grew up in San Diego, which in my (very biased) opinion is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I don’t live there at the moment, but going back to visit is doubly exciting because I’m not just visiting my parents, but visiting my amazing city as well! Beautiful beaches, amazing weather, the best Mexican food in the states hands down, what’s not to love?

    Now, you could say that if your were to raise your son in Virginia and then move to a more desirable location after he is grown you could potentially kill two birds with one stone, so to speak, but I would argue your son would not feel the same attachment or get the same enjoyment going to visit you in a city, regardless of how awesome, that he did not grow up in. The benefits of going back home to a city *that you grew up in* are:

    1. You know your way around like a true local and thus can maximize your experience: all the good places to eat, hang out, best hiking trails, etc

    2. You will always have friends in town to hang out with. Though this can be true anywhere, it will be more so the case if you grow up in a desirable location like SF, San Diego, Manhattan, etc. Reason being, these places tend to have strong job markets meaning many friends simply live and work there as adults, and even if they don’t they will enjoy coming back more frequently (especially for holidays) just because of how awesome the city is (just like your son probably would!) thus increasing chances for your son to reconnect and/or maintain childhood friendships into adulthood.

    3. You will always be reminded of great childhood memories whenever you return, and will continue to add to them as your city provides many opportunities for adults to have fun. This will lead to a lifelong collection of great memories associated with his hometown that your son can be proud of and treasure forever.

    4. Higher odds of meeting a romantic partner from your hometown. Big attractive cities are both home to more people and also tend to attract younger people due to job opportunities and higher quality of life, thus, having a lasting connection to such a place can increase your odds of benefiting from the allure of the city and meeting some of the young, like-minded people it attracts.

    In conclusion, consider the value of giving your son a childhood home city that he can enjoy for his whole life! Despite being extremely spoiled growing up in San Diego (incredible weather, virtually no natural disasters, not a lot of big bugs, etc. – growing up in a place like that sets the bar high and makes adjustment difficult when you move somewhere with more extreme weather, huge spiders, or a less laid back vibe) I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Yes, there were some difficult adjustments, but I adapted! It’s one of our greatest qualities as humans and there’s no doubt your son will be able to do the same.

    Let me pose the question to you like this: you believe exposing your son to hardship early and often will better prepare him for the difficult and trying world that awaits him, but conversely, do you believe that if you didn’t expose your son to that hardship that he would be unable to cope with other difficulties that confront him later in life? In other words, is it your belief that exposure to hardship is *necessary* for a strong mindset and success later in life, or instead that you can still foster that mindset through other means, i.e. great parenting, natural inner motivation and drive, participation in challenging activities like sports, instruments, etc.,

    Just my two cents! Hope it was interesting.

    1. Hey Luke! Great thoughts! I love Del Mar and the boutique hotel, Las Ventanas. I try to always stay there when I go down. SD is great, truly is. More like Honolulu than somewhere in VA for sure.

      “Consider the value of giving your son a childhood home city that he can enjoy for his whole life!” – Such a great point. I LOVED going back to Honolulu every year growing up. It felt so awesome to see my grandparents, eat mango, drive around with my dad, visit the beaches, and so forth. I was never bored and always excited.

      What a GIFT to have children first of all. But another gift of them wanting to come home and visit us when we are old an less mobile. I’d like that very much.

      I will say that wherever we live, home will be special. I’d love to go back to Williamsburg, VA and spend a couple weeks. So many fond memories.

      I absolutely believe going through hardship makes us appreciate the good times more. I love remembering the times I had to wake up by 4:45am to get to work by 5:30am to do someone else’s bidding in a pressure cooker situation. It makes me love getting up by 5am 20 years later and work on my OWN passions without anybody telling me what to do.

      What a gift to progress!

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