damn it all my heroes are white men asian american bloggers

Damn it, all my heroes are white men

Updatedclick here to see The AAMPED 100, a project to curate 100 Asian American Personal Development Personalities
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It can take a lifetime to see the obvious.

I was putting together a list of all my favorite writers, bloggers, and personal development thinkers. It was an exercise to identify what they have in common so that I can become a better storyteller.

Here’s tiny fraction of the entire list:

Mark Manson
Seth Godin
Tim Ferriss
Derek Sivers
James Clear
Noah Kagan
David Kadavy

It’s a bit jarring to realize that all my personal development heroes are white men.

I still love their work and writing, but this isn’t what this piece is about.


My personal development origin story 

Growing up as an Asian American male, I didn’t have many role models in the media beyond those in martial arts films.

Growing up without a father inspired me seek out self help when I was 18.

So my “real” education started amongst the self help section of a Borders Bookstore (are those still around?)
I think was searching for manhood.

The confluence of these life events led me to have an ongoing affair with self help, which meant consuming plenty of personal development blogs, books and courses.

Ever since then, most of my heroes have been white men.

It’s no coincidence the majority of the material I’ve consumed is created by Caucasians.

The Diversity in Publishing Survey found that 79% of those who work in publishing are white. Even less diversity is found in film & TV.

So what, Oz?

White or not – these self help writers has changed my life for the better. I owe much of my personal development to implementing their ideas, and I still admire them to pieces.

My point is not about boycotting material by white men.

My point is about widening the lens to be more inclusive of other voices.
(Especially if it’s an arena I can play in, because I’ll never be a movie star.)

You don’t know how excited I was when Master of None first came out. Finally, a genuine story about an Indian-American written by an Indian-American.

master-of-none-asian-american-diversity

I’m part of the Asian-American narrative that is so overwhelming underrepresented, and often misrepresented, by predominantly white media.

I figured, it’s my responsibility to at least claim my own identity as an Asian-American blogger and promote more Asian representation in the sphere that I care about: personal development.

To that end, the best thing I can do is to keep writing.

The second best thing I can do is share with everyone the other Asian-American personal development bloggers and personalities worth following.

Introducing The AAMPED 100

AAMPED is a project to curate 100 Asian American Personal Development bloggers (see what I did there?).

aamped-asian-american-personal-development-bloggers

I have a list of 28 bloggers and personalities so far. Some of them are hugely popular like Frank Yang, while others are personal friends in this space.

Check out the ongoing updated list here (or by clicking the bigass image below):

aamped-100-asian-american-personal-development-screenshot

A few points on my still unrefined selection methodology:

  1. These personalities should cover a core area in health, wealth, entrepreneurship, relationships or culture. Not coincidentally, these are niches I cover in my own blog. I won’t be including fashion or style bloggers, for example.
  2. I try to pick only bloggers who are active, e.g. they’ve written something in the past few months. There are a lot of great websites from AAm creators that I had to skip :/
  3. I include a lot of my personal friends & acquaintances in the personal development space to kick off this list. It’s my list and I do what I wannaaaa
  4. The personalities listed don’t have to talk about Asian-American issues specifically (I don’t very much myself), but they have to be Asian-American. Hapas count.
  5. This list is very male heavy so far and I would love suggestions on female AAMPED bloggers.

Ideas / suggestion? I’ll happily take feedback.

2 thoughts on “Damn it, all my heroes are white men”

  1. Hey Oz,
    I’ve read a number of your posts and I’ve found your ideas to be interesting enough to both share with friends and implement within my own life (or at least entertain the idea of it, before life distracts me with something else). So it’s a bit jarring for me to hear that I should first determine that you are Asian (as I am) before judging whether any of your ideas are worth further consideration. Why is it bad that all of your personal development heroes are white men? Is the potency of their message diminished by privilege? Is the rationality of their arguments clouded by their skin color? Would their same words be any more effective depending on their geographic origin?

    It is concerning to see that we as a society are increasingly focusing on our superficial differences, and rewarding people not based on their merit, but on their skin color. I get that this is your list and you do what you want (per point 3), but consider the possibility that this is a step that is not only detrimental towards an inclusive society, but also detrimental towards personal growth. When you strive to better yourself, are you thinking about being the best Asian you can be, or the best man, or the best person? To cast the widest net for self improvement, why not just have a list of excellent bloggers in your core areas, regardless of race?

    Respectfully,
    M

  2. You’re on point and we actually agree. Here are a few lines from my blog post:

    “It’s a bit jarring to realize that all my personal development heroes are white men. I still love their work and writing, but this isn’t what this piece is about.

    White or not – these self help writers has changed my life for the better. I owe much of my personal development to implementing their ideas, and I still admire them to pieces.
    My point is not about boycotting material by white men.
    My point is about widening the lens to be more inclusive of other voices.”

    This is not a zero-sum game. Elevating the work of other Asian-American personalities does not take away from works by white men, which I’d still read.

    Really tough to answer this without a long discussion on entitlement and unequal representation of minorities (especially Asian-Americans) in the media.

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