February 9th, 2014
12:19 AM ET

Exceptionality, insecurity and impulse control: Secrets to success?

Fareed speaks with Amy Chua, a law professor at Yale, and her husband Jed Rubenfeld, also a professor at Yale, about their new book ‘The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America.’ Watch the full interview this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.

So what is the cultural factor at work here that makes it so that these immigrant groups, that certain immigrant groups, succeed?

Chua: And it's not just immigrant groups. The Mormons...

Rubenfeld: Right.

Chua:…are a non-immigrant group.

Right. Right.

Chua: What's amazing is that despite their enormous differences - you know, what do Mormons and Nigerian-Americans, and Chinese-Americans have in common? They actually have three features in common that we're calling the triple package.

The first is a deep sense of exceptionality. Now, this exceptionality can come from many sources. It can come from your group that you belong to or your family or just an innate talent or a parent that instills you with that sense of being special.

So where Jews may think of themselves as the chosen people or Mormons may think they have a special kind of religious…that kind of thing?

Chua: Yes.

Or it could be very much a family thing, we're special?

Chua: Absolutely. Or, you know, the Nigerians who are here are disproportionately Igbo and Yoruba, two very successful groups in Nigeria with a proud royal heritage. So what's interesting is that the second quality is insecurity, which it seems like is the opposite of a sense of exceptionality.  And insecurity, we mean a feeling that you haven't quite done enough, that you're not quite good enough. And the third is impulse control.

…The third one. I know you know a lot about psychology. It’s based…the most famous experiment that they've done with children is this one about the marshmallow, right?

Rubenfeld: The marshmallow test, yes. It's quite a famous experiment done 30 years ago. You give kids a treat, a marshmallow, a piece of something they like.  And you ask them to see if they can wait 15 minutes before they eat it. You tell them, if you do wait, you'll get a second one. And the question was, do they wait or don't they? And...

And the ones who waited, when tracked later on in life, turn out to be more successful on almost every dimension?

Rubenfeld: It was a finding that was stumbled on. Walter Mischel, who originally did the marshmallow test, just almost by accident decided to track them 20 or 30 years later and sure enough, on every measure – academic, occupational, income, staying out of jail – these kids who actually waited the 15 minutes did better.

And the question is, are there cultural factors that induce, that strengthen that kind of willpower and impulse control? And it turns out there are.

Topics: GPS Show

soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. ✠RZ✠

    According to what's coming down the pipe the best plan for success right now is to keep 2 weeks of food, water and supplies on hand, 2 weeks of cash in expenses on hand, keep your gas tanks full and maybe 5 to 10 gallons stored in the garage, and if you have any assets being held digitally it may be a good idea to somehow make them physical if at all possible. And that's if you live outside of the US. Otherwise, you might also want to plan for a longer period and have a couple of guns and some gold on hand too. Do it this month. And be prepared to follow through maybe until June or July.

    Good luck.

    February 9, 2014 at 1:09 am | Reply
  2. JAL

    There must also be a certain level of honor that is ubiquitous. in this case, any person in the world needs to have confidence in committing to higher education, and that comes from a vibrant global economy. Here is where bearishness has a two-pronged negative effect, both at the macro and micro levels.

    February 9, 2014 at 8:12 am | Reply
    • JAL

      Also, the "tiger mom" concept is missing something. It is the humor, as seen by any onlooker. Kind of like the Three Stooges concept. I bring it up because, it is an enabler.

      February 9, 2014 at 8:43 am | Reply
  3. Oshmi Dutta

    America is the catalyst that takes inert and silent elements of various culture groups and propels them to success.
    As an immigrant, I feel that is the answer which explains why Indians are very successful here whereas, the lack of individual growth environment in India is responsible for the lack of similar growth.

    February 9, 2014 at 10:46 am | Reply
  4. Rosemary Piazza

    I have tried more than once to figure out what Amy Chua is saying but after watching GPS this morning I am totally convinced that she just speaks a lot of babble.

    February 9, 2014 at 10:47 am | Reply
    • dregan1960

      There is little coherence in her story line other than that she's a little Nazi Chinese bimbo who thinks she's superior.

      February 10, 2014 at 2:01 am | Reply
  5. Randy

    For a couple of yale professors, they sure are bone head clueless morons. Success has nothing to do with ethnicity but the conditions of ones environment is a great influence on the future. Socialization is another factor, people imitate their immediate surroundings. I thought it was interesting that they was careful to not mention the success that "african americans" has had in surviving 400 years of attempted genocide and still managing to perform and strive over adversity. These morons need to retire.

    February 9, 2014 at 10:48 am | Reply
  6. Marsh

    Study is incomplete. Study Americans born and living abroad in India, Africa, and China. Are they excelling when compared with the rest of the population? This study, like many similar, excludes the question, "Is the sample set representative of the culture under study". I think in are cases the answer is no.

    February 9, 2014 at 11:04 am | Reply
  7. edward

    I do not think you were fully listening – they cited President Obama as an example of the triple package. They also said just what you wrote in your first sentence. Maybe you do not have the triple package?

    February 9, 2014 at 11:05 am | Reply
  8. Phil

    An example of the triple package is Nazi Germany...

    February 9, 2014 at 1:41 pm | Reply
  9. Justin weathers

    Do you feel that the minorities that come from other cultures are from families with stronger traits? You would only work to send the family members with the strongest chance to succeed to another country or to college. This would say that the Indians who are here are in the upper percentile and thus more likely to succeed. In an environment where these individuals are such a minority the drive to succeed must be higher.

    February 9, 2014 at 1:48 pm | Reply
  10. ringyal1

    One thing that Amy and Jed do not talk about is how the environment of opportunity and growth that the US provides plays a vital role in creating the perfect mix of drive and success. Sure, cultural traits do help, but its ultimately the sheer shock of opportunity and growth one can ssprire to acheive in the US, gives that drive to succeed. The discussion did capture it right, when they saw that the effects of these cultural traits diminished in the third generation. Many immigrant groups are increasingly aware of this, and in particular, many Tibetan parents in the US send their children for summer schools to India and other parts of developing Asia, simply to experience and see that difference in the availability of venues of opportunity.

    February 9, 2014 at 1:51 pm | Reply
  11. John King

    When I listened to the two Yale professors I think I missed the point, maybe I have to read the book. It seems to me that they described the traits of a successful person, namely:
    a) self confident
    b) very competitive (hears the footsteps of those trying to overtake them)
    c) willing to sacrifice instant gratification for future reward, e.g. study hard in college

    It seems to me the real question is what ('culture', 'village', 'parent/guardian', 'other') instills these traits.

    Fareed, in the intro, mentioned "Tiger Mom" (Korea) as one possibility, but this wasn't discussed in the program.

    February 9, 2014 at 4:59 pm | Reply
  12. Sylvia C.

    I can agree with the triple package, but it can easily erode.

    I would like to see all children given" the marshmallow training". We did it with birthday treats at school!
    Constantly watching those instant gratification commercials of effortless dating, mindless entertainment, instant cures and easy solutions can't be good for anyone.
    And what about learning another language/culture to broaden one's perspective? All immigrants start from an early premise of biculturalism, which adds a sort of wisdom and enriches the triple package.

    February 9, 2014 at 5:12 pm | Reply
  13. Mary Burke

    when I was growing up we took Lent seriously and only ate candy on Sundays. My nephew who is 18 years younger was never taught delayed gratification. when he was cutting the lawn, I told him he could have a soda when he finished. He soon went into the house and drank soda before finishing. thirty years later he still lives with his mother and has never had a permanent job.

    February 9, 2014 at 6:20 pm | Reply
  14. Chidi G Osuagwu

    First point is that the Igbo are the World's most Republican people ... Igbo amaghi eze ... Igbo Recognize no Kings!
    Second is the the three points could phrased in easier to understand way as:
    i. Sense of Personal Responsibility
    ii. Perfectionism
    iii. Impulse control
    I understand the last well because among the Igbo "Ijide onwe aka" SElf-control is highly valued as emphasized. In my village of Umunachi-Obowu, as I grew up, there were two men who were terror to the children. With them no child easily satisfied the need to 'walk with self control' ... walk purposefully, with the right gait. 'Igbaha-onwe-aka' ... moving about aimlessly attracted serious reprimand and threat to cut off one's ear that would not hear the need to move about with self-control. As for the 'marshmallow test', it is indeed a standard Igbo test for children , but with a piece of meat. Usually children are watched to see if they will first eat the 'fufu' before eating the piece of meat in the accompanying soup, with which they eat the 'fufu'. Those who eat their meat first are labeled potential wastrels; those who eat their meat last are 'promising children' . The assessment usually turns out right.

    February 10, 2014 at 12:22 am | Reply
    • olamideopeyemi

      Sir, do you currently eat your "fufu" first before devouring your meat?

      February 10, 2014 at 8:08 am | Reply
  15. Chym Benson.

    We are Nigerian-American family of six kids, a Nurse, Engeneer, Pharmacist, M.D., Medical Student, and college Junior.
    Thank you America.

    February 10, 2014 at 8:19 am | Reply
  16. olamideopeyemi

    I honestly believe in doing all these kinds of research. They are good. I also believe in hard work and delayed gratification. However, these researches are not in any way infallible. At best, they give us a trend worth noting and not an ultimate rule. Are we saying those are the only factors involved in this complex equation?

    February 10, 2014 at 8:22 am | Reply
  17. John

    Being a big fan of Fareed, I was quite disappointed when Fareed questioned-if Chinese culture was superior, why is China such a mess? Although no culture is superior, Fareed's question implied that Chinese culture was inferior. Fareed had uncharacteristically fallen into the ignorant western stereotype, and failed to recognize that China is the oldest continuous civilization and the richest country in the world in the last 18 out of 20 centuries. I think China's history can stand quite well against any country in the world.

    February 10, 2014 at 1:25 pm | Reply
  18. Southern Jameson West

    insecurity? ok. how do you measure that?
    exceptionality? how do you propose to measure that?
    "Impulse control"??? give me a break!!! just look at all the great stars( over achievers) hooked on drugs what "made them" successfful?
    Mommy and Daddy's money?
    I can measure that!
    More bogus research! ( in the name of some ridiculous fashion design wannabes)
    Best Regards

    February 11, 2014 at 12:14 am | Reply
  19. Tifa O.

    In the name of research so many things here are misconstrued. I'd like to first acknowledge that successful people exist in all races and cultures. Culture encompasses much more than someone's ethnicity. This interview fails to differentiate between the two. And to think that someone would extrapolate this to support a statement that, only certain ethnicities succeed, is beyond me. There are so many examples in society that prove this all wrong.

    Anyway, the premise of explaining the experiment, by using delayed impulse control, and correlating it with future success is garbage to me. 1. It was ONE study. 2. This was qualitative research (no offense to those who practice in this field) but it is clearly full of bias in that the observer chose the qualities to single out in the study, and that there are SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO many variables within the time of filming the children and by the time these children became adults. There was absolutely no control in the "experiment" accounting for all the life changes that may have occurred in the children's lives.

    And for the record, just because a person has a secure job or can pay bills in America does not meant hey are happy. Try measuring that across the cultures and countries.

    February 16, 2014 at 5:36 pm | Reply

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