HomeAsian AmericansBreaking Bamboo: It's called work for a reason

Breaking Bamboo: It’s called work for a reason

By Dave Liu, AsAmNews Staff Writer

(Editor’s Note: Every other week, venture capitalist and author Dave Liu answers questions about career. You can send your questions to info at asamnews dot com. All questions will remain confidential)

1. We too often get down on ourselves when we get that rejection letter, but doesn’t luck play a role in this as much as talent?

Luck does play a huge role in life. At any given moment, we may be the sum total of all of our individual choices, but I believe luck is the foundation upon which our path is set. Luck determines whether you are born (1) in a First World country, (2) into a wealthy family, (3) with loving parents, or (4) destined to have tailwinds at your back.

That being said, you have to learn to deal with rejection. The corporate world is filled with rejection and if you don’t encounter it, you aren’t challenging yourself enough. Every great job, project, or opportunity is one that many covet and since you can’t win them all, you will face rejection.

The key is to learn how to bounce back from these setbacks. Bad luck may have had a lot to do with it but perhaps it might have been a lack of preparation? Or lack of qualification? If so, you need to learn and adjust. Embrace the failure; diagnose the problem. What can you learn from the situation and adapt?

The most successful people see rejection and failure as a blessing. Teaching moments that propel them forward to become better. Take that rejection letter and use it as motivation. Paste it on your wall and move forward!

2. How do you differentiate between being cocky versus being confident? How can I use it to my advantage?

According to Dictionary.com confidence is a “belief in oneself and one’s powers or abilities.” A cocky person is arrogant or someone who is brashly self-confident. Both are common in the workplace and have their uses.

I have found that being confident is a recipe for success in the workplace. It gives others (including your boss) a sense that you have done great work. You are someone they can trust or inspire others to do the same. It can win clients. Most importantly, it is the path to promotion and compensation. Without confidence, you are on a one-way trip to mediocrity or worse.

Cockiness gets a bad rap because it is often associated with hot air or lack of substance. However, being cocky can be very beneficial if coupled with real talent and capability. Like confidence, it can inspire others and can be contagious. But I have found it to be especially helpful in situations where the ultimate answer is unknown. The path is uncertain and fraught with risk and failure. Having cocky leaders who exude supreme confidence can be that extra push needed to marshall everyone to move in lockstep.

However, cockiness without results is a recipe for disaster. You could lose credibility and develop a reputation for being myopic or lacking vision. If you are cocky, be sure to back it up.

3. How do you deal with obnoxious co-workers?

Just like you can’t choose your family (you’re born with them), oftentimes we can’t choose all the people we work with. In fact, we may have only met a small fraction of the company during the interview and courtship process. Unfortunately, this means we may encounter co-workers we don’t like or find downright obnoxious.

At work you need to learn to coexist with others. Unless you are a one-person show, you will have co-workers, bosses, clients, and subordinates that you won’t like. You need to figure out a way to work with people.

With this in mind, here are a few tried and true tactics to deal with obnoxious people:

1. Confront them. Sometimes our initial instinct is to be honest and direct. Tell the person they are obnoxious. The benefit is that the person will get the unfiltered message. You may feel better getting it off your chest and they may change their behavior for the better. The downside is that the person may take offense and seek retribution against you. But people find change difficult and the likelihood that they will do an about face is low.

2. Ignore them. For those of us who avoid confrontation, the choice can be to simply ignore the problem. This leaves the offender oblivious which means change will not happen. The burden remains on you (and others) to see how much you can take. Of course we all have a breaking point and the last thing you want is to snap, say something offensive, and create irreparable damage.

3. Give Wise Feedback. The last option is the one I employ the most and find the most effective in initiating change. In situations where there is not a lot of trust and familiarity, I follow advice from social psychologist David Yeager. His methodology, which he calls Wise Feedback, is great for giving feedback across divides where there is distrust. Whenever you give anyone constructive feedback, you preface it with the following:

“I’m giving you these comments because I have very high expectations and I know that you can reach them.”

With obnoxious people, I would preface your feedback with a desire to help them get along better with others and suggest that they be more aware of how their personality can rub people the wrong way.

If this doesn’t work, at least you can still default to Option 1 or 2. 

About the Author

Dave is a seasoned executive and entrepreneur who founded several companies in entertainment, investments, and technology, and worked on Wall Street for almost 25 years.

He started his career by joining a fledgling investment bank, Jefferies, when it had less than 200 employees. Today, Jefferies is a multi-billion dollar diversified public company (NYSE:JEF). He rose from the entry level position of Analyst to Group Head of Internet and Digital Media and was one of the youngest Managing Directors in firm history.  As one of the only managing directors of color in the firm, he successfully broke through the Bamboo Ceiling. He not only worked hard but also played the corporate game. 

Hundreds of bankers have worked for Dave during his career. He has mentored many of them who have gone on to some of the best business schools and companies in America.  He is eager to share his knowledge with Asian Americans and other disadvantaged groups seeking to maximize their potential and achieve their career goals.

If you want some great career tips and insights check out Dave’s book, The Way of the Wall Street Warrior, at TheWallStreetWarrior.com.

You can follow Dave at Facebook@Liucrative, Twitter@Liucrative, Instagram@LiucrativeEndeavors, LinkedIn@DaveLiu, or TikTok@Liucrative.

AsAmNews has Asian America in its heart. We’re an all-volunteer effort of dedicated staff and interns. Check out our new Instagram account. Go to our Twitter feed and Facebook page for more content. Please consider interning, joining our staff, or submitting a story or making a contribution.  


  1. Nice comment about being sure to back up cockiness with results. But I don’t know what this article has to do with the Bamboo Ceiling, which is a very real barrier for many Asian Americans. We need to not only work on ourselves, but also to clear the pathways for a level playing field. The hashtag #BambooCeiling does not belong here, please do not use it merely to draw the eyes of AAPIs to an article about building confidence. Waste of time. We need recognition and help, not marketing.


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