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How Fear Makes You Efficiently Ineffective


So let me out myself as a nerd. I went to Fan Expo last year with my partner. Like, oh my god, there was a giant sized Totoro! Excuse my unrelated tangent. I love Totoro. But I digress.


At Fan Expo, we entered into a GIGANTIC hall with seemingly infinite vendors. A mere nerd mortal would be overcome with excitement and anxiety…so much to see, so much to experience, where do we start?


I walked into the hall with a smug strut, because I had a plan. My 30+ years of Asian efficiency training has prepared me for this moment.


Forget basketball. Forget baseball. Forget hockey. This was MY SPORT…mapping out the most efficient route to maximize my experience by being the most time-efficient.


The plan? Starting in aisle one, we will walk from one end to the next to see EVERYTHING. Then we will move on to aisle two, then aisle three. Flawless victory. As I did my warm up stretches, I realized my partner was gone.


I scanned the crowd for her. And I saw her running towards the aforementioned giant Totoro. Disturbed that my efficiency plan was ruined, I told myself “Ok, so maybe we can start in that aisle.” So we proceeded to take some photos with Totoro.


After the photos, my mind was locked in. I was ready to continue my quest for efficiency dominance. But god damnit, where did my partner run off to again?!


Around 3pm, we were done. We had a great time, and we were ready to go. And my carefully laid efficiency plan for the maximization of my experience was completely ruined. And I’m so glad it was.


Here’s a few things that I learned from my partner and from this experience:

  1. We got to the giant Totoro early, before the line up. Had I followed my efficiency plan, we would have been stuck in line later in the day.

  2. We saw everything we wanted to see. We were looking for posters and stickers. And my partner specifically targeted that area of the hall. This saved us hours of walking through aisles of things that didn’t interest us.

  3. I usually leave these events completely exhausted. But this time, we were totally content to leave early because we had experienced all the things that we had set out to do. If I had carried out my efficiency plan, it would have been more exhausting and less enjoyable.


Trained In the Arts of Efficiency


I grew up learning to be efficient. That was part of my “training” in my family. But is your efficiency also effective? Here is how I define the two things:

  • Efficiency is a measure of how well you complete your tasks

  • Effectiveness is a measure of how well you achieve your goals


You can be both efficient and effective, if you are efficient at completing tasks that help you achieve your goals. But you can also be efficient and NOT effective, if you are efficient at completing tasks that doesn’t help you achieve your goals.


Being efficient but not being effective happens a lot more than we realize. In my Fan Expo experience, our true goal was to enjoy ourselves and checking out the posters and stickers. But once I got there, my Asian efficiency and perfectionism set in. And my goal of enjoyment was distracted by my need to be efficient.



Fear Makes You Ineffectively Efficient


There’s also a lot to be said about fear. Or in my case, the fear of missing out.


Because of FOMO, I mapped out an efficient route to see everything. Part of the FOMO was related to my immigrant mindset of scarcity, and the need to make the most out of every penny. And if I paid for the entrance ticket of Fan Expo, then I have to make the most out of it by seeing EVERYTHING. Which came at the expense of my true goal – enjoying myself.


So, it is important to truly understand and recognize the fear that you experience. Because it shapes the effectiveness of achieving the life that you want to live.



Reflection Questions:


When dealing with your ineffective Asian efficiency, you can ask yourself a few things:

  1. What is the true goal of this task at hand?

  2. Does my perfectionism help me achieve this true goal? Or does it distract me from the true goal?

  3. Do I even need to engage this task to achieve my true goal? Or is there another task that can help me achieve my true goal even better?


As always, thanks for tuning in. If you found this helpful, share with your peeps. You can also get my free Asian Survival Guide.


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Harry Au

Therapy for Asians

MSW, RSW | he/him



I help Asians go from feeling trapped to becoming self-liberated.

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