I had a conversation with my sister the other day, to ask whether she thinks that Asian guys are, in general, the least desired or demanded group in the western dating scene (US, Europe, Aus). Her hypothesis was that many western-raised Asian girls date white guys not because they are better dates, nicer people or more likely to give them a satisfying marriage later, but because they are subconsciously imagining and hoping to raise beautiful Eurasian babies, which would not be possible with an ethnically Asian partner.

Whether or not this is true (the theory that nice, culturally-western but ethnically-Asian guys tend to finish last) is subject of many academic studies and passionate online discussions from I guess people in that demographic, but it did made me think about being disadvantaged in general.

We are all born with some form of disadvantage. Some are born into a poor or broken home, some are born with genetic imperfections causing lifelong disabilities or bodily quirks, and some are born into a community or culture that they don't fit in. For those who are ambitious in life but struggling to reach their goal due to their handicap, how much can we blame it? Have we truly done all that is within our power and still not gotten what we wanted?

In many instances, the answer would actually be yes. You have studied hard, made sacrifices and/or put yourself out there, but end up being side-stepped for your dream job or rejected by the person you like for reasons related to your disadvantage. So knowing this up front, is there still anything can you do or do differently when trying to achieve future goals? Well here's a few I came up with.

First of all, remove some criterions to your definition of success.

In terms of dating, if you think being an Asian-Australian guy is the only reason Asian-Australian girls don't consider you a serious potential, then consider dating other ethnicities for a change. I mean if your goal is to simply not be single any more, why must you limit your dating pond? If you yourself are skin-colour conscious and only want to date ethnically Asian girls, you're no better than those girls who ignore you since you have denied a majority of potentials from accessing you at all.

Often it's this form of lazy stubbornness that stops us from real opportunities. We restrict options using an exhaustive set of requirements for what we want in a job, a girlfriend, a house, and ignore all other sub-optimal options that we could actually obtain if we relaxed just a couple of those criterions.

Secondly, don't compare

The global movements to retroactively compensate the mistreatment for certain minorities (African Americans, Indigenous Australians, Women, LGBTI, people with physical impairments) inadvertently caused even more injustice for other minorities that have in their own ways been mistreated without publicity. This is because the mistreatment in those cases are not as serious or dramatic a narrative as slavery, ethnic cleansing, prosecution or institutionalisation (people won't make Hollywood movies about it), but you can prejudice it in the small daily things, the unspoken rules, the historically-embedded, media-enforced preconceptions that is reflected in the body language, reading between the lines and in the small decisions made by people. General apathy is another artefact of minority-centric social adjustments; people with 'other' disadvantages are just assumed to be able to take care of themselves and require no special attention or treatment.

The very word 'minority' is a double-edged sword because it implies that size matters. The reality is that what makes us who we are is not just our gender or skin colour or sexual orientation or extrovertedness; it is all of the above and more. Statistically, even if you hold the most common value for each trait, the number of people who would share exactly those traits as you is likely to be very, very small. Even a middle-class heterosexual caucasian christian male living in America would be considered a minority since less than 1% of Americans, and probably less than 0.01% have exactly those traits. So in that way, our uniqueness puts us all in minorities.

My point is, don't compare how much better off other minorities would be in your situation. There will always be people who will fare better or have an easier time due to the circumstances of their birth, but there will also be people who will fare worse. We live in a world of inequality, relativity and general unfairness, and the balancing act will go on forever, always leaving someone at a disadvantage. You can still try to achieve something, and it may be harder for you, but just because it's harder doesn't mean you stop right?

Perhaps a better mentality is this: rather than abandoning your goal because of your disadvantage, try to achieve your goal despite your disadvantage. And don't think about how much easier goal attainment would be if you didn't have your disadvantage. Instead, use it as a motivator to continue striving.

Third, don't play the pity card

There is a trend in media to use sappy personal stories to drive public support/sympathy for a previously overlooked social issue, a minority that were already disadvantaged but, with new government proposed policies, would be at an even larger disadvantage. At times this does work; democratic governments at the end of the day need to appease the voting public, so the more complaints and pity cards thrown at them, the more likely they'll relent on tough policies. However pity cards don't work on the individual level. This is because you can no longer hide in a crowd of voices; when you say or do something, it is directly associated with you.

Let's go back to the dating analogy. You want to be noticed so much by the girl that you have a crush on who doesn't reciprocate your feelings. Then you start educating and making her aware of the double standards, shallowness and/or mistreatment of her cohort towards people like you when it comes to dating, with a distorted idea that by making her feel bad about herself, she might relent and give you a chance. Even if it does work, do you really want your relationship to be founded on sympathy? This is not only an unhealthy way to sustain a relationship, it is also unfair for the other party.

This applies for career advancement too. Do you want to utilise your disadvantage/minority membership to basically blackmail your way to a promotion? Do you think that you can still have a healthy working relationship with your coworkers if they knew how you got the promotion?

If you cannot succeed by being who you are, just suck it up; keep that sympathy card in your pocket, and move on. If you're genuinely a great, capable guy then it's their loss for not giving you a dating chance or the promotion you deserve. But if you're not really welcome to begin with, then getting your way through guilt will only hurt everyone in the longer run.

Finally, remember that not reaching your goal doesn't equal to failure

One of my friends who is now working for a big tech company has told me that getting the job there was always his dream, but it was the friends he made along the way in the coding competitions, the internships and even during some of the interviews that was of greater value.

Life is a journey. If you are too fixated on achieving the goal you may have missed the real satisfaction, which is how you get there. Similarly, if you are too fixated on how your disadvantage inhibits reaching your goal, then all you will remember about your journey is struggle and pain.

Indeed not all of us will succeed and achieve our goals. For example, I am currently trying to retroactively achieve my childhood dream of collecting all the Pokemon Trading Cards I missed out on during High School and Uni due to busyness and lack of money at the time. I know I will probably never get every single card even in the basic collection due to the 7 year disadvantage (some of the rare cards are no longer circulated in any form) as well as being geographically far away from the biggest Pokemon stores (which is in USA), increasing the shipping costs and risks.

However, it isn't owning the cards that brings me enjoyment and satisfaction. It is the process of rediscovering the world of card collectors, communities, specialty stores and also trade secrets. Having epiphanies on how to more efficiently or effectively obtain rare cards, meeting fellow collectors, and joining in discussions about the future of trading cards in general; these small things are what made the collecting process fun and exciting, and so towards the end, when I've collected as many cards as I can, I would have also obtained something better that money can't buy; memories.

I dare say that most of the goals we often complain about are non-essential to our lives. We don't have to date, as being single isn't a terminal illness. We don't have to get a promotion, especially if our current job already gives us financial security and keeps us busy 40 hours a week. We don't have to travel to Europe before 30; old people can travel too. And I certainly don't have o "catch 'em all". A lot of the goals we establish for ourselves are First-World Goals; they are the self-actualisation stage on the pyramid of needs because we no longer really have to worry about food, shelter and security.

And as much as our disadvantages may deprive us of certain opportunities, or force us to tread a path of greater resistance, we should remember that failure is only real if we don't enjoy and appreciate what we do have, and only consider that which we don't. We should rejoice even more that we have the privilege of trying, that we had a choice.

Having the right attitude will give you an advantage greater than any disadvantage you may start with.