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The Rite Of Passage To Adulthood

With Natasha Che

Published on: Jun 8, 2018

After having achieved her goal of going to a great grad school in the US, Natasha Che, founder of Soundwise, finds herself asking the question, “What’s the point of working so hard and getting where your parents or other people in your life expected you to get in life, the so-called success?” Natasha wanted to figure out how she can be happier and how her life can be more purposeful and more useful beyond making her parents proud. After doing all the explorations on the side trying to figure out what she really wanted out of life, she realized she wasn’t living that life that she wanted to live. Looking back, Natasha considers it a blessing that she came to the States by herself with no family and no friends. It was a rite of passage into adulthood to be able to survive by herself in order to figure out who she is and eventually find inner peace. It helped her become a stronger person with purpose and clarity for the future that’s very much needed.

The Rite Of Passage To Adulthood with Natasha Che

In this episode, you will learn about the guest’s struggle with identity growing up, the shame, guilt, and obligation that the guest experienced while trying to figure out what to do with her life in China, the courage and lessons she learned to become an adult. Our guest is Natasha Che. Natasha is the founder of Soundwise, the world’s first audio publishing platform that gives podcasters detailed knowledge about their subscribers and the ability to reach to a subscriber in multiple ways. Besides being an entrepreneur, Natasha is also a personal growth teacher, a software engineer, an award winning podcaster, and a contributing writer to Huffington Post and Entrepreneur. She holds a PhD Degree in Economics from Georgetown University. Here she is, Natasha Che. Welcome, Natasha. Please share with us your story, where you are from and at what age you came to America. What was your life like before you moved to America?

Hi, Kimchi. Thank you for having me on the show. I’m really glad to be here today. My name is Natasha Che. I am 36 years old. I came to the U.S. when I was 23 as a graduate student. I was born in Shanghai in China. My parents still live in China. I went to college in China, and when I was in college, going overseas to study for a graduate degree was a big thing at the time. In college, I studied English Literature, Mathematics, and Economics. I applied for a grad school in the US, and in 2005 I came to Washington D.C. and I became a PhD student at Georgetown University to study Economics. That’s how I came here to the States. It’s been thirteen years. Time flies.

Time flies when you have fun, right?

Yes, it’s been just amazing. Sometimes, you look back. Thirteen years ago, I would never have imagined what would happen in my life. It was a totally different vision at the time. When I came here to the States, I remember the airplane landed and I dragged two heavy suitcases out of the airport with me. I remember just walking out of the Dulles Airport in Washington D.C. I was looking at the airport parking lot right in front of me. I was like, “Seriously? This is America? This looks so uninspiring.” That was quite unbelievable. At the time, I thought I’ll just go to school year and in four or five years I’ve finished school and I will go home. I would go back to China. That was the vision at the time. What happened after that was just totally unexpected.

What was your life like before you moved to America? What was it like in China?

I was a very good student. I studied very hard. I took up three degrees in college because there was so much I want to learn. Also, I wanted to develop both sides of my brains. I’m more of a liberal arts person in my heart of hearts so that’s why I did English literature; but at the same time, I wanted to develop my love my math brain as well, both the logical and creative side, so I took up Math and Econ. I was very busy. At the time, my dream in college for four years was to go to US and study for a graduate degree. I didn’t think much about why I wanted it or what will happen after I get that degree, but that was the extent my imagination. Go to the US and get your degree. That’s it.

The vision has changed?

Yes, totally. Culturally, we Asians tend to be very hard working and also very practical. You set goals. You achieve goals. The prestige and the name brand is a big thing. In college, when you’re a student, your parents tell you, “Study hard and go to the best schools.” That’s the purpose of life. Go on become a doctor or a lawyer or someone who has a high salary and sounds good and all that nine yards. The vision changed because after I got here, I was in the grad school, and as a very young person at the time, I thought I’ve already achieved my goal of going to a great grad school in the US. Georgetown is a great school. I was like, “Now, what? What am I going to do with my life now?” It was a period when I didn’t feel motivated to do anything because I didn’t know. What’s the point of working so hard? Getting where your parents or other people in your life expected you to get in life, the so-called success, and then what? It’s not like I wasn’t happier or I wasn’t more fulfilled than before. It really calls me to start thinking about what my life is about and who I am and what I really wanted to do beyond what I was told by social expectations by my parents. That was totally unexpected at the time.

When did you realize that you wanted to do something else different?

When I was in grad school, for a long period time, I felt very depressed. Part of it is because of the reasons I mentioned. I felt my life didn’t have a purpose. I didn’t know what I was doing. I was studying PhD in Macroeconomics. Back then, I didn’t really feel very strongly about what I was studying. I didn’t particularly like it, actually, I realized after I got into grad school. That caused a lot of unhappiness and lacking directions. I was not sure what I wanted to do with my life. While I was in grad school, I started exploring different spiritual traditions and talking to different teachers and gurus because I wanted to figure things out. I wanted to figure out why I’m here and how can I be happier, how can my life be more purposeful and more useful beyond making my parents proud or making them feel happy that they can mention to their friends that, “My daughter is a PhD and from such and such university in the US.”

I actually studied a lot of thought. I study energy healing. I studied South American shamanism. I studied a lot of meditation and yoga. I traveled to different places to visit different spiritual gurus because I wanted to figure things out for myself. While I was in school for four or five years, I was doing all these explorations on the side trying to figure out what do I really want out of life. The result of it was that I’ve realized I wasn’t living that life that I want to live. I was living a life that other people told me that I should have. That’s what success looked like to other people. That was a very important period of my life. I don’t think I could have done it if I had been back in China and surrounded by my family and by my old friends. It was just not the type of environment that will encourage this self-exploration.


Rite Of Passage: You have to learn to survive by yourself in order to figure out who you are. Basically, that’s the internal peace.

Actually looking back, it was a blessing that I came to the States by myself with no family, no friends, no anybody. It’s like a rite of passage thing. It’s a rite of passage into adulthood to be able to do that. In some of the Native American traditions, for young adults, there’s this ritual that you have to go into the wilderness by yourself with nobody supporting you. You have to learn to survive there by yourself in order to figure out who you are. Basically, that’s the internal peace. After that ritual, the idea is that rite of passage ritual into adulthood it will help you to become a stronger person and to become a person of purpose and clarity in the future and that’s very much needed. Looking back, that was exactly what I did by coming to the States by myself.

Have you decided to stay here for the rest of your life or do you plan to go back to China in the near future?

People actually ask me this question a lot, especially since my parents are in China and they don’t see themselves moving to the States any time soon, maybe in forever, because they like China. Obviously, I’m the only child. For people who don’t know, there used to be the single child policy in China to control population growth. You can only have one child so I’m the only child. My parents are getting older. They’re in their 70s. While I’m here, it’s such a long distance. I don’t get to see them. Now, they are relatively healthy; but in the future or in a few years, I don’t know how I’m going to deal with this or resolve this. Sometimes, I feel guilty as a daughter because my mother will tell on the phone that her friends’ kids are there doing such and such and they are all in China so their parents can see them and surrounded by their kids. While my parents, they don’t get to see me. While I’m here living my own life and I feel this is the life that I’m supposed to live as a startup founder. I’m an entrepreneur and I’m starting my own business. I feel I’m living the life I’m supposed to live; but at the same time, I do feel guilty that my parents are getting older and who are going to take care of them. Am I supposed to go back to China? They don’t want to come here. That’s the thing. Again, life is not perfect. That’s something I think about often. However, no. I don’t have any plan to go back to live in China anytime soon.

Are you a citizen here?

No, I’m not a citizen.

As a child the only child in a family, there’s a responsibility and duty.

In Asian culture, there’s a very strong sense of responsibility to the family. It’s nailed into your brain. You’ve got to be responsible.

I trust you will make the right choice because you have studied those spiritual things and when you’re asking your inner self, your inner self will give you the answer that will make you happy and will give you peace.

Exactly, that’s what I do. Any decision I make, the bigger the decision is, the more I go with my gut. The more I go with my heart. I’ve tried other approaches and it doesn’t work. The only approach that works for me is I’ve got to be true to my heart. I’m living in the States and I’m living the life the life that I’m passionate about until my heart tells me otherwise. Until my higher self tells me it’s time to change direction, I’m going to keep going.

In life, we have so many challenges and sometimes we don’t have a choice. We just have to do the best we could at that time with the information we have. 

I believe we are all doing the best we can in every moment. If you think you made a mistake, it wasn’t a mistake because that was the best that you knew at the time. You couldn’t do any better. If you could do any better, you would have. Life is never perfect and there are always going to be challenges. Sometimes, I think we’ve just got to learn to cut ourselves some slack and to remember that you’re already doing your best.

When you came to America, did you have to adjust and adapt to the culture here? Did you have any difficulty adapting?

The interesting thing is I don’t think it was of a cultural thing per se. Obviously, there were some adaptations that I needed to do. My English wasn’t very good. It was very stressful to deal with school and living arrangements and trying to find a place to live and all the logistics. I didn’t feel culture per se was a barrier for me. The good thing about the American culture is it’s not as reserved as Asians. People are relatively open to strangers. I didn’t feel there was a culture barrier. I felt wherever I went, I was welcomed. Most places, I felt I was doing fine. I was mingling with people. It’s not that different from what I would’ve expected. I wouldn’t say culture was a challenge for me at the time. This is just my opinion, I do feel women are more flexible and adaptive to a different cultural environment or a new environment than men in general. On average. I don’t know why. I feel among the people I know, usually the women adapt faster to culture changes and environmental changes than men. Maybe it’s something about women being more empathetic, more intuitive, and more flexible. There’s some gender differences interestingly.

Rite Of Passage: Women are more flexible and adaptive to a different cultural environment or a new environment than men in general.

Look back at your life. Who or what have shaped you to become the person you are today?

Like we talked about, after I came to the States, while I was in grad school, I was also in this self-constructed personal development school for myself. More on the spiritual side, on the inner development side. Since then, more and more so, really what is guiding me is my own inner guidance, my own connection to whatever you call it, God or universe or the source. That is my strongest guide and motivator in life. Whenever I need to make a choice and whenever I feel confused about something, I ask for guidance from my higher self. What do I need to know? How can I help myself to resolve this situation? What do I need right now?

Those are the questions I ask my higher self very often. Actually, on a daily basis. I have a daily routine or ritual that starts with every morning after I wake up, I go out for a walk. Half of the time, I give gratitude to everything in my life because I believe what you focus on, you create more of. That is a very deliberate practice that I aim to do every day is almost the first thing in the morning, I acknowledge and appreciate whatever is happening in my life and people in my life. I will then ask my higher self, “What do I need to know today? What is the vision for today?” That has worked really well for me in terms of helping me to live a more purposeful and deliberate and productive life.

In terms of other inspirations and guidance, I would say when I was younger, my father was definitely a big motivating factor in my life. My father was a very Type A person. Very driven, very productive, and smart. That was what he wanted me to be as well. Hence, I was very driven, very efficient, and very goal-oriented in getting things done and getting what I want out of life and that has served me well to a certain extent. I believe that it was a blessing to have the father that that I have. Although there are so many other things I needed to learn, I believe that my parents did their best to send me on the right path for a successful life.

Your father was your role model growing up?

He was definitely my role model. Like many Asian parents, he had very high expectations of me. I’m sure you can relate and I’m sure maybe 60-70% percent of your listeners can relate, too. I remember when I was maybe six or seven, my family went on a vacation and we went to this place. There’s this Buddhist temple. We went in this temple. It’s a very famous tourist place. There is this huge camellia tree in the temple. The camellia tree has 5,000 flowers because it’s huge and it’s been around for 500 years. In the spring and summer season, the whole tree blooms blossoms and it’s covered by beautiful flowers. We went there and we saw that really impressive tree. Guess what my dad said? My dad never missed a moment to give you a lesson, so we were standing there and my dad told me, “There are two kinds of people in the world.” I was like, “Here he goes again.” My dad said, “One kind of people is like this camellia tree. They have 5,000 flowers blooming, they’re magnificent, they’re great, they aim to accomplish so much in life, and they’re such a great impact on the world and such a great service to people and to the world around them. That’s one type people. There’s another type of person who is like the grass on the roadside. What kind of person do you want to be?” Imagine, I was six or seven years old. I felt so bad. I felt so pressured. I was like, “Do I have to make this choice right now?” I started crying because I felt it was just too much pressure for me.

As you can see, these motivational speeches are double-edged swords. You can get motivated, but it can also crush you. My point is, overall, my parents are a great motivating and disciplinary factor in my life early on and I really thank them for that. Later on, what I needed to learn was that there are way more types of people than just two types. It’s not an either, or choice. Also, what I needed to learn is self-love and self-acceptance. What I needed to learn is achievements are not the be-all and end-all. Achievements are not equal to fulfillment. It’s not equal to happiness. Those are things that Asian culture don’t usually tend to emphasize. You can be very successful on the outside but still unhappy. At some point, you accomplish some goals in life and I realize, “Is that all there is?” If you don’t focus on cultivating your inner strength and your inner purpose, if you don’t focus on cultivating who you really are, you can accomplish a lot but still feel unhappy. Everybody else can see you as the camellia tree with 5,000 flowers, inside you can still feel like shit.

What about your mom? Did she have any influence on you at all when you’ve grown up?

Yes, definitely. My mother is a very kind woman and she’s also a very traditional woman. Her value system is all centered around family and responsibility and very strong gender roles.

Tell me more about the gender role that you talk about.

She had a very strong idea about what success means for a woman as opposed to a guy. We all have those. It’s very strong in Asian culture. My mother always told me since I was maybe five that as a woman, your success means you need to grow up and find a good husband and have children. My father didn’t buy that at all. My father, as I mentioned, he’s very driven. He’s all about achievement and success. His idea was success means you achieve a lot, you have a great impact in the world, you have a great career or that. I was always getting these conflicting messages. Who do I really need to be? Do I need to be this high achiever or do I need to be the wife and mom in order to be successful? It was always a conflicting message. I didn’t realize it was always so conflicting until later on when I started my own personal growth journey.

My mother always had this this idea: yes, you can you can do great in your career and you can have a great impact in life; but if you don’t have a husband and children, that’s not success for you as a woman. It’s something that I definitely had to grow out of. I had to ask myself over a long period of time, starting in my early twenties, “What is really the truth for me. What is really the truth for Natasha Che?” Because these voices from your parents, they’re in you since an impressionable young age. They’re always in there in the subconscious. It takes a lot of deliberate intention and exploration and complete honesty with yourself to figure out what is an authentic successful life to you to separate your own truth from the truth that that is your mom’s and your dad’s and everybody else’s. That definitely takes some time.

Actually, I had this great conversation with my mom over the phone. I was telling her about my company Soundwise and about what I’m doing because I’m very busy as a startup founder. I barely have time to date. I’m single by the way. My mom, at the time we were on the phone, just came back from my cousin’s wedding. They were all in China. We were talking about families and careers so she asked me, “What’s your plan for your personal life? You’re 36 right now.” For some reason at that moment, I realized I need to be honest with my mother even if it’s not something that she wants to hear. I need to stand up for my own personal truth because we had never discussed these things that I was going to tell her at the time. I told her, “Mom, I’m really focused on my company right now and I just never felt like having children. I don’t feel that’s something that I’m interested in. Whether I’ll be interested in it in the future, I don’t know. Right now, that’s not something that I’m into. I hate to disappoint you. I know you want grandchildren.” Every Asian I’ve heard, they want grandchildren; but I told her, “That’s just not me right now.”

I was really expecting a negative response from her but she actually really took it in and she said, “That’s actually really okay as long as you’re happy. As long as you are living the life that you want to live, I’m okay with that. I just want you to be happy.” I was very touched. I felt very loved in that conversation. I realized it was a good thing that I told her my truth, because before, I was nervous to tell her what I really think about my personal life. I knew she expected something else. However, it was a good thing that I tell her the truth, because ultimately, all parents want their children to be happy. If you don’t communicate the truth, you miss the genuine human connection that you can have with some of the most important people in your life. No matter how the cultural background is like, no matter what people’s ideology or view is like, at the end of the day, parents want their children to be happy; so got to you’ve got to communicate the truth especially with people who are who are supposedly your loved ones.

Thank you for sharing that. It’s must be hard but I think it’s important to just have your voice and tell people your truth even though it might hurt them at the beginning; but once they understand you, they understand your needs, they understand who you are, or what you believe in, they will be happy for you. 

When you give people what is really your truth from your heart of hearts, you also give people an opportunity to grow as well because you give them an opportunity to actually step outside of what they view as right or wrong, to really step up and see things from a broader perspective, to really inspire the love in them, and to open up and become a more compassionate human being. I feel when you share your truth, you give people that opportunity to grow as humans as well.

What does the word “power” mean to you, Natasha?

Actually, I’ve been thinking about those a lot as an Asian woman. Obviously, culturally, there are certain expectations of you how you should behave. To me, that’s something that are really hard to grow out of. Again, to grow out of what I thought was expected of me and grow into my own personal power. I believe you are in a powerful position when your inner truth aligns with your action. When you have that 120% of conviction in what you are doing, I believe that’s where personal power comes from. It’s from that alignment of truth.

What will you not compromise or tolerate in life in any area?

Again, what I’m really big on is personal freedom and internal freedom. If you want to live a happy life, you need to know that you have choices. No matter in what circumstances, there needs to be a sense of internal freedom. What I would sometimes see that really makes me angry in people is that they give up their choices. People feel victimized by their circumstances, people feel what they want are not happening because they don’t have enough resources, enough support, this and that, and they don’t have something enough. That is just not true. I feel whenever you put yourself in that a situation where you have to blame yourself or other people for things not happening the way you want them to be, you are putting yourself in a very disempowered position. Whenever I see that in people, that just pisses me off. That makes me angry because I truly want everyone to feel empowered to feel they have a choice no matter in what circumstance.

Rite Of Passage: If you want to live a happy life, you need to know that you have choices.

What things have you done that you are proud of?

What I’m doing right now. I’m a tech entrepreneur. I run a company called Soundwise. It’s an innovative audio publishing platform for podcasters and also for experts and coaches who have knowledge to teach that they can package their materials into audio courses for sale. This project grew out of my experience and my desire as a podcaster to connect with my audience. A couple of years ago when I started my first podcast, my frustration was I couldn’t connect with my listeners. I don’t know where they are. I don’t know who they are. That was a big frustration for me. This idea of Soundwise then came up which is what if podcasting can be just like social media? What if podcasting can be a place where you can reach your audience and your audience can reach back to you?

I was very excited about this idea. I remember, because I also am a software engineer so I did a bunch of white boards and mockups and I presented that idea at a local meetup for podcasters. Everybody was really excited about this. That really gave me the feel and confidence to realize this is something that people actually needed, other than myself. I’ve been doing Soundwise for the past year. We are out of beta. If you’re a podcaster, you can submit your RSS feed to Soundwise and get your podcast listed and all the audience who will subscribe to your podcast, you would get your audience’s email address and you can reach out to people by email and text messages. I think that’s super cool. That’s something that I’m very proud of and I’m very passionate about at this point in my life.

I will definitely see your demonstration on how Soundwise works, and maybe in the future, I will be your client. 

You should get Asian Women of Power on Soundwise.

Yes, we’ll check it out. Thank you. What makes you feel at peace?

I think it’s when I feel I have given something all I’ve got. That’s what make me feel at peace. No matter whether it’s a project, whether it’s relationship, whether it’s something creative, when I know that I have given that thing 120%, all my resources, all my knowledge, all my energy, to get it to be what it wanted to be, that’s when I feel peace. No matter what the outcome is. What really gets me is when I’m doing something and it’s working, but if I had given it more, it could have been better. That’s the thought that really bothers me. I’m most at peace when I feel I’ve tried my best.

What makes you feel happy?

I feel true happiness is not something that’s triggered by external environment or external events. Maybe you win the Academy Award or you become the President of the United States, you get happy for one day and it wears off. I believe for me, the real happiness is a state that I try to maintain. The state happens when I’m doing my best and when I feel appreciative and accepting of the current situation no matter where I am. Life is not perfect, there’s always things you can improve; but I believe the happiness, 50% of it comes from having that gratitude and appreciation and love for what you have right now.

For me personally, do I want my business to go to the next step? Of course. Do I want to be healthier? Do I want to exercise more and be stronger? Do I want to have better relationships? Yes, of course. I want all those things. At the same time, every moment of my life I realize I’ve already got so much. I already have such a rich and fulfilling life. That is worth celebrating at every moment. I feel once you have that, once you realize no matter where you are, there’s something to be grateful for and that’s where true happiness comes from.

What are your top three goals right now in life?

I have this practice when every day, I have a vision for the day and I have the vision for the next month and next week. For me, my top goal is to get Soundwise to the next stage to serve more audio creators and podcasters with the product that Soundwise provides. I’m also in the process of creating audio courses. My immediate goal is to create my next audio course called Power Mornings. It’s where I will guide people through a series of exercises to help you be at least 10-20% percent more productive during the day. Goal number two is to get that out of the door and hope to get it done. The third goal I would say is to build my tribe and to connect with people who are into personal growth and into spirituality and want to create more fulfilling life for themselves from a point of inner mastery. That is also what I’m doing through my podcast or through my writing and my goal is also to grow that tribe more and to connect with more people in my tribe. That will be my top three goals.

What is next for you?

What is next is I’m going to get a cup of coffee. I tell people, if you feel overwhelmed or if you feel there’s so much to do, because when you have so much to do, ironically, the instinctual response for most people is I don’t feel I don’t feel like doing anything, I tell people that the best way out of it is to think of a really immediate thing, your next step that you need to do even if it’s a very small thing like getting a cup of coffee or taking a nap or write an email, whatever the next thing is. One thing at a time.

At your age, and you have grown so much already through your personal journey, what are your top three advice for Asian women?

First, be true to yourself. Personally, I need to grow out of a lot of culturally-infused beliefs about who I am and what I want for my like. I would say be true to yourself. That’s number one. Number two, never stop growing. I believe people are happiest when they’re growing, when they’re making progress, when they’re improving, and when things are moving. You can create different opportunities for yourself to grow as a person on different levels, on the physical level, on a mental level, and on an emotional level. I believe that that’s the most important thing in life. The third advice I would give to Asian women is to trust your own intuition and trust your own judgment more than anybody else’s. Sometimes, that’s for a woman in general, not necessarily Asian women, is like we tend to defer more to authorities and to experts who presumably know better. I would say the person who knows the most about your life is you. My three advices would be try to be true to yourself, try to always grow as a person, and try to really listen to your own intuition rather than other people’s opinions.

That’s very wise advice. If our listeners want to learn more about what you do, where do they go? 

If they want to start a podcast or an audio course, they can go to MySoundwise.com. Also, I have a tribe of people that I connect with through my personal growth work. For that, I have a lot of writings and also podcasts about developing yourself, developing your own inner mastery, and making things happen in your outer reality from a place of inner mastery. I have a lot of content about that on NatashaChe.com that people can check out.

Go to Natasha Che to learn more about her journey and to get some tips from her. Also, go to MySoundwise.com to get some more information if you want to start your own podcast. Thank you for being here, Natasha. It’s a wonderful interview and I enjoyed this experience with you.

Thank you so much for having me. I’m really happy to be here. My vision that I mentioned to you at the beginning when you asked me what’s my vision for this for this experience, that has been accomplished wonderfully for me.

Yes, me too. Thank you. Did you enjoy this episode? What did you learn about yourself? Are you clear about your identity and your purpose in life? What will your life look like when you own your power, when you have freedom in making choices, and be at peace with your choices? If you don’t see how to get there from where you are now, contact me at RippleImpactCoaching.com. I’d like to hear from you. Until next time, live life loud.

Links Mentioned:

Episode Quotes

"If you don’t focus on cultivating your inner strength and your inner purpose, you can accomplish a lot but still feel unhappy"

"No matter where you are, there’s something to be grateful for and that’s where true happiness comes from."

"No matter where you are, there’s something to be grateful for and that’s where true happiness comes from."

About Natasha Che

Natasha Che is the founder of Soundwise, the world’s first audio publishing platform that gives podcasters detailed knowledge about their subscribers and the ability to reach out to subscribers in multiple ways. On Soundwise not only can podcasters connect with listeners by email and text messages, they can also track the actual listenings of their content and easily sell and deliver paid audio courses and programs. Soundwise makes it easy for audio creators to capture and retain their audience, as well as converting listeners into paying customers.
Besides being an entrepreneur, Natasha is also a personal growth teacher, a software engineer, an award-winning podcaster, and a contributing writer to Huffington Post and Entrepreneur. She holds a PhD degree in Economics from Georgetown University.


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