Rubenfeld: The world centre of innovation and high-tech breakthroughs is Silicon Valley. It’s dominated by members of Triple Package groups and it’s almost awkward to talk about it. First, over half of Silicon Valley startups were founded or co-founded by immigrants, and then if you add to those the numbers that were founded or co-founded by American Jews, you’re talking about something, like, you know, three-quarters or more of Silicon Valley startups. So I don’t think it’s true that the Triple Package values just kind of condemn people to sort of routine but high-salary jobs. In fact, as we try to say in the book, it is a fundamental piece of innovation that you have to have these qualities too because creativity doesn’t just come from walking on the beach. You have to have perseverance, you have to be able to take a lot of crap and adversity. You have to be like Jeff Bezos, reinvesting five years’ of profits in Amazon, not taking a penny for himself or his investors.
I wanted to know more about the role of gender, which becomes a little more complicated. Do women, generally speaking, feel more insecure in a more traditional culture?
Chua: Actually, I’ve talked to a lot of students about that. I even talked to [Facebook executive and author] Sheryl Sandberg about this because we were thinking maybe there’s a Lean In angle. To be totally honest, we have not explored this solid research but it’s something I’m really interested in and if I could just get past all this, what I consider a really terrible controversy.
Rubenfeld: It is a missing part of the study. In some of the groups that we look at, let’s say Mormons, women are placed under expectations of doing less in the, let’s say, business world than the men are. Some of the Mormon success story is a highly gendered story in which the men are going out and becoming corporate leaders and the women, to some extent, are encouraged to be homemakers.
But I gather you don’t want this book to be interpreted as how-to?
Chua: I feel like the book is going to be misunderstood no matter what because it’s a very complex genre. It’s definitely not meant to be a how-to book, like a big celebration of the Triple Package. The original goal of the book was actually to present a new way of thinking about this form of success, that is really kind of warts and everything. I mean, if you notice the three terms we chose, we purposefully chose quite negative terms. We could have called it “Confidence, Grit and Willpower” but we purposefully chose “Insecurity and Superiority Complex” because I think we’re actually, truthfully, quite ambivalent about these things.
Will there be a sequel?
Rubenfeld: Give us a little time to see if we survive this one and we can start thinking about it.
This interview has been condensed and edited.