Welcome to Life Lessons, a series of interviews with different peronalities about their inspirations, insights, struggles, and challenges in life.
Born in Singapore, Kevin Kwan was a first-hand witness of the culture that would later serve as the inspiration for Crazy Rich Asians, his bestselling debut novel on the outrageously lavish lifestyle of Asia’s wealthiest. Before getting his big break, Kwan worked on many high profile projects. Just last month, he released Rich People Problems, the final installment of his popular trilogy. A film adaptation of Crazy Rich Asians as well as a new small screen story for STXtv is currently in the works.
Can a man/woman really have it all?
Each person has a different definition of “having it all,” and I think it’s actually a flawed way of looking at life. I don’t believe it’s the lesson we’re here to learn, and the people I’ve met who claim to have it all seem to be either incredibly unhappy or incredibly boring.
What gives life meaning?
Love, good friendships, and being able to fully express your creativity in whatever form it takes. And, of course, the perfect plate of fried noodles.
What does integrity mean to you? Can you name a few people who have integrity?
Integrity for me means being steadfast in one’s honesty and morality, and always being an advocate of kindness and decency. My grandfather, Dr Arthur PC Kwan, is a beacon of integrity—he devoted his life to serving the sick. He treated thousands of elderly and less fortunate patients over the decades absolutely free of charge, and never once sought recognition.
What troubles you the most?
Global wealth inequality. I feel that this great imbalance between the rich and everyone else is the root cause of all the issues this world faces. Famine, poverty, ecological disasters, and war are all the result of far too few people controlling the planet’s resources.
At what age did you finally feel comfortable in your own skin?
I think I was 30. Because that’s the year I finally let go of all the illusions about what I thought was supposed to happen in my life, rolled up my sleeves, and start the hard work of creating the life I truly wanted.
Are you hopeful about the future?
Absolutely. Even though we are living a time that seems absolutely surreal, I believe that good will always triumph in the end.
What’s the best/worst decision you have ever made?
The best decision was to write Crazy Rich Asians.
To publish it under my real name.
What’s the best advice you would give your younger self ?
I don’t think any advice would have been useful. First of all, I would have been far too stubborn to listen, but more importantly, I feel that everything in my life so far—all the highs and the lows and the adventures and misadventures— happened for a reason, and led me to the path that I’m still on today. I’d probably just tell my younger self to buy more Apple shares.
What would you want your legacy to be?
That I brought laughter, healing, and joy to some.