Category Archives: Fear and Success

Lessons from the Land of The Rising Sun

I just came back from a 5 days 4 night trip to Japan.Lessons learnt from the land of the rising sun

It was quite a stretch for me.

Some may ask: “Why?”

I was there alone.

“What’s the big deal?”

Its not the first time that I was overseas alone. In fact, I have traveled to 20 over cities over the past 6.5 years, and most of the time I traveled for work alone.

“Ok, what’s the difference?”

When I traveled for work, I book the tickets, buy the local currency, find out how to get to the hotel and how to get to work from the hotel. After that all I need to do is to fly on first or business class (perks for working in an airline!) and turn up! Generally, the schedule is quite fixed: I have breakfast, work, have lunch, work, grab dinner, and go back to the hotel. If there are sights to see on the way back to the hotel, that is a bonus.

As for leisure trips, I had often traveled together with my aunt or friends, and I had largely left the planning to them. I just tagged along.

For this trip, I felt stretched. It is because its the first time when I had to plan for my own holiday, booking the tickets, planning the itinerary, book the hotel rooms, buy Japanese yen and do everything else!

On the 20th of July 2013, I took a flight on Singapore Airlines at 2130hrs. I arrived in Tokyo on the 21st of July 2013, 0630 hrs. I checked into Hyatt Regency Hotel at 0700. Correction……. I tried to check into the hotel at 0700. I was told at the check in counter that I could only check in at 1400 hrs! There were no rooms available. I had forgotten about the check in timing when I planned my itinerary!

What am I to do from 0700 to 1400 hrs?

What do you do when things don’t go according to plan?

I checked my itinerary and decided to move forward a schedule which I had set for the following day. I decided to visit Tsukiji Fish Market and Ginza! As it was Sunday, quite a number of stalls have closed for business, however it did not take the experience away, the seafood stalls and their ensemble of sea food was colorful and delightful. After exploring the market for an hour, I heard a “Growwwl”, oops it was my tummy growling in hunger!  As tradition dictates, at the end of the tour of Tsukiji Fish Market, Sushi breakfast beckons. I looked around the market area before having my sights set on a restaurant, which had quite a crowd and even a queue at 8 am!. After a couple of minutes of waiting, my turn came, I ordered beer, and a tuna set. As I put the sushi into my mouth, I felt the fats of the tuna melt in my mouth, mashed with a tinge of saltiness from the soya sauce. Paired with beer, it was an absolutely divine experience. I told myself:”Even if I were to fly back to Singapore right now, I would have no regrets.” What a magnificent way to start the day! Feeling refreshed and energized, I set off for Ginza!

The lesson I learnt from this episode is this: Always plan and take in as much details you can because as they say “Fail to plan, plan to fail”. But be flexible, don’t give into panic when things don’t go according to plan, be ready to make changes. That’s basically the philosophy I adhered to for the rest of the trip and I had lots of of surprise finds!

The second lesson I learnt is one on money. My friends, I am a saver, my heart bleeds everytime I spend money. For this particular trip, I decided to enjoy and not worry about money. This is what I did: I set a budget. Not only that, I set a budget that was comfortable, one that didn’t require me to look at the wallet everytime I spend. Most importantly of all, I stick to the budget.

What a revelation that was: I did what tourist did, bought souvenirs, took cable cars, ferries and trains, and most importantly I ate in the best restaurants! I looked less at the money spent, but celebrated the experiences, the services, the food that I got!

The lesson I learnt is to have a reasonable budget, and stick to it. It does not just apply to travel but to my daily life as well. I have learnt to set a budget for not only my expenses but for my income as well. This helps to reach my financial goals.

I came back last Friday, fully refreshed, fully stretched and fully enriched with the experiences and lessons that I have gained during these 5 days. Once again the lessons are: Plan but be flexible, Have a budget and stick to it. My friends, what do you learn during your travels? Do share in the comments section.


Your fellow human being:)


Fear of Failure

Have you ever experienced heartaches whenever your efforts do not reap the fruits you desire?  Fear of Failure

Have these heartaches caused you to develop a fear that your hard work will go down to waste?

Have the fear of failure stopped you from starting or continuing the things you wanted to do?

Last Friday, I had a restaurant toastmaster chapter meeting, after the meeting I had an opportunity to chat with a club member which I haven’t bonded for a long time. We spoke on relationship, and he asked: “Shaun do you want to listen to my love story?” I said: “Of course” and as he finished his story, it reminded of me of my life…

Every once in a while I will beat myself up, especially when things don’t seem to work my way. I don’t mean beating myself physically. (I am a vain person after all).

I bashed myself up mentally: “Maybe I am not worthy. What’s the point on working so hard, I will either fail or if I succeed, I will not receive any recognition”

I will go all emotional, and feel down for a day or 2. During these periods, my girlfriend will be heart broken as she sees only a shadow of what I used to be, she will try to counsel me. “Don’t beat yourself up please, you are a wonderful person. Things will work out…..”

I wanted the attention of my girlfriend, at the same time I wanted shut myself in. “You are just consoling me. You know I am lousy.”

It will take some time but after I work off the emotions, I will slowly get back on the track of recovery. While I will recover, scars have been left in my psychic: “Maybe I am not worthy of success. Why try when I will fail?” The fear of failure will be planted in my mind, which in turn lead me to fear hard work.

How has this got to do my friend’s love story? Let me share with that with you.

“Shaun, I first met Pamela who was a fellow volunteer, in an event, we didn’t really talk but she left an impression. The following week, my colleagues decided to drive out for lunch instead of eating at the in-house canteen. I saw her! I approached her and we chatted briefly, and we exchanged contacts. Soon after we met up for lunch, and the rest is history.”

I asked him: Why did you approach her?

My friend replied: It felt right. I was looking for my other half. She turned up! I wanted to see where this would take us. As I looked back, its amazing how things worked out:  How she turned up for the event where we first met, how I happened to be working at my previous company at that point, how my friend decided to drive out that very day?”

I said: “Wow, how things got stringed together, to be so precise. At the same time, it was also critical that you recognized that the moment was right and acted accordingly.”

What I learnt from this sharing by my friend:

Keep a goal in mind, work hard at it, if things don’t turn out the way as expected, and the heartache sets in. Its absolutely normal to feel the fear of this pain of heartache and the fear of failure.

What if the failure, is not a failure? What if the experience is there to teach a lesson? What if the experience is there to help shape the success into the way its meant to be. What if the experience(s) is a built up to the moment, the key moment, which is to be seized and grabbed. The moment that will lead to success.

I pledge that instead of beating myself up when things don’t turn out well, I will ask myself: “What is the lesson?” and persevere in doing what I do, while incorporating the lesson learnt. While looking to pounce on the all important window of opportunity for success.

What about you? What would you do when things don’t turn out the way you expected?

To a successful life!


Your fellow human being:)







Fear of being Stretched

Are you in a race for success? fear of being stretched

In the race for success, have you had moments where you felt stretched and feel as if you can’t sustain the pace, and feel like giving up.

For me this one week feels like a stretch, career wise I kick started a key project, relationship wise I am heading for a critical juncture, in my toastmasters journey, I am about to take part in the highest level of contest I have been ever been to, blog-wise “Live! With Fear” is getting good reception, and I wonder if I can continue to generate such good articles, fitness wise I have maintained it well, but I need to attempt and pass my physical fitness test by Tuesday, 7 May 2013.

I am afraid.

I am afraid that I cannot hold my ground in the “all out assault” on all aspects of my life.

I am afraid that I cannot hold myself to high standards.

Have that ever happened to you? What did you do?

Recently, my girlfriend asked me: “Shaun, what if this sweet and loving feeling we have right now is just a phase? What if this phase passes.?”

I thought for a while, and I answered:……….

Before I share with you the answer, allow me to share with you another story.

Yesterday, I took the Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT). IPPT is the recurring nightmare that plagues all able bodied Singaporean men that will only end once they hit 40 years old. Why do I say that? As long as you are an able bodied Singaporean, and is part of Singapore Armed Forces, in active or reserve capacity, you have to pass this fitness test every year.

Sounds simple right? All you need to maintain your fitness and take the test, and pass it right? Not if you include overtime at work, family time, dating with girlfriend, gathering with friends, toastmasters engagement, and blog writing even! Where do you have time for fitness training?

To overcome this problem, I developed a theory if I exercise at least 15 minutes a day in the morning everyday, it will work. Afterall, that will work out to 1.5 hours of exercise each week! Since February 2011, I have been switching between static exercise (push ups, sits ups, squats, pull ups) and 2.4 km run on each alternate day.

Still my passing record in the past 2 years have been dismal, and the culprit is always standing board jump (SBJ). This how it works, the jumper stands at a line marked on the ground with the feet slightly apart. The jumper takes off and lands using both feet, swinging the arms and bending the knees to provide forward drive.

Yesterday, I had the “fortune” of attempting SBJ as my first station. I told myself: “Sigh if I fail this station, I will fail all the test but I will still have to complete the full series of test” I took a deep breath, I told myself to relax, and remember the training that I have undergone. I bent my knees to 90 degrees, swung my arms, and as my hands reached the end of the swing, I lifted my legs up to the knees, I was in the air, and it felt good!

I looked at the score: 2.12 m. I have passed!!!

This has provided me much motivation, I breezed through the rest of the static stations: 8 pull ups, 38 sit ups and completing the shuttle run at 10.3 second. Top scores, all of them!

Finally, I have come to the last station, the 2.4 km run. My heart starting beating rapidly, partly due to the earlier exertions, but mainly due to anxiousness. I was thinking: “What if I can’t continue this magnificent form into the run? What if I fail the run?”

At that moment, I remembered the lessons that I learnt from my recent speech contest. If there was ever a moment, for all my efforts to show up the moment is NOW! I remembered the pain of waking up 15 minutes every morning, the pain of working my body through the routines. Don’t get me wrong, I love the exercises, but overcoming the inertia is painful. I asked myself: “Is this pain and discipline showing all for naught? If there is a moment for the pain, effort and discipline to show, the moment is now!!!

My turn to run came, I jogged on the spot, when the test conductor went “GO!”, I ran.

As I ran, I told myself: “Run at your own pace, you can do it!”

First 3 rounds was quite a breeze, i completed them under 6 minutes, passing mark is 13 minutes, I am making good progress.

By the fourth round, the legs started feeling heavy, the 4 pm sun is starting to make its presence felt, my heart was pounding hard against the chest, breathing started getting painful, my panting starts getting heavier. With great difficulty, I cleared the fourth run.

At this point, I saw people walking, and chatting as they make their way out of the camp, it felt like a great place to be. I wanted to slow down. I caught myself: “You are almost there, 2 more rounds to go!”

I started looking in front, I looked for someone to pace, my goal became to maintain my distance from the designated runner. I focused on each step that I made, I focused on the fact that every step I make gets me closer to the goal.

As they say, the final leg of the race is hardest, as I reached the last 200 meters, every cell of my body screamed for me to STOP! I had to ignore it, I did it by roaring louder than my body! “ARRRGGGHHHHH!!!” I roared as dashed through the finishing line. 12 min, 7 Sec, silver standard!

The lesson i learnt from this run is this, in life we are going to encounter challenges, the only way to deal with them, is to apply ourselves diligently, focus on doing one thing at a time, and to have faith in the efforts that we have put in.

Back to the question that my girlfriend asked: “Shaun, what if this sweet and loving feeling we have right now is just a phase? What if this phase passes?”

This is what I told her: “I can’t predict what will happened to us in the future. But what I do know is this: I will continue to do what I do right now, or even better. I will do it even though I may feel, moody, tired or busy with work. I believe a relationship is like physical fitness, it got to be maintained by training in a discipline manner. If I spend quality time with you now, I will continue to spend quality time with you in the future. If I listen to you now, I will continue to listen to you in the future. If I perform acts of services to you now, I will continue to do that in the future. If I love you now, I will continue to love you. There are many things that will happen which I can’t predict all of them, I can only do one thing at a time.”

My girlfriend smiled and held my hands tighter.

Ladies and gentlemen, many things is happening around us, and we might be handling many tasks. It might feel like a stretch, and you might want to just give up. Which is great! Because to be in the position to be able to handle many tasks means that you are capable, competent and strong person. Just like how I won’t be able to pull off an assault on so many fronts if I was strong to begin with. Just remember that you are strong, have faith in the strength, have faith in the training and discipline that gave you that strength to begin with, and focus on making ONE STEP AT A TIME. As they say, people are like rubber band, if we stretch the rubber band, the rubber band becomes larger, and if we stretch ourselves, the end result is that we grow! Happy stretching!


Your fellow human being:)

Fear and Loss

Have you lost anything in your life before? Fear and Loss

How did you feel?

Did you panic? Did you feel the pain?

Live! With Fear is on the first page of Google!

I was pleasantly surprised as I found my site on page 1 of Google as I search for the term “live with fear”.

I always knew it was difficult to reach there and I didn’t thought that I am able to get ranked less say first page.

Since that day, I was constantly searching Google for my website. I felt a exhilarated when the ranking moved up, I felt sad when the ranking moved down, I felt comforted when the ranking went back up. It was like watching the stock market!

One day I was searching on Google and my website totally disappeared!! from the searches.

I was devastated!!! I searched and I searched but there was still no sign of Live! With Fear.

How would you feel if you gain a windfall only to lose it all?

I feared that I will never get the ranking back again.

As I sulked about the issue, I suddenly asked myself why I set up the website in the first place.

Was it to be vanity project and brag to the whole world that I am on Google?

No! I started on the project to give fear an avenue to be heard. I wanted to be of service to myself and others.

If I can get on Google once, I will be able to get on Google again. How? By focusing on doing the daily efforts, contemplating on the fears that I have surfaced, listen to what it is trying to say. and address its concerns.

Since that day I stopped looking at Live! With Fear’s Google ranking. A couple of days later, a friend of mine who wanted to see what the website is about, said: “Is this the one?” She was pointing to no. 6 of page one of the search results. I am back!!!

Ladies and gentlemen, what can you do when you lose what you have gained either by surprise or through your own devices?

Perhaps we can focus on doing the things that got us there in the first place, perhaps do it even better so that we can reduce the chances of losing it again.

In our quest for success, we can only focus on the daily efforts, have faith in ourselves, in the things we do. Keep track of we are. Adjust our bearings if necessary. Celebrate every little milestones that achieve and continue doing our daily efforts.

Next time if you lose something in your life, perhaps you can tell your yourself:” Since I got it once, I am able to get it again. All I need to do is to focus on the daily efforts.”

Good luck on your journey!


Fear and Being of Service

Being of ServiceDo you have goals?

Are you working on (or at least trying to do something about) your goals?

In our pursuit of your goals, have ever had doubts you about attaining your goals?

The thing is until the day you attain your goals, you will never know if you are able to attain them?

In the meantime, what do you do?

Maybe this incident of mine will shed some light.

It was finally his turn.

Micheal Wee, The title of his speech, “Happiness”, “Happiness”, Micheal Wee. The contest chair called out the name of the name of the contestant

It was 7 March 2013, Tampines Changkat Toastmasters Club held its international speech contest. It was a contest to decide on who can rouse and inspire the audience to act on a noble thought and aspiration.

Micheal Wee, the international speech champion of Singapore and Thailand spoke: “How many of you wants to be happy?”

You can’t help but to give your attention to him. When he speaks, people listen, when he speaks you are moved, when he speaks you want to act.

That’s how great a speaker he is. Such a speaker is so inspiring that he is demoralizing, especially if you are a contesting against him.

I am contesting against him, he was the 5th speaker, and I was the ninth, the final speaker. He certainly set the benchmark, but the thing he wasn’t the only thing I had to worry about. Every other contestant were just as strong, they were either champions of previous year’s contest or had come close. In fact, in the past 4 years of contesting, this is the most keenly contested competition ever.

These are my thoughts: “I should just give up, there is no hope!”, “Maybe my message is not good enough, should I change my speech?”

How would you feel, if odds are stacking against you? How would you feel if you think your competitors are more superior than you?

It took me back to year 2009, I saw my best friend Coen contesting and won the speech contest, he was at his best, he dazzled like a star, I wished I was just like him, I wanted to win the international speech contest.

Since then I focused on delivering one project speech at a time, after each speech I would be provided feedback by the project evaluator, I would take in these feedback and incorporate the feedback into my next speech. When I got the best speaker award at each chapter meeting I would take it as an affirmation that i have done well. Finally in 2010, I finally got first runner up in the international speech contest! After that I got complacent, I continued to deliver speeches, but it felt as though I did it because I wanted to talk, I wanted the limelight. Coen my best friend, said that of me: “Your speech is getting nowhere, its like you took off without the audience (passengers) on board” I did not take the feedback too well. Or rather I did not take the feedback in at all.

But the result showed for the whole of 2011 I got no trophies to show for it, by getting first runner up, I forgot about the gold award, I grew complacent and as my friend said. I went no where.

It was November 2012, during a speech training session conducted by Coen, I came across this phrase “Be of service”. It was a revelation! I found out what is the key to my evolution it was craft and deliver my speech in such a way that will be of service to my audience. I rediscovered the fear of not engaging the audience, better still I have discovered the motivation to let my message shine and benefit the world.

With the intention set, its as if the past 4 year’s worth of efforts become redirected towards being of service. It showed in the number of best speaker ribbon I have won in a row. Not that I am bragging, these ribbons are a tremendous source of affirmation for me in this journey, an affirmation that is on track.

“Shaun Li, Trust in the process, Trust in the process, Shaun Li”

I whispered to myself “Be of service”, and I delivered.

I was in dazed. “Shaun Li!”, I thought my turn was over. “First runner up”

I am placed, and it was no surprise that Micheal won.

The lesson I learnt is this:

In live we often have doubts, but when we think that the goal is bigger than us, it is of service to mankind, even to the world. You can’t help but to accomplish it. Next time when you have doubt think of what your goal means to you and perhaps to the world, perhaps that will propel you past the fears and doubts. Just like how “being of service” worked for me.


your fellow human being





Fear and Success

How many of you want success?

How many you are in pursuit of success?

In your pursuit of success, have you ever asked yourself the following questions?

Can I be successful?

What does it takes to be successful?

When will I ever be successful?

Do you? If you do, great! I have got good news for you. The good news is that we are not alone, many people doubt themselves in their pursuit of success.

The funny thing is that until the day you feel you are successful, you will never know the answer to the following questions.

After all, as Steve Jobs, said in his Stanford commencement speech, you can only connect the dots backwards but not forward.

In the meantime, we continue to work, continuing to work on the good things that will lead us to success. Until the day success comes, what do we do in the mean time? What do we do with the fear? I found the answer in a most unexpected of ways…….

During Valentine’s, I came across this story:

It was summer in 2005, India, Arun fell in love with the love of his life Candy. He doesn’t know why but he knew that the moment she spoke, she was THE ONE. After the game of courtship, they became steady. Everyday was a bliss until, one day Candy said to Arun. “Dear, my company asked me if I wanted to relocate to Singapore. There is job posting there. Do you think I should take it?”

Arun knew it has always been Candy’s dream to work overseas. Deep inside he wanted to scream:” No dear, no I don’t want you to go. Stay! Stay with me!” But the loving and selflessness side took over, he said: “Go dear, go pursue your dreams. I will be not far behind.”

As he kissed her goodbye at the airport, he said hello to job applications. Day after day, he would apply for jobs, but day after day no good news would come. He started having doubts. “What if I am never meant to have a job in Singapore? What if I am never meant to be with Candy?” Only the communications with Candy over Skype, and Whatsapp kept him sane and on track. After a while, he started asking for feedback from friends, or simply anyone on his job search approach, and refined accordingly. Whenever he got some any queries, he took that as positive feedback on his refined approach.

Day after day, he kept on sending the job applications, months after months, he would seek feedback and refine his approach.

He would look at his email every other hour with anticipation to see if there were any replies, only for his heart to sank when there was none.

His heart would thump “Budum, budum” whenever he receives a call, only for it to sink when it was a call from a credit card company sales man.

A year has past….still no job. Doubts continually assailed him. How would you feel if you were him? Dejected, disappointed?

Only the picture of him and Candy, that he has on the table kept him on track. Months, after months, he continued the process of sending application, ask for feedback, refine his approach, celebrate any respond he got, doing it all over again.

Its coming to an end to year 2011. He received a phone call: “Mr Arun. We received your application, we will like to meet you in Singapore.”

He blanked out for a while.

“Mr Arun?: The Hr Officer prodded.

Arun: “Yes, of course I can make it.”  

Finally, an interview!!!! He flew to Singapore went through the interviews. On Jan 12, he reported for work at the new office in Singpore, 2 years after he started applying for a job in Singapore, after 700 applications. SEVEN HUNDRED APPLICATIONS!!!

The lesson I learnt from this story is that: In our quest for success. we experience 2 fears.

 1. Are we worthy of success?

2. Are we doing the right thing?


For the first fear, its one on belief. The questions to ask are:

Do you believe that we are here on earth for a purpose?

Do you think that by fulfilling that purpose we are successful?

If the answers to both questions are yes, then YES we are Worthy!!!

The second fear is a valid one. Lets be realistic if we want to get to east, we will most likely not get there if we travel west.

Questioning the approach is only something we do during the planning stage, and during check points. Just like in a journey, we plan where we want to go, how we want to go, then we move off. To see if we are on track, we need to stop at check points and see where we are versus where we are going to be. If we are on track, great! If not, we have to rework our route. When we are on track, celebrate the fact that we have reached a milestone, rejoice! Even if we are not on track, take heart  as we could be in a much worse situation.

Finally, the one that ties it all up, the most important factor. On any journey, its important to have hope and desire to get to the end point, the end objective. Just as how Arun’s desire to be with Candy pushed him to overcome the self doubts. Hope and desire is the fuel that pushes us through   the obstacles both physical and mental in our quest for success.

My friends, in our quest for success, we often find ourselves assailed by fears and doubts about ourselves and our goals. While fear keeps us on the right track, during the check points it is ultimately hope that keeps us going. Ladies and gentlemen, lets celebrate the progress that we make in our lives and may you be successful.


Your fellow human being:)