Loving Fear

What do you do when fear comes knocking? Loving fear

Some of you might be thinking: “Hey Shaun, didn’t we talk about this earlier? Are you running out of things to write about?

We did talk about it: We question fear, we address its concerns and we leverage on it.

When I started this blog, I saw fear as a “third party”, as something that is not part of me, as something that just happens to come knocking on my door, and since its there I might as well make use of it.

I took a 2 weeks hiatus from writing the blog, while its not excuse, its because I took part in a speech contest 2 weekends ago, and the weekend before I took part in a seminar, “Living in Passion!”  While I had a break through during the speech contest, it was the seminar that changed my mindset towards fear altogether.

Will you like to know what I have learnt about fear?

Before that let me share with you another story, recently my girlfriend texted me: “I am so touched by this video, and you know I am rarely moved. Go watch it. Its on my Facebook wall.”

I did as I was told (who wouldn’t right?). It was a video from the Chinese Talent Show, or “Zhong Guo Taren Xiu”, the play back started out with this introductory video with this girl saying: “The heavens have blessed me with this special hand to play beautiful music.”  The scene then shifted to the auditorium at the TV studio, where she took her place at the piano and started playing. As the girl started playing the piano, I heard her gratitude, her happiness, and all that is expressed in her music, beautiful music from the heart of her soul. The camera shifted slowly to the piano keys, where I got to see the “special hand” in action, it was her fingerless right hand, and it was fluttering like a butterfly among the piano keys.

At that point, I got it, she was grateful for the hand that was given to her and its ability to play music!!!

At the post performance Q&A, one of the judges asked her:”What are your motivations for learning to play music?” The girl replied:”At first, I was moved by the sound that piano makes, so I make myself work hard at it, after a while I learned that the heavens are kind to me, as they blessed me with this special hand that helped me find music and most importantly play music.”

Amazing, isn’t it. Many people will see handicap as a…..handicap, an obstacle that impedes their lives. But this girl she sees it as a blessing, as a means to express her gifts to her as a musician.

My friends, what if everything happened for a reason?

Both the good things and the “bad”.

What if the “bad things” are there to help us express our gifts to world?

Back to what I learnt during the seminar “Living in Passion”, in one of the sharing session by one of the participants, she shared her frustrations she has with her mum, the trainer said: “Acknowledge the frustrations you have over your mum, we are both god and the devil at the same time. Love the devil as much as the God within you.”

At that moment, it all came together:

1) Fear is not just a separate entity from of us, fear is part of us, born within us from the experiences of our lives.

2) When we reject fear, we reject these experiences that happened to us, when we do that we reject a part of us.

3) When we reject a part of us, we don’t love ourselves totally.

Personally I think Fear is good, its to be loved, afterall it serves as a test of my conviction, and if I am paralyzed by fear, its not fears fault, it simply shows that my conviction is not strong enough.

Through this experience, I believe  that there is a lesson and reason to everything that happens to us, and if we reject the things that happened to us, we won’t learn the lesson and we won’t see the reason.

If we miss the lessons and not seeing the reasons why things happened to us, we might just miss the clues that might just help us see what are our gifts to this world. It took a long time for me to acknowledge the fear of abandonment by friends, and when I did that and accepted the experience, I started to see that I actually do have lots of friends and by closing myself out previously, I am pushing them away from my life. I learnt that I was the selfish one, letting my abandonment by Alvin push people away, people who cared.

My friends, what do you do when fear comes knocking? Acknowledge it, (don’t let it come in though go out and meet it), talk to it, and listen to the story which fear has to tell, learn the lesson from the story, and at the end of the sharing, say: “I hear you fear of…….(e.g. abandonment) , thank you for sharing, thanks for the lesson, and I love you, and since you are me, I love me too.”

This is the FB Link to the video.


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 of Futility

Have you ever feared that your efforts will be futile? fear of futility

Have you ever asked yourself: “I am but one person, what can I do?”

Yesterday I was watching “Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter” on video, it was an movie with drama, horror (yeah, I suppose that’s why its called the “Vampire Hunter”), love, and political struggle (liberation of the blacks), war (American Civil War) and history all rolled into one!!! In USA they call this a “mash-up” movie, in Singapore where I live we call this “Rojak”, a traditional fruit and vegetable salad.

I didn’t expect to be inspired by this “bubblegum” work of fiction. I expected it to be something to be enjoyed, spit out and not digested.

That was until I saw this scene, where Abraham (Lincoln) was in jail for saving his friend (A black American), William Johnson from a group of slave traders.

His wife-to-be Mary Todd bailed him out, and Abraham in his moments of doubt asked Mary:

“What if something was going on, something terrible. and you knew that there is no way on earth one man will be able to stop it, what do you do?”

Mary replied: “I wouldn’t back away from what’s right just because its hard, my father used to say plant your feet and stand firm, the only question is where to put your feet?”

That answer started Abraham on his political career, his quest to free the black from slavery, his term as one the greatest presidents of USA (At least according to the movie).

He started something that united the nation, impacted millions and millions of blacks across the generations and laid the foundation for USA to become the great country that it would become. It all started from one intention, one thought, one man.

Abraham probably was filled with doubts if his efforts were going to be futile, but once he knew where to plant his feet (his wish for a unified country and the liberation of the slaves), that reason  became greater than himself, greater than his doubts.

The statement by Mary left quite an impression on me, and reminded me of an incident that happened about 3 years ago. I was a part time trainer on public speaking then, being rather fresh, one of my fears are what: “What if no one likes my class? What if no one likes me?” I shared my thoughts with one of my senior trainers, and this is what he said. “Shaun, you are too focused on yourself. You focus on what the students think about “your” class, and what the students think about “you”. However in training, its not about you, you are just a medium, a conduit for the message, the information to get across to the students, the participants.

It was February 2010 I was called upon to train one of the most challenging classes I had ever had, i was training a class of high school students, some were playing basketball in the class, some were walking around in the class, some were chatting in class. It took a lot from me to exert control and bring the class to order, at the end of the class, I was spent. The worst thing was this: I felt like a failure as I failed to bring the message across.

At the end of the 2 and a half hour class, I asked the class monitor, ShaoYi to pass me the attendance list, I thanked her, and I asked her what are her thoughts about public speaking. She said: “I think its a relevant skill based on what heard from you today. Its a shame that I missed the first class though. Can you brief me on what you taught the class on the first day?”

I was spent but seeing an eager student energized me, so I spent about 45 minutes coaching ShaoYi. At the end of the class, ShaoYi: “Thank you, Mr Shaun. I feel more confident about passing the assessment next week.”

I replied: “My pleasure, this is my number if you need to any further clarification please call, bye bye!”

At the after class debrief, my lead trainer, Coen asked me: “How did it go?” I replied:” Great, at least I am certain that one student got “it”!”

My friends, that day I learnt one lesson: Even if I was speaking to a huge crowd, as long as one person benefited from the service that I provided, it means my efforts are not futile, it means I am successful.

Fast forward 2 years and 10 months to December 2012, I received a surprise text from ShaoYi, :”Hi Mr Shaun, this is ShaoYi, do you remember me? I am now a student leader at my school. Thanks for your coaching, I am now applying public speaking skills whenever I conduct students briefing!”

How would you feel if someone thanked you for something you did in the past because it has helped them, and is continuing to benefit them to this date?

For me, it was a “Wow” experience. Receiving the text from ShaoYi was one of the greatest highlights of 2012, one of the greatest highlights of my life.

I learnt another lesson that day:

As long as you are being of service, do not worry if what you do is futile or if what you do is insignificant, the rest will take care of itself!!!

The additional 45 minutes that I gave out of wanting to be of service to my student, has not only impacted the life of ShaoYi, but has also indirectly impacted the life of the students that ShaoYi is leading!!!

Ladies and gentlemen, there are times when we fear that we do is futile, there are times when we wonder if the effort of one person truly matters in the grand scheme of things. Truth be told its absolutely alright to feel that way, because we are just human. Just remember that the REASON why we are doing what we doing, remember that the REASON is bigger than ourselves, and that its definitely greater than our doubts. Remember that as long as we are of service to ourselves and others, the rest will take care of itself!!!


Your fellow human being:)


Fear of Competition

Have you ever taken part in a race? fear of competition

“Race? I have never gone for a single race in my life? That may cross the mind of many.

Really? Think about school, isn’t it a race to be the top student, so that we can graduate and go to a top school or to get a top notch job?

Think about work, isn’t it a race up the corporate ladder?

They don’t call life a “rat race” for nothing.

In these races of life, were you ever worried that you would be overtaken by your competitors?

What happens when you worry about your competition?

Do you look back, to ensure that competition is not close by?

Do you hasten from your regular pace, and in the process hasten your tiredness?

Do you become so obsess with the competition and forget about why you are in the race to begin with?

In school and subsequently in work, I find myself drawn to seeing people as “rivals”.

When I “beat them” I rejoice when I “lose to them” I become upset.

Sometimes this “winning mentality” even overrides the original mission objectives.

What do I mean?

Just take studying for example:

Qn: Why do we study?

An: Studying is for the acquiring of knowledge.

Qn: Why do we acquire knowledge?

An: We acquire knowledge so that we can apply them in our lives.

Qn: Why do we have tests and exams?

An: We have test and exams to gauge how well we have internalized the knowledge acquired.

The mission objectives for studying is simple: Acquire knowledge!

But what do we do?  We complicate things, we add in ranking systems, bell curves. We had to categorize people.

Categorizing people is not totally bad, if you do it this way:

Shaun is good in Maths, perhaps he could be a Mathematician.

Jane is good in history, perhaps she can be an historian.

Tom is good in football, perhaps he can be a footballer.

But in a society such as Singapore where a one size fits all education system is used, this is how we categorize people

Shaun is bad in his humanities, it is pulling down his overall grades, he needs to go for remedial lessons if not he can’t go to a top school.

Jane being good at history just isn’t good enough, she needs to brush up her maths and science, if not no school is going to take her in.

Tom is just a delinquent, he spends all his time playing sports, he is bad at his studies, he has no hope.

The above approach is like forcing a Olympic swimmer to race in an Olympic 200M sprint.

Or making a dog compete in a swimming with a fish in a pond.

The reality is that each of us, has different strengths, and different gifts, to categorize and rank everyone in the same way just don’t make sense.

The result of this one size fits all approach, means that they are a lot more people in the race track then it should be able to hold, the price of the race has to spread out across more people, and people wants to get the big prize…..fast. That is the scarcity effect.

With that we also forget why we run the race to begin with, be it to gain knowledge, to make a difference in our company.

What do we do when that happens? Maybe the following story can shed some light.

Recently I took a physical fitness test that is mandated of all able bodied Singapore male that is part of the Singapore Armed Forces. I am on the reserve force, hence I have to take the test.

One of segments of the test is the 2.4 km run. I huffed and I puffed and I coughed but  I finally finished the run.

As I dragged my feet back  to registration office to turn in my running tag and obtain the final results of my test. A person turned around: “Bro, how are you?” I replied: “I am tired, haven’t recovered from my cough, was coughing throughout the run. How about you?”

He said: “Take care bro. I passed my test. But I must say: I owe you big time. If not for the fact that I kept pace with you, I would have failed. Thanks bro!”

That sentence changed my view on competition totally.

What if your fellow racers are there to provide moral support?

What if your fellow racers are there to show how its done?

What if your fellow racers are there to show the extent of how far and how fast we can possibly go?

When we fear competition we typically fear being over taken and irrelevant. That maybe true but life is not just one race but a series of races.

When we lose one, the question to ask is are we running the right race?

If we are not, quickly change the type race we take part.

If we are running the right kind of race, the question to ask are:

If the winner can do so, why can’t I?

What did the winner do to win, can I follow suit?

The reality is this: A lot of times we run the wrong type of races. Even when we run the right ones. We spend so much time fearing and hating the competition that we lose focus, isn’t it better that we use our competition as resources to improve our game?

Cheers to a great race!


Your fellow human being.



Fear of Abandonment

Have you ever been hurt in a relationship?                                                fear and abandonment

Be it by a lover, a friend, a colleague or even a family member?

Did it leave a scar in your psychic?

Did the fear of getting hurt stopped you from forming new relationships?

Ladies and Gentlemen one of the ways, how you can hurt anyone in relationship is to abandon them.

The impact on the abandoned can be tremendous because it might leave the following lingering thoughts:

Why did you abandon me? Am I not worthy?

Maybe I shouldn’t form any relationship anymore, because I might get hurt.

Since I am not worthy, whoever I be with, I am destined to get abandoned.

If I ever i get into a relationship, I will abandon the person before he/she gets a chance to do that to me!

Its likely that these thoughts will never get an vocal outlet unless  we have gone through some form of coaching, it will lie in the subconscious, and like anything that lies in the subconscious it will find a way to creep up and influence our behaviors in disruptive ways.

How do I know all these? Simple, I was abandoned. I was abandoned by my primary school best friend.

Alvin, was that kind of kid. You know, the kind of kid that everyone wanted to be. Handsome, came from a well to do family, top student, and came in tops in sports. He was perfect.

He joined my primary 2 class in the middle of the semester, he easy going nature meant that he made friends easily. Soon he was Mr Popular. Me? I was Mr Quiet, the kid who is sitting in one corner of the class, never noticed, never recognized. For some reason, Mr Popular and Mr Quiet, clicked. We soon became the best of friends. Soon we (or rather he)formed a nucleus  of a group of friends, which we call the “Group of Seven” or “GOS”. The time I spent with Alvin, and the GOS are the highlights of my childhood.

After 4 and a half glorious years, then came the Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE), we graduated from primary school and each of us went our separate ways.

Alvin and I remained in contact through out the first year of high school, I looked forward to every term holiday, it meant that I could hang out with him. During the mid year break of my high school 2nd year, I was like :”WooHoo, time to hang out with my best friend!”. I called Alvin’s home number. I got the following reply:” The following number is no longer in use.”

I kept calling, but I always got the same response.

I started asking around members of the GOS, but all gave the same answer: “He changed his number after primary school, he didn’t even update us.”

A couple of days later, I went to his house, knocked on the door. As the door opened, I had a glimmer of hope.. “Alvin! You are a joker, you never gave me your new number! Did you forget!”

It was a stranger. “Yes?”, he asked.

I walked away.

That day I knew, I had been abandoned by my best friend. I cried silently that day, just as how I am crying as I am updating this blog. The joyful moments that we had, the happiest moments that I have ever had, surfaced in my mind. “Those are my treasures, my happiest moments. Don’t they mean a thing to you?” I kept questioning the image of Alvin that surfaced in my mind.

It took me the entire holiday to recover from this trauma. But the damage has been done.

Since the incident, at a subconscious level, I kept people at a certain distance. I still had best friends but those were my only friends. Even with them, I was still not as open as best friends should. (Coen, JunZhong, MingHui, thanks for sticking with me and being my best friends in high school, even though I held back.)

This past trauma lay hidden for a while until yesterday. You see what happened was that about 6 years ago, I reconnected with my high school best friend, Coen, and he introduced me to this fantastic organization known as Toastmasters, a non-profit organization which help people express themselves via public speaking. After only 2 visits, I joined this fantastic, and vibrant group of community in Tampines Changkat Toastmasters Club. That proved to be one of the best things that happened to me.

After a 4 years of progressing a step at a time, I was placed in both our club’s international speech and table topics contest. I was also given the honour to represent our club at the next level, the Area level.

On the 13 of April 2013, that was yesterday, I was the 2nd runner up in the international speech contest, and the Champion of Table Topics. As I down with flu, everything was a blur. The only thing I remembered was the well wishes I got prior to the contest:

“Shaun, I am here to root for you.” Shaun, you can do it”, “Shaun, all the best!”

For the first time in a very long time, I realized I was not alone. Using toastmasters as a platform, I was doing the one thing I haven’t been doing, which was to be open, and express myself. As I did that, I made lots of friends, and I didn’t even realize that! At that moment, I realized I am very fortunate.
I will like to take the opportunity to thank all my friends. Especially Coen Tan: “Bro, thank you for finding me again, for believing in me ,and sticking with me all these time.

My friends, in life we can get hurt by people,  we try to close ourselves up out of fear that we might can get hurt. That may be true. However in doing so, we will only close off those that truly loves us or prevent ourselves from forming relationship that truly matters. Isn’t it much better to forgive the person who hurt us, releasing us from the fear that of getting hurt, and opening up the opportunities to form beautiful relationship?

Alvin, where ever you are, I forgive you. I believe that whatever you did, you had your reasons.

I open myself to the wonderful possibilities of forming great friendship.

I dedicate this post is to all my friends.Thank you my friends, for sticking with me. Especially you, Coen!

Cheers to fantastic relationships!

Your fellow human being:)



P.S These are the links of the following organizations that I have joined, as well as the link to my best friend Coen, a wonderful gift to the world:)





Fear and Relationship

Have you ever feared losing a relationship?

Have you ever wondered what is the secret of keeping a relationship strong and going? fear and relationships

I thought I knew the answer. After all, I have been in relationship for 2 and a half years, not very long but during these 2 and half years, there were no major arguments, the relationship was made up of largely sweet and lovey-dovey moments.

“Ewwwww”, I believe that is running through the mind of some of you. “Shaun, are you trying to brag?”

No, I am not trying to brag. Through books such as “How to make friends and influence people” by Dale Carnegie. I learnt that people want to be heard, they want to be empathized.

When a person is complaining about his/her boss, the person is not asking you to get rid of the boss, the person just wants to be heard.

When a person is sharing about his/her emotional hurt, the person is not asking you to fill the emotional gap, the person just wants to be heard.

When a person is sharing about his/her pain, the person is not asking you to take the pain away, the person just wants to be heard.

Therefore to make friends its essential to be a great listener, to have a relationship its essential to be a great listener,  to maintain the relationship, its essential to be a great listener.

I trained to be a great listener, a great emphathizer, and  often I would hear people saying to me. “Shaun, it was great talking to you.” ” Shaun, thanks for getting me.”

One of the reasons my girlfriend loves me is that I don’t question her, I don’t advise, i just listen.

However, as much as I try not to, I find myself getting affected by the emotions of the things I hear. if I am in a good mood, no problem, the good mood neutralizes the negativity i hear. However, what if, I am in a bad mood myself, can I possibly take in any more negativity? What about me? Don’t I need a listening ear as well?

One of the greatest fear I had is this: What if both myself and my partner, family member, good friend are both in a sulky mood, and both needs a listening ear?

What is going to happen? Listen and take in the negativity and in the process making me more irritated? Bitch about the things, and in the process make the other party feel unloved. Or simply not talk to them. None of them seem right.

Recently, both myself and girlfriend are facing challenges in our lives, and my girlfriend is someone who needs to get things off her chest, me I need personal time to dwell about it. So when my girlfriend was pouring her thoughts to me, something in me switched, I committed a taboo in communication: “I gave advice.”

She didn’t make a fuss about it. But there was an awkward silence for a while.

Have you ever felt as if you are not doing the right thing in a relationship? What do you do?

One day later I had a chat with my best friend Coen, that was when I learnt a huge lesson. This is an extract of our conversation:

Shaun: I think in relationship the process of being vulnerable has to be managed.

Coen: Why?

Shaun: If both happened to be in bad mood, and both happened to be vulnerable, it can be a disaster.

Coen: Bro, that is on the assumption that you are taking on the emotions and content about each other. The reality is this: When someone is ranting, the emotion expressed is not that person, the content expressed is not that person too. The question is this: Are you listening to the person?

To put it simply: Are you focusing on the person or on what the person is saying?

Or to use an analogy: While going on a hunt for a deer (Person) , the hunter got distracted by a rabbit (emotions), a bird (content of what the person is saying) and forgot about the target which he originally set for himself.

When a person is talking, one just wants to be heard, and our job as a conversationalist, is to listen, to “get it”, and speak when the other party has finished his/her turn.

This has a tremendous impact on me, now I know that even if both of us are in a bad mood, its still ok to be vulnerable. All I need to listen, “get it” and simply speak when its my turn. There is no need to be involved emotionally, to be dragged into the negativity. All I need to do is just focus on the speaker and instead of focusing on the “what”, focus on the “why”. “Why is the person saying what he or she is saying?”

My friends, next time if you have challenges in your relationship, perhaps you can ask yourself if you have been focusing on the emotions, content of what the other party is saying or are you focusing on the person and “why is the person is saying all these?”

That very night I texted my girlfriend, and I told her I will be a better boyfriend and I will listen to her, the person, at all the time. I may forget from time to time but give me chances as I need to practice.

At this point I will like to part with something that Coen shared with me, “A girl will never get bored of a guy who never gets bored of listening to her”

I wish you all well in your relationships both present and future:)



Fear of the Future

Have you ever worried about what future has in stall for you?    Fear of the future

Have you ever compared with your peers, and worried that you can’t match up?

Recently my toastmasters club was tasked by my community centre to deliver a talk to a bunch of primary (elementary) school students.

The topic is on “Handling Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE)”. PSLE is the graduating examination that is taken by all Primary 6 students. The results will determine the high school that the children will go to in their next phase of the education. Sounds simple right?

However, streaming system of Singapore’s education system clashes with the competitive nature of the Singaporeans.

Why do I say that?

Depending on the results you get in Primary School, a primary school student will be streamed into one of the following streams. Normal, Express or Special.

“Special” and “Express” are four-year courses leading up to the Singapore-Cambridge GCE “O” Level examination. The difference between these two courses is that in the “Special” stream, students take ‘Higher Mother Tongue’ (available for Chinese, Malay and Tamil only) instead of ‘Mother Tongue’. A pass in the Higher Mother Tongue ‘O’ Level Examination constitutes the fulfilment of the Mother Tongue requirement in Singapore, whereas Normal Mother Tongue Students will have to go through one more year of study in their Mother Tongue after their ‘O’ Levels to take the ‘AS’ Level Mother Tongue Examinations.

Normal is a four-year course leading up to a Normal-Level (N-level) exam, with the possibility of a fifth year followed by an O-level.

By theory, the streaming concept works, if you perform well academically, you are put into the express or even special stream where you will take 4 years to complete, on top of that you will loaded with more subjects.

However when you match it with the Singaporean culture, its a ultimate recipe of disaster. Singapore is famous for these 3 adjectives: Kiasu (Afraid to lose), Kiasi (Afraid to die), Kiabo (Afraid to be left out). To top it up, we Asians are an extremely afraid of losing face, or rather we like to gain face. Face is the metaphor for dignity and social standing. In short, we are super competitive and proud.

The result?

Express became the new normal. “Normal” stream became associated with being substandard. Parents became fixated with getting their kids into special stream or at least avoid getting into normal stream. The results and the school that the kids get into become a source of bragging rights or taboo. Can you imagine what the parents will do to the kid?

Home tuition, supplementary lessons, deprivation of playing times.

The result?

Stressed kids. Unhappy kids. Kids with no childhood. Kids who feel bad about themselves, not feeling good enough.

I spoke to my niece on her thoughts on PSLE, and she said: “I fear not being to able to live up to my parents’ expectations” and she also said: “I think parents should have more realistic expectations, I have a classmate who have been getting “Bs” in her subjects. She studies very very hard, but that is the best she could do. Still her parents wants her to go to the best school in Singapore.”

Through this interview, I asked myself what is the greatest fear that parents have, is it really just about preserving face?

I spoke to my brother and that is what he said:” I fear that my kids can’t survive in the future in light of the competitive landscape that is Singapore.”

“Survival”. But does studying well equates to survival? Does performing badly at school equate to doom?

This remains me of the story of Gillian Lynne. As a child, Gillian always fidgets about, she can’t focus her attention. She can’t keep still. According to her mum, Gillian “had problems with her studies” Her mum took her to see a doctor. After listening to the symptoms that the child exhibited, the doctor said. “Give me some time with Gillian”. After a while, he switched on the radio, and he told the mother, lets go out and talk. Gillian’s mum was anxious. “Is she alright?, Can she be cured?” The doctor smiled and said:” Take a look. He opened the door slightly. Lo and behold, Gillian was dancing graciously to the music! “She is not sick, she is a dancer.”

Gillian’s mother sent her to a dance school. She grew up to be a ballerina, dancer, actor, theatre director, television director and choreographer noted for her popular theatre choreography associated with the musical Cats and the current longest running show in Broadway history, The Phantom of the Opera!

The “sickness” has since been become known as “Attention Deficit Disorder” of ADD, assuming that the doctor had treated her of this “disease”. Do you think her talent might have been “cured” along the ADD.

Ladies and gentlemen, often we worry and try to cure the symptoms without looking at the root of the issue. Just as how Gillian’s mother worried about her daughter’s inability to study well, many parents and even students worry about whether they can do well for their studies. But the question is why are you studying? If the answer is: “Equipping oneself with knowledge to interpret the things that are going on around us.” Fabulous, by all means, study! But if the reason for studying is for bragging rights, is for survival. Maybe we are looking at the wrong things. We are born for a purpose, and the time we spent doing the things we are not good at , means that we are not doing the things that matters. Just like how Gillian would have struggled at conventional school and not expressing her gift as a dancer, if the kind doctor not make the right call, and the mother not making the right decision.

Next time when we have fear of whether you have a place in this world, and that you are lagging behind others in the race of life.

Ask yourself: “Are you expressing the gift that you are born with?” and “Are you even running the right race in the very first place?”

P.S You might want to look at this Youtube video where I got this magnificent story from

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 of the Known

Fear of the Known livewithfear


“Try this”, as I held out a piece of shitake mushroom for my girlfriend to try.

“Eeew, its disgusting! You know I hate shitake mushrooms!” My girlfriend shuddered with disgust.

Shitake mushroom, is Chinese/Japanese style dried mushrooms, a Chinese delicacy, when prepared well its a gorgeous dish. It can be braised, stir-fried (with other vegetables), steamed, fried (tempura style), or added to soup. Before it reaches your mouth, expect to be assailed by a woody fragrance, as you sink your teeth into the mushroom, you can feel the soft, tender, yet firm texture. Having absorbed the flavors of the gravy, and the rest of accompanying dishes, the harmonic flavors seeps out when you bite into it, mama mia! You can’t help but want to relish more of it.

Awesome isn’t it, but there is caveat. It got to be done well.

Apparently, my girlfriend has her maiden taste of shitake mushroom at a tender impressionable age. To say that whoever that prepared the dish didn’t do a good job was an understatement. It was absolutely awful. She hated it at first taste. Ever since then she had never put a piece of shitake mushroom in her mouth.

My friends, we often associate fear with unknown probability, and if I have to think of 2 words that best describe fear. It has got to be “What if”. “What if we die? What if this doesn’t work out? What if the food is awful?” People often spend a lot of time worrying about things that may or may not happened. Don’t get me wrong, these concerns can be valid, and we should take time to listen to fear, question it and address its concerns.

What is less talked about is fear’s is also associated with the known.

Imagine this scenario: A man abandoned his wife and daughter to fend themselves so that he can have a “better life”. The abandoned wife took it upon herself to provide for her daughter, working in the day as factory worker, cooks dinner for her daughter, only to rush off to the restaurant to work in the night as a waitress. On rare occasion when she has day offs, she would supervise the homework of the child. She would say: “Dear, you have to work hard at your studies. You can’t depend on men, they are all bad, just like your father. You can only depend on yourself”

My friends what do you think will happen? Do you think the girl will trust any men when she grows up? Do you think it will be easy for her to form a relationship with any guy?

No doubt that the father and husband is a irresponsible jerk, but are all men bad?

Ladies and gentlemen, sometimes first impressions, first tastes and first experiences can be disastrous. It may leave a bad lingering after-taste and maybe even fear.

But how much can we ascertain of something or someone based on first impressions?

In fact, have you ever wished that people not judge you based on first impression?

Do you think that something great good to happen if someone had given you a second chance?

If the answer is yes, perhaps we can consider giving someone or something a second chance if they had left a bad impression.

Next time when the fear of the unknown comes knocking, talk to it:

“Hey i understand that the first impression that we got is disastrous. But you know, we might have gotten off from the wrong foot, it probably wouldn’t be as bad if we gave it a second chance.”

Back to the shitake mushroom episode, my girlfriend gave the mushroom a try (albeit reluctantly) and she beamed. “Woo this is nice, can I have one more”

Having gave shitake mushroom a second chance after a disastrous first impression, she grew to like shitake mushroom (but only those dishes recommended by me). By being open to giving second chances, she has one more delightful flavor to relish.

instead of letting the fear of unknown stop you , can you think of the possibilities that might happen if you give ideas, people and things a second chance after a disastrous first impression?