Lesson 7: Master Your Fears

When I was still a student in Lower Six, a very wise teacher said this:


You must learn to control your emotions to become a Laureate.

This is one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard. This is because the journey to become a Laureate is filled with ups and downs. You will experience some successes as well as some setbacks. Therefore, you will experience a whole range of human emotions, both positive ones and negative ones. As human beings, we are emotional creatures. We are not robots who only think in rational and logical ways.


Emotions are really powerful tools that can determine your level of success as a student. To become a Laureate, you need to learn to make your emotions work for you instead of against you.


As an example, suppose you are sitting an exam. When answering the questions, would you rather be:


  1. Relaxed and happy? or

  2. Sad and anxious?


It is a no-brainer that we perform better when we are relaxed and happy. The same thing happens when we are studying. We study better when we are not experiencing any negative emotions such as fear, anger, anxiety and sadness. Negative emotions are your enemies. However,


Fear is your enemy number one.

The journey to becoming a Laureate is filled with obstacles that you must overcome before you reach your target. Each obstacle will seem harder to overcome than the previous one. A typical example is the jump in difficulty between AS and A Level contents for Main subjects. The A Level portion of main subjects can be a lot tougher than the AS part.


When faced with such obstacles, many students give in to fear. Due to this, they don’t give themselves a fighting chance and fail to become Laureates. In your mission to learn how to master your emotions, you first need to master fear.


Fear holds you back. Imagine you are running a marathon and you put a 25kg backpack on your shoulders. If you want to be free and run faster, you only need to take the bag off your shoulders, throw it on the ground and leave it there. It is straightforward to get rid of it. Keeping this analogy in mind, when it comes to your studies, fear can be viewed as that 25kg backpack that slows you down.


The good news is that it is equally easy to get rid of your fears, as a student. Fear exists only in your mind. As human beings, we have complete control over only ONE thing: our thoughts. Unfortunately, most of us decide not to exert that control but instead, let ourselves be controlled by them. Your thoughts are just like the steering wheel of a car. Imagine you are driving. Would you take your hands off the steering wheel and drive? Of course not! In the same way, one can control and direct their state of mind and steer it clear of fear or any other negative emotions. I’ve got more good news for you. You don’t need a step-by-step guide to eliminate your fears.


You only need to IDENTIFY your fears and then DECIDE to do something about them.

Students fear two major things: Fear of Failure and Fear of Criticism.


Fear of Failure


Here are a few typical signs of fear of failure and suggestions on how to tackle them:


  • You worry too much about the possibility of not winning a scholarship. You think that if you don’t study abroad, you won’t be successful. This leads to doubt and worry. This, in turn, causes you to expect failure instead of success, thereby limiting your ability to imagine yourself as a Laureate. Remember from the lesson about burning desire that if you do not see yourself becoming a Laureate in your imagination, you will never see yourself becoming a Laureate in reality. So, instead of thinking about what could go wrong, rewire your brain to start thinking what could go right.


  • You take tuitions from multiple teachers for the same subject. This is by far the stupidest thing I’ve seen students do! How are you supposed to find the time to revise or even recharge your batteries if you are taking double private tuitions? So, my advice to you is this: if you are going to take private tuitions, take at most one per subject. If you really want the best teacher possible, you could try taking double tuition for one month ONLY to decide which teacher to choose. The number of private tuitions you take does not correlate with your level of success. As an example, I gained the highest marks in the world in Accounting. However, I did not take any Accounting tuition during term 1 and term 2 of Upper Six because I already had an excellent teacher at school. This afforded me some extra time to relax and recharge. I took Accounting tuition only in term 3 just for the additional revision and practice. Remember, you are running a marathon, not a sprint. You need to manage your energy effectively.


  • You are always thinking that you are lagging behind your friends. You are overthinking about your competitor’s potential instead of focusing on your own. Go back to Lesson 1 in Topic 1 to recall how to get rid of this sort of destructive thinking.g.


  • You think that you are not putting in enough work. I’d recommend revisiting the Lesson on consistency to determine whether this is indeed the case.


  • You underestimate your potential. This might tempt you to not take your studies seriously because you believe that your chances of becoming a Laureate are too low. So, why bother with the effort? The Lesson on full confidence can help you get rid of that fear.


Fear of Criticism


Here are a few typical signs of fear of criticism and suggestions on how to tackle them:


  • You overthink about what your peers, parents or relatives think of you. This issue exists only in your head. It is up to you to decide whether you want to let their opinions distract you from your real objective.


  • Inferiority complex: For some reason, you feel inferior to your peers. Maybe they study at a so-called “star” school, and you don’t. Perhaps, they take tuition from a “popular” teacher, and you don’t. Maybe they scored higher marks than you on a test? The list goes on and on. Go back to Lesson 1 from Topic 1 if you ever feel inferior to your peers, for whatever reason.


  • You get excessively upset when a teacher points out your mistakes or deducts marks from your test or exam. I’ll explain the importance of mistakes in a later lesson.


  • You overthink about the “shame” that you would feel if you don’t perform well at school. The means to deal with this fear have been given to you in Lesson 2 from Topic 1.


  • You blindly try to copy all the methods that the supposedly “good” students use. However, remember that if a study or revision method works for someone else, it does not mean that it will work for you too. Imagine you have just started working out at a gym and you see a really fit guy lift a 200kg barbell. What will happen if you try to lift a 200kg barbell on your first day at the gym? You will fail and will probably injure yourself in the process. Thus, it’s better to find out what works for you, instead of blindly imitating what others are doing.


  • You are scared of asking questions for fear of it being considered “stupid”. However, you learn new things when you ask questions, which gets you closer to your full marks objective. So, here’s a reality check for you: Not asking questions is actually the stupid thing to do, regardless of whether you think they are “stupid” or not.


Fear holds you back because it is the enemy of full confidence. Remember, when I introduced the concept of your confidence Score? Well, here’s the formula to calculate it:


Confidence Score = 100 – Fear Score

Your fear score ranges from 0 to 100 with 0 meaning “no fear” and 100 meaning “full fear”. So, the only way to achieve your full confidence score of 100 is to have a fear Score of 0.


Thus, the Key Takeaway is:


Eliminate ALL your fears.



Do you have any questions or comments? Post them below!

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