Friday, December 19, 2014

To see the world through the eyes of a newbie

The moment you don't need to excel is precisely the moment you start excelling.

I knew that from my past experience as a air rifle shooter. When you take part in competition, you should be in a meditative state of mind. You have to know that you're competing, yet you cannot think you're competing. If you cannot treat the competition like it's just normal, routine practice, you cannot perform well. It's just that when you treat the competition like it's oh-so-important, you start to act and react different. Your heart starts to race when you get a bulls-eye and sink when you miss your shots. These emotional roller coaster creates a cascading avalanche of emotions on subsequent shots, and before you know it, you're a totally different person. Very different when you're doing your usual practice. In usual practice, you're just mindlessly shooting pellets after pellets with no regards to the actual score. You might even be having fun.

I think this can apply to a lot of situation.

1. SMOL had a fantastic year 2014 in his trading performance, and some well-meaning readers suggested increasing his capital size so that the profits will multiply, I'm very glad that he chose not do it. When you're trading with $1000, it's going to be very different trading with $10,000. Until you know how to trade with $2000, then $3000 and progressively increase your trading capital, you're going to act differently and react differently. And that makes all the difference between a 6 bagger or a 6 begger trading performance. I think it's because he don't have to trade for a living, that's why he can trade for a living.

2. There's an examination in university days that I remembered clearly. It's a statistics paper. Not a big deal, it's just mathematics and in my engineering course, there's plenty of those that I have to take up. However, I wanted to do very well for that paper (I'm not sure why). Outside the examination hall, before we all went in to our respective seats, I did something that I never did during all my papers - I started revising. I don't know why I did that, maybe it's because everyone around me all studying (but that never bothered me in the past...) or maybe I really really wanted to do very well for that paper. When I went in and sat down in my seat, I suddenly had a panic attack. Seemingly simple things suddenly became complicated to me and I couldn't do them! I skipped to the next and the next and the next, scribbling out some semblance of an answer but I just couldn't do anything. At that point in time, my mind started painting scenario of me failing the statistics module, having to repeat it again and the next semester I'll have an even heavier workload and I'll fail them all. A small oh-shit moment creates the next bigger oh-shit moment.

That's when I realise I'm panicking. Damn.

They say recognizing we have a problem is the first step towards solving it. I closed the question booklet, and sit back on my chair, took out my water bottle and sipped a mouthful. I just chill-laxed for about half an hour doing nothing except seeing people around me scribbling like crazy. I started humming some music mentally. No point panicking, I thought. What's the big deal? At most just fail loh. When I felt relaxed enough, with a comfortable tune in my mind (it's Madonna's Rain, if you must know), I started attempting my paper. The first question that stumped me suddenly looks do-able. I gave it my best shot, thinking that there's no harm trying. I'm going to fail anyway, so I might as well try. As I did more and more questions, I realised that there's nothing complex about these questions at all! Every question that I did boosted my confidence and I remembered that I thought to myself, I might have a chance after all.

When the results are out, I didn't do that badly. I got an A in spite of my panic attack. But I gave myself an A+ distinction for the great recovery in the middle of the examinations. And I never read my notes ever again before I entered the examination hall. I pay more attention to my mental state from then on. When I don't mind failing, I don't need to fail anymore.

The point here isn't to encourage everyone to accept failure so that you won't fail. It's just that I know that I've performance anxiety. It's part and parcel of having experienced success for a big part of my life. The more you achieve success, the more you have to lose when you experience failure. You're afraid that your excellent track record is broken. You're afraid that others will brand you as a has-been from now on. It's not a particularly strong feeling in me, but I know it's there, hiding deep inside my psyche. It's just whether I'm honest enough to recognise that.

I need to overcome this irritating behaviour, where I stop trying things after I've accomplished what I perceived as my greatest work, my magnum opus. I give a few examples:

1. After doing some digital painting, I never did it again. Deep down, I'm really afraid I couldn't do another one like these again.

But when I started doing this, I've totally ZERO expectations. I didn't expect it to turn out great. And the irony is when it did turn out great, I stopped being great. I simply stopped trying because deep down, I'm afraid I won't be able to produce such great works again.

2. My poem/short stories. Again, I thought this is my magnum opus. I just couldn't bring myself to pen another one. Perhaps it's also the same reason...when I achieved some success, I suddenly become afraid to try like a newbie.

So, I really understand what the first sentence of this blog article means. The moment you don't need to excel is precisely the moment you start excelling. May I change certain words to crystallise the gist of the sentence? The moment you stop trying is precisely the moment you stop excelling.

So try, try and try. Never ever let success stop you from trying. This is a mental limitation that I need to overcome - how to see the world in the eyes of a newbie when you're no longer a newbie. As a full time tutor, this is perhaps one of the greatest ability I can ever master. If you've taught a subject for 10 yrs, you're not going to teach it the same way when you're in year 1. It's just different. You take little things for granted. You take student's confusion with great impatience. After you taught them once, you expect them to know it immediately. But that's not how people learned. You no longer teach as if you're a newbie tutor.

If I ever did that, that'll be the end of me. Stay humble, stay foolish and stay newbie...even when you're not.


la papillion said...

Hi temperament,

Haha, why not call me LP, as usual? :)

You're definitely not babbling nonsense :) I told my wife that when driving, 2 things are impt: First, we must have fuel, secondly we must have time. If we have both, it doesn't matter whether we made a wrong turn or took the wrong expressway. We'll arrive, safety and maybe if lady fortune smiles, a little bit of an adventure together ;)

It's only when we run out of fuel, or time, or both i.e. when we know we cannot fail, we'll start to fail :) That is the gist of the post. But there are many ways to see the post, so don't worry if that's what i'm saying or not, heehee

Singapore Man of Leisure said...


Mental note to myself:

1) Never play poker with LP; he reads people well.

2) If I hate something that LP does, I just have praise him that it's his best work yet!

He'll freeze and stop.

Ah! Peace and quiet at last :)

la papillion said...


I don't know how to play poker ;)

Haha, but for (2), it wouldn't work. I never said that other people's praise makes me feel invincible, hence I'm reluctant to try new things. Like a megalomaniac, it's all about me! I must feel that I've done the best work yet, then these kind of behaviour will appear. So, if everyone says I've done a good job, but I don't feel that I did, I would still try. I'm like a deaf slaver driver to myself lol

B said...


I don't know why but I had the exact same incident as you outside the exam hall wanting to succeed in a particular paper that I usually will just turn a blind eye on. I think the reason is due to expectations. My peers were expecting me to top the class for that paper and I don't want to disappoint them, just as I don't want to disappoint myself.

Keep me outside of the top race, I will be as free as the bird, and probably meet the butterfly at the garden :)

Sillyinvestor said...

Hi LP,

Totally agree with the exam and competition experince. I play sports. During practice, I can be a whiz in the court, during tournaments I am worse than newbies. I always tell my pupils later that it is better to lose than freeze in anxiety as it is ok to 技不如人,but if cannot perform
To potential then sure to have regrets.

Exam is the same. I always "enjoy" myself 1 day before the exam although I will mug like nobody business before that. I always tell my friends I need to forget all that I learned so that I can answer questions directly and not lifting paragraphs to fit.

Ya was wondering why u never write about the dwarf story anymore. Maybe it's time for proper closure as with the end of trilogy of hobit. Just seen the dwarfs in action today at the big screen. When is your dwarf gold digging again?

I am quite the opposite. Good results motivate and poor results stop me. When I write about the number world story and the number prelude ... I have some ideas on the number world finale. But I never get to write as I see readers are not really interested and I myself find shadow of other stories in my writing. So... Well...

Kyith said...

you should fuckin draw more. i was about to tell you that a few months ago.

la papillion said...

Hi B,

Haha, from what I've read, this is called performance anxiety :) To reduce (can't eliminate), you have to learn how to meditate :)

Hopefully the bird won't eat the butterfly lol!

la papillion said...

Hi SI,

Hey, you still remembered the dwarf story ;) I'll see if I can revive that...I'm actually reading a book about how to read better. It's a great read, and one of the most impt thing I've gained so far from reading the book is that you must be true to yourself when writing. Only when what you've written is truthful and honest, then your readers will feel the emotional connection. I totally agree, maybe you can try it too :)

When you are honest and write truthfully (I'm not talking about literal truth - it's about being honest spiritually..not sure if i make sense), it doesn't matter if there's no readers :)

la papillion said...

Hi Kyith,

Oh, what prompted you to want to tell me? I will draw and there's always a season for such things. Usually it occurs when I'm feeling depressed lol

Teenage Investor said...

Pictures are really good!

la papillion said...

Hi TI,

Haha thanks :)

LVP said...

Is that S. R. Nathan? It does bore some resemblance... at least I can identify. For an armature (you are armature, right?) I think is very nice lah~

Cool manz~ Nice~~~

la papillion said...

Hi lvp,

Ya, it is. Initially wanted a portrait for the president, but it turned out to be a caricature lol, so I just rolled along with it. I'm am amateur, yup :)

Thanks for the encouragement!