An exam for overcoming fear of exams

To make this easier, I have only got one question.
To make it even easier, I have gone for a multiple choice format.
To make it easier still, I shall let you decide on the correct answer.

1) How do you cope with fear before and/or during an exam?

Exam Feara) Freeze up so that I can no longer think clearly

b) Take so much time checking one answer is correct that I run out of time for the others

c) Convince myself that this exam is not very important and therefore repress caring about the outcome

d) All the above

What are you doing to ensure you control exam fear, rather than let it control you?


Good News And Bad News For People Being Bullied

Being bullied? I have good news and bad news. Let us start with the bad news: You are responsible.

Yes, I know, that sounds bad and, to be fair, it is the bad news. But let me explain:

Most people tend to think that when someone is bullied, the person doing the bullying is responsible and should be encouraged to stop. The school is rung, the situation discussed, the bully reprimanded, the person being bullied (I find the term ‘victim’ so misleading, as they are just as responsible as the person doing the bullying) is given counselling, parents are notified and then everyone prays that it will stop.

I do admit that the bully has their part of responsibility in the affair and I could write a whole article about why they are bullies; about the lack of self worth which pushes bullies to make others feel less good, thereby artificially increasing their own status; about the power that bullies crave which leads them to bully (and helping bullies who want to stop is a part of what I do – it just doesn’t often happen) and why they crave that power (but then again, why do governments crave power? Or big corporates? Or anyone for that matter?). However in this article I would like to focus on the person being bullied and their part of the responsibility.

If you have ever been surrounded by a group of children or teenagers, you will not have missed how they speak to each other. “You’re fat!” “You’re stupid!” They are constantly pointing out (usually negative) things about other people. Things which adults have learned not to comment on – at least not in the presence of the person being criticised. “La vérité sort de la bouche des enfants” (truth comes out of children’s mouths) is a maxim I heard a lot growing up and with 4 children, I can verify its dependability – independently of whether or not that truth could hurt the other or not.

Being bullied

So why do some start being called names more often? Is it really because they ARE fat, stupid, slow, handicapped etc? To start looking for an answer, let us ask the question the other way around: Are there any children who are fat, stupid, slow, disabled etc. who are NOT picked on and/or bullied? I’m not sure about your group of youngsters, but I have seen my fair share. So what is it? Why are some bullied and not others?

That’s where the good news comes in: You are responsible.

If you are responsible, you have the power to do something about it. You can influence whether or not you are bullied, or stop it if it is happening. A lot of people think you can stop being bullied by learning to fight. Though this is often true, the actual reason is not that you now know how to defend yourself. The key to understanding why you are being bullied is to look at your reaction.

When someone says to you, “you’re so fat!” your reaction will dictate whether or not they have any power over you and your reactions. Can they influence how you feel and how you (re)act just using words and body language? If so, they will continue doing it, because they crave that power. They crave the ability to make you feel bad, so they feel good. It gives them a sense of self worth. But you can take that power away by changing your reaction. It is possible to learn to control one’s reactions and one’s actions. When you do, the bully loses their control over you and therefore leaves you alone.

This is actually what happens when someone learns to fight: They become more sure of themselves and therefore react differently. However they do not need to spend 1-2 years learning to fight before the bullying can stop. They can change their reactions in a few weeks, if not less. They may need to get some specialised, independent help in understanding what their reactions currently are and how they can change them (this is a part of what I do), but it is possible. I have seen it happen many a time.

So if you are being bullied and would like it to stop (believe it or not, some people are not ready to stop being bullied), there are several steps you can take:

  • Check out the website which has a lot of very useful information about how to deal with bullying (also for parents)
  • Take responsibility for your situation, examine and alter your reactions to ensure you are not giving the bully power
  • If you cannot do this alone (it is usually very difficult alone), contact (or have your parents contact) an outside agent who can work with you to help you understand how you are currently reacting, why that is leading to the bullying and how you can react differently.

If you would like more information about me and the work I do with young people, including helping them take the power back from bullies, check out my website:, or connect with me through facebook, Linkedin, or by email.

What is Confidence?

One of the most emotional moments I have ever had, was a spoken presentation by an 18 year old who had a very bad stutter, in front of a large audience of fellow students, parents, teachers and other members of the community.

All the members of the class of this young man (whom I shall call Sam) had been studying a subject of their choosing for 6 months as part of their final year at school and were now presenting the results of their research.

Public Speaking is scary - now try it with a stutter!

Public Speaking is scary – now try it with a stutter!
- Thanks to JJ for the use of the photo

Despite Sam having a very bad stutter even when not under pressure, there he stood, alone, in front of a room full of people, some of whom knew what an amazing feat it was just for him to be standing there and some of whom had yet to learn. He took a deep breath and started speaking. At least he tried. For what seemed like an hour (but was probably closer to 30-45 secs), he stood there, trying to speak the first word of his prepared speech, without managing. Even after the audience had begun to wonder how he was going to get through the page of writing he was holding in the time he had, he continued to try and do it alone. Finally he accepted that he had would not be able to get a word out, so looked at one of his classmates (I shall call him Jack) sitting in the front row. As obviously prepared, Jack stood up and went to stand next to Sam. Jack then started slowly reading the script that Sam had prepared and as he did, Sam started joining in, bit by bit, word by word, until eventually Jack was able to stop reading and Sam was able to finish his speech alone. I shall leave you to imagine the response of the audience when he finished.

As I hope you can imagine, speaking in front of that audience was way outside of Sam’s comfort zone. But he accepted to seek the help he needed and did it anyway. That is one form of confidence. In this case, confidence is not about how competent you are and how willing you are to do something you are competent at. That is easy. Confidence is doing something you are not good at (with help if necessary – be that in the form of someone supporting you, getting education or practicing it), something outside your comfort zone, being successful at your goal (sometimes it is not all about winning, but just making it across the finishing line) and thereby increasing your ability to try out other new things.

Some people don’t have that confidence. They don’t ask for help and remain in their bubble, their comfort zone, their world of known fears, not ever daring to face the unknown fears that create the boundaries of their world.

But let’s imagine for a minute that a magic fairy could eliminate that fear. What would the world look like?

Think about how your world would look if you were able to step outside your comfort zone and try something you would really like to do, but have never had the courage to do. How would you feel? How much less stress, anxiety and pain would you feel?

If what you imagine is more attractive than what you are living today, if that world seems incredible and if you would like to be there, but you still let fear dictate what you do and do not do, take heart – there is a solution. Taking action despite fear is possible and not as hard as it seems.


Is Confidence Important?

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic wrote a book called Confidence about the fact confidence is “at best just a mask for our insecurities; at worst it’s a dangerous self-delusion.”

I disagree. I think confidence is vital. So do the many people I have asked.

Photo by Lee (on Flickr)

Photo by Lee (on Flickr)

But what do you think? Here are 3 questions I am currently using to ascertain the role of confidence in people’s lives and how they gained that confidence (or what they would do if they had it).

Remember that everyone is confident in certain areas and everyone has fear. Moving outside your comfort zone and doing something you are not comfortable doing is what takes confidence. With that in mind, I am interested in reading your answers to the following questions:

1) Which role does confidence play in your life (why is it important)?

2a) In the areas you are confident, how did you develop it, what were the main factors involved in developing it?

2b) In the areas you are not confident, what would you do differently if you had it?

3) How do you notice that someone (else) is confident?

N.B. The information in the answers I receive will only be used as an anonymous statistic. It will not be published, posted or otherwise made public in a form which could be traced back to you apart from the fact it appears on the comments below.

Making the road a place of freedom

Have you ever been driving on the motorway when you caught up to someone in front of you who stays on the inside lane, although the outside lane is empty? They could move over and you see no reason why they don’t, but they just sit there, on the inside lane, driving just below the speed limit. You can’t really get angry because they are within the speed limit and you would not be able to overtake very quickly anyway without breaking the law, but you sit there, boiling inside, wishing (and sometimes telling them in no uncertain terms, though they can’t hear) to just “move over!”

Road rage

You politely tell them they could perhaps consider moving over…

Why do they do that? I have noticed it is usually older people or women who tend to do this, with young men hardly ever doing it. My theory is that young men think they own the road. Speed limits are for others and the inside lane is their domain, overtaking their passion. But then again, they usually think they can drive better than they actually can and certainly better than anyone else.

Older people (and often women) are not absolutely comfortable on the road. They are afraid of being stuck behind a truck in the outside lane. They need more time to react and are afraid of change (of lanes). Often they get stressed by having someone behind them, especially if they drive close behind them (as is the norm in New Zealand) and slow down a bit to give themselves more room in front.

I can understand that the lack of confidence in their ability to react influences them to do things that confident drivers wouldn’t necessarily do (or not do things confident drivers would). And of course, they get annoyed at confident drivers who take more risks than they would and therefore put everyone at danger. Indeed, 82% of drivers in Tauranga think they drive really well – it’s the others who drive badly… (Hmmm…. That sounds like a case of 18% know they drive badly, the others are disillusional).

I think that increasing confidence on the road would help everyone. I think that if everyone felt comfortable about moving over and letting the people behind them pass, there would be less congestion, less frustration and everyone would get to wherever they are going quicker and with less stress.

I advocate we start giving everyone free ‘confidence on the road’ lessons to ensure everyone learns how to drive confidently. Let’s start with all those other drivers out there – the ones who obviously aren’t confident, judging by their poor driving skills…


How “good” is technological advancement?

Technology is no longer a choice. But what is the effect on who we are as humans? What is the effect on how we communicate with others? What are the moral implications?

Here is a quote from, of all places, a video game. It points out some interested things about humanity and progress (think Singularity and Ray Kurzweil):

Albert Einstein said: “Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of pathological criminal.” Took me awhile, but I finally see his point. How often have we chased the dream of progress, only to see that dream perverted? More often than not, haven’t the machines we built to improve life shattered the lives of millions? And now we want to turn that dream on ourselves, to fundamentally improve who we are. Experience has shown me how dangerous that can be. How many times, in the call of duty, did I almost fall into the trap of taking shortcuts, abusing my abilities or the resources at hand? I resisted – barely at times – because I valued human lives and considerations. But can I truly despise others who fall? Technology offers us strength, strength enables dominance, and dominance paves the way for abuse. Darrow understood this. He knew that using technology to become something more than we are risks losing our ability to love, aspire, or make moral choices – the very things that make us Human. It also risks giving some men the power to make others what they choose – regardless of the cost to human dignity. The suffering Darrow inflicted is not the end of the world. It is merely the seed for change. And change never comes without pain.

Deciding not to blindly follow technological advances would take more than confidence in our day and age. With Nuclear Power coming back into the crossfires (Thorium is now the fuel of choice), the internet being used for amazingly wonderful things as well as phenomenally evil things, Electricity being our greatest achievement and our worst destroyer and technological communication becoming the greatest part of our lives, technology is no longer a choice. The choice is how we use it. And it takes a great deal of confidence to use it wisely.

A wise man once said that we live in the age of Michael (think George and the dragon). The age of the sword. A sword can be used to protect and to kill. Like a knife, which can be used to prepare food or to do harm, internet, telephones, GPS, electricity and just about everything is our lives can be used for good as well as for bad. It is our choice. It is not the knife which kills, it is the person holding it. In the same way, any of the tools we have at our disposal are merely tools. What is important is how we chose to use them. Internet is not the problem, people who choose to use it to do harm are. Technology is not the problem, people who choose to use it to do harm are. And choosing to do good with technology has never been harder. Doing harm is so easy – especially nowadays where it is so removed from my lounge.

The key to not losing touch with who we are as humans is to be aware of the choices we make every day and strive to make those choices consciously for the betterment of ourselves.

Investing in one’s knowledge

I went to listen to one of the best speakers I have heard last night and the best part is that I got in free, as it was in a school! If you have never heard of Allison Mooney (, you need to get your head out of your oven.

Laughing loudly (giving my personality type away) while Allison informed us in an entertaining, captivating way about the 4 personality types, I learned that I am a “powerful”. So I am decisive, to the point, quick to decide, good at taking action and a natural born leader. (Better than being a natural born killer, I suppose). I can also be tyrannical, dictatorial and need to say please and thank you more. That makes me “not better, just different” to the other types: Playful, precise and peaceful. And just as Allison predicted, I am married to a Peaceful…

As the talk was aimed at parents, I also learned how to encourage and discipline my playful child and how to deal with a precise teenage daughter. Highlight of the evening was 3 videos, each of someone changing their tyres in a way typical of their personality.

I am so happy I went! It really made me realise how much there is to learn out there! Now I can use the information I received to make not only my relationship with my family more fulfilling, but also to get more success in my business. If you want to keep growing, you need to keep informing yourself, learning. And is there any better investment than listening to a world class (Certified Speaking Professional – there are only 11 in NZ!) speaker for free?

What have you learned recently? Even if it was not from a speaker, it could have been from a book, a film, a conversation – each and every day give us the possibility of learning something really useful.