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Reprogramming your brain to overcome fear: Olympia LePoint at TEDxPCC

Translator: Queenie Lee Reviewer: Peter van de Ven
Ten, nine, eight, seven – pressures are good –
six, five, four, three – valve timing nominal –
two, one, we’re good to go; lift off!
5,000 miles, no excessive vibrations.
10,000 miles, temperatures are good.
15,000 miles, 17,000 miles –
yes, we are in outer space!
(Cheers) (Applause)
That was me –
an award-winning rocket scientist sitting in Mission Control.
I helped successfully launch
Discovery, Columbia, Atlantis, and Endeavour space shuttles.
I used … Thank you.
(Applause) (Cheers)
I used mathematics and science
to calculate the probability of catastrophic explosion
within the space shuttle’s flight.
In all, I helped launch with a great team of people
28 spatial missions into outer space.
(Applause) (Cheers)
Now, I can stand here
and tell you how great it was to launch for the Mission Control.
I can tell you how it was like
to sign off and authorize multimillion-dollar engine tests,
but I’m not.
I can tell you how great it is to be an author and a TV host now,
but I’m not.
Rather, I’m going to talk about you and me,
and what comes in our mind in the middle of challenges:
What have you always wanted to do in life?
Do you want to be a multimillion-dollar business owner?
Do you want to be the first in your family to graduate from college?
Do you want to start a family?
For me, I always wanted to be a rocket scientist,
but obstacle and roadblocks came into my path
where I questioned whether or not I’d be able to do it.
The truth is this:
If we do not have a way to reprogram our minds,
to overcome fear,
we will never be successful at our own specific missions in life.
But there’s good news.
I have personally found,
I have personally devised a three-step method to overcome fear
and reprogram the brain using three key decisions,
and I’m going to share them with you, today.
The first decision is this:
You must name and reject your fear.
You must name and reject your fear.
Now, the easiest way for me to tell you about all these three decisions
is to take you back in my life,
and to share with you what happened with me
so you have a better idea of how to use these three decisions.
And it started when I was six years old, and I’ll never forget that day.
I went on a field trip to the jet propulsion laboratory,
and there it was wonderful.
I remember seeing these big engines and these jets,
and we went to their mission control room,
and it was amazing.
I saw these big TV screens on the wall
and these red plush chairs,
and I also saw pictures of men launching rockets,
and I said to myself, “I want to be just like those men.”
Now, I’m not quite sure if you’ve noticed,
I wear stilettos and skirts;
I am definitely a woman …
(Applause) (Cheers)
and that didn’t stop me, I wanted to be just like these men.
But obstacles came into my path.
Now, here I am, 10 years old, in the middle of a fifth-grade class,
and right next to me is a boy who is also 10,
and he has been recruited into a gang.
He and I get into arguments, quite regularly,
because frankly, I don’t know the power of my words at this age.
And he wears this ring on his finger that he files down
so it acts just like a knife.
And so one day, in a heated argument,
he takes this ring,
and he socks me right under my eye.
Now, being a champion, an Olympian,
I stand up to defend myself and everything goes blank.
I cannot see one thing.
I am later rushed to the hospital,
and I have five layers of stitches placed on my face,
and the surgeon tells me I’m lucky;
had it been any higher, I would have lost my eye.
Now, I am pulled out of school for months.
Where right next door, there’s a crack house,
and I see people getting high on the outside of my bedroom window.
And our mother has us sleep in the bed in a certain direction
so if the bullets came through the house,
if it came through the walls,
it would hit our feet first and not our head.
So in the middle of downtown Los Angeles,
in poverty, face disfigured,
and I want to be a rocket scientist.
Next, I am placed into another school,
where I fail algebra, then I fail geometry.
Then I go to a performing arts school, and I fail chemistry,
then make a D in calculus …
Then a blessing occurs.
There’s this man – he’s a teacher –
and he says that if anybody wants help
for their AP Calculus exam, he would tutor them for free.
So I jump at this opportunity,
and I catch the bus two hours each way
just to sit with his man for one hour.
And I remember looking at the information,
and I remember thinking,
I can get this!
I may not understand it now but I will;
I’m not going to let failures stop me.”
And that was the first time
I learned to name and reject my fear.
It would be a beautiful story
if I told you that I took the AP Calculus exam and passed it,
but no, I failed it miserably.
But what I learned
is that process to invest in myself and others in education.
I took those skills and graduated at the age of 16 from high school,
and then later applied those skills to the University I attended,
where I tutored thousands of people in mathematics
through educational group programs.
And I and other people learned to name and reject their fear,
and I, fortunately, was able to be one out of top five graduates
out of a 6,500 graduating class.
You must name your fear and reject it.
The second decision is this:
You must reprogram your brain with different thoughts.
You must reprogram your brain with different thoughts.
You know how you have a computer and it may be infected with a virus,
you have to take the virus off the computer
and reboot it so it operates correctly?
Well, our brains are the exact same way.
What we have to do is take the virus out
which is called fear.
And I learned this
my first couple of months working as a rocket scientist.
Now, I’m going to share a secret with you.
When I first started in rocket science, I was completely intimidated.
I remember going inside this room,
and there was around 200 people in this room,
and I remember looking around, and I was the only woman.
And then I remember looking around again,
and everyone was at least 20 years older than I was.
And I was hearing all these words I didn’t know.
Beads of sweat would come down my forehead as I was hearing:
I didn’t know what any of this was,
and that fear started coming into my brain again.
And I didn’t know whether or not
I’d be able to make a significant difference.
Then, a couple of weeks later, I had my second epiphany.
I remember going into this room, and then I realized,
“Wait, I’m educated,
and I work hard at everything I do.
I may not be able to make a significant difference now, but I will.”
So that’s what I did.
I literally told myself, “I’m going to make a big difference here.”
And I found mentors to show me what SSME meant,
which was the Space Shuttle Main Engine.
The Space Shuttle Main Engine was huge.
I find out where every single duct,
line, weld, tube, every valve was placed,
enough so that I was able to help redesign new engines
and sit in Mission Control.
This work allowed me to become one of the youngest engineers of the year.
You must reprogram your brain with different thoughts.
And the last decision is this.
The last decision is this:
You must rebuild your brain,
you must rebuild the neurons in your brain, by taking action.
Now, we’ve all been there.
We’ve had to lose weight, we’ve had to get in shape,
and it’s not enough to simply say,
“All right, I’m going to get in shape,” and then you sit on your couch.
You’ve got to go to the gym, you’ve got to climb those stairs,
you’ve got to get on a bike,
you’ve got to do something to activate your muscles
so you lose weight.
Well, our brains are the exact same way.
The way that we exercise our brain
is by taking action in direct opposition to our fear.
In every single one of these cases,
I learned something specific.
I and other people were suffering from what I have personally coined as:
Mathphobia is a severe fear that happens in the reptilian part of the brain,
that shuts off the frontal brain lobes,
rendering someone completely paralyzed when it comes to problem-solving.
Anytime someone has fear,
the problem-solving is completely turned off.
But when we take action in direct opposition from our fear,
something amazing happens.
Neuron transmitters are created and built within our brain, turning off fear,
creating pathways to fire off our frontal brain lobes.
And when our frontal brain lobes fire off, we’re able to do great things.
And I recognized this after I left rocket science.
When I left rocket science,
I was offered a prestigious position for a banking institution,
only to recognize that I loved science and education far more.
So I left banking, and I decided to be a part-time mathematics professor.
But, when I did that, the entire United States economy tanked.
Nobody was hiring.
And here I was underemployed, struggling to pay my bills,
and I almost let fear stop me again.
But this time, I was armed with all these experiences,
and something different happened this time.
I remember sitting there, thinking, “What am I going to do?”
And then I had my latest realization:
“Wait, I’m talented.
If no one is hiring, why not hire myself?”
So that’s what I did.
I hired myself;
I created my own educational entertainment company.
First, I created my website
with all the cool, different science, technology, engineering, and math videos.
Then, what I did was form the company –
specifically, I had to find out the difference
between an S-corporation and a C-corporation.
Next, what I did is I hired tutors;
then I wrote a book;
now my team and I are creating educational TV shows
for network programming.
I didn’t know how to do any of this,
but in that process of learning to become a beginner again,
what I was doing is
turning off the fear in my own head,
creating neuron transmitters in my own brain, firing my frontal lobes,
allowing myself to be creative and creating opportunities.
So, if there’s one thing I want you to remember today it’s this:
You can reprogram your brain to override fear,
if you name and reject your fear,
reprogram your brain with different thoughts,
and take action in direct opposition to your fear.
If you do all these three things,
guess what?
You can do anything you set your mind to,
even become a rocket scientist.
(Applause) (Cheers)
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