Here is the rocket scientist Olympia LePoint’s TEDx Talk presentation: Reprogramming Your Brain to Overcome Fear at TEDxPCC conference. Olympia LePoint is the CEO of OL Consulting Corporation & Publishing, and is best known for her role as an award-winning rocket scientist. She is the author of the self-help and educational book Mathaphobia: How You Can Overcome Your Math Fears and Become a Rocket Scientist.
Listen to the MP3 Audio: Reprogramming your brain to overcome fear by Olympia LePoint at TEDxPCC
10, 9, 8, 7 — pressures are good — 6, 5, 4, 3, valve timing nominal — 2, 1, 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!
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 — I use mathematics and science to calculate the probability of catastrophic explosion within the space shuttles flight. In all, I launched — helped launch with a great team of people 28 spatial missions into outer space.
Now I can stand here and tell you how great it was to launch from 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 — fear, fear.
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?
Well, 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.
Number 1. You must name and reject your fear
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 — 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 in my face. The surgeon tells me I’m lucky; it had been any higher, I would have lost my eye.
Now I am pulled out of school for months. We’re 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 asleep 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, faced to speak and I want to be a rocket scientist.
Next, I am placed into another school where I fail algebra, then I fail geometry and 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 — 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: wait, I can get this! 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 will 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 6500 graduating class. You must name your fear and reject it.
Number 2. You must reprogram your brain with different thoughts
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 the 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, what’s 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 20 — 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 — SSME, ITAR, RP-1, ISP — 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.