Determination with Teacher Kean

by | Feb 22, 2022 | Articles | 0 comments

Phang Chui Kean, also known as Teacher Kean, is no small figure in the training industry. Being a specialist in presentation, leadership and communication, Teacher Kean opened up his time to talk about ‘Determination’ with our precious Youth Leadership Programme (YLP) participants on 16 January 2022.

Teacher Kean shared many exciting stories that inspired the teenagers and broadened their thinking horizons during the session. 

The Life of Teacher Kean

He started with his life story, where he overcame challenges throughout his various career paths. He began as a barrister, moved to investment banking, became a headmaster and even became an entrepreneur at some point in his life. The part that hit us hard was when all 120 of his cattle got sick before being sold, which led to the dissolution of his business while he was going through a divorce. However, with dedication and determination pulling him out of rock bottom, he became the enthusiastic Teacher Kean we know and love today.

Teacher Kean believes that leadership does not start with how we can lead other people but how we can lead ourselves through self-love and self-mastery. He stressed that one could not help others without helping, loving, and understanding themselves first. It is the key to propelling oneself to a better place, simultaneously influencing others to do the same.

Why is Determination Important?

In explaining ‘determination’, he pointed out a few lobster-related things. One, Sebastian from The Little Mermaid, is the zombie of a cooked lobster as lobsters only turn red after cooking. Two, lobster size and growth depend on how much serotonin it produces. 

Lobsters have a three-stage procedure to resolve conflicts like claims over territory, i.e. a staring contest, flipping contest, and then a fight. Serotonin is highly produced by lobsters when they win. While the lobster who never tries to win will stay small without a friendly territory, the lobster who always tries and eventually succeeds will keep growing.

Teacher Kean concluded that the rich keep getting richer because they consistently try to get richer despite their failures. The smart only get more competent when they continuously try to get smarter. One must be determined to do whatever it takes to reach their goal no matter what other ‘lobsters’ or obstacles stand in their way.

Building Determination

Teacher Kean highlighted that there are two main building blocks in constructing determination, the first one being constantly achieving small goals.

The gym is always jam-packed in the first three months of the year but turns into a barren wasteland right after. People often give vague goals for themselves as their New Year resolution, such as “having a nice body” or “losing weight”. Not knowing how to gauge whether these goals are achieved, determination and motivation deplete, halting all efforts to reach the said goals. 

Real goals should have numbers and deadlines. For example, one could lose 2kg per week for 15 weeks, which sets a straightforward measure of success. We call it small goals.

Next is building our mental discipline. 

Based on the research of Matt Killingsworth and his team in pursuit of the significant causes of happiness, it was found that globally, the daily activity that makes people the saddest is when they take a shower and when they brush their teeth. This is mainly because these are the times when the mind tends to wander and overthink past or future situations leading to regret and anxiety.

Through regret and anxiety, unhappiness is born. Through his many interactions, Teacher Kean noted that a common belief between parties who often butt heads and opinions such as religious icons, philosophers and Feng Shui masters is that we become what we think. When we think unhappy thoughts, this will lead us to become unmotivated and unwell. So how do we fortify ourselves from this shrouding unhappiness? We need to control our thoughts.

Our ancestors have provided us with many forms of controlling our thoughts. Yoga teaches us to focus on the conditions of our bodies, meditation teaches us to see ourselves in a third-person point of view, and “berzikir” leads us to focus on our appreciation towards our God(s). Of course, these are not the only ways to train the mind. Teacher Kean shared that what he did was lift weights where the weights he carried would be so heavy that they were the only things he could think about during the moment. He recommended that sports such as basketball and archery are great mind trainers.

Finally, answering a question from the floor on how to get out of rock bottom as he did, Teacher Kean emphasised that we need to be selective of our thoughts. Having pessimistic thoughts does not bring enough benefit to our table and should not be practised. Instead, we should try to look at things from different perspectives and choose the one that directs us to the path of bettering ourselves. Instead of imagining underhanded or unnecessary things a seemingly young and rich person does, we should think about ways to be like them.


The session was informative, with so much shared fun and engaging. I found a new respect for professional trainers around the globe. It was such an honour to have Teacher Kean on board, and undoubtedly, it was a significant experience for the YLP community.

The YLP holds Meet & Greet sessions every month to inspire and bring new light to the younger generation. Are you interested in this programme? Reach out to us at For more information on MAD projects we promote, head on to our Facebook or Instagram page @mad.mvmt.


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