“BELIEVE you can,” Theodore Roosevelt once said, “and you’re halfway there.” This couldn’t be more true because all great endeavors start with one single thing: belief. The word has a powerful ring to it. It ignites the human spirit, giving it all the energy of resolve and possibility.

In all of my 16 years, I have never considered myself to be a star student, one of those super-bright kids who always wins awards and comes up tops. I have never come anywhere close to the top three in class or across the level, not even the top ten percentile, except in Secondary One. That’s because I kept that “believe you can” mantra by my side. It is what saved me from the deep, dark trenches of a depressing PSLE year.

That year, 2012, concluded on such a sad note. I turned in a dismal PSLE aggregate score of 172. Lucky for me, I got into the school of my choice, but that brand new year of 2013, I put my heart and soul into my studies. My vice-principal, Mr. John Wu, encouraged me with words that spoke of focus and belief. Those words helped to shoo away all the negative thoughts that had a stupid way of entering the gates of my mind. In this way, 2013 became a turnaround year: from the normal stream, I got bumped up to the express course the year after.

Justin Bieber didn’t sing “Believe” without the kind of sentiment the word evokes. That song starts with a grand evocation of the word: “Believe, believe, believe.” And a few lines later, he sings: “Cause everything starts from something.” That’s the beauty of believing: having just that tiny spark that gives you the resolve and hope to make a dream come alive.

And for us Singaporeans, the big dreams of an Olympic victory was crystalized in a magic moment that lasted all but 50.93 seconds on 13 August 2016, when Joseph Schooling captured not just a gold medal, but an Olympic record and a defeat of his idol, Michael Phelps, the world’s greatest Olympian.

Schooling started with one single belief that took him on a long seven-year road to his Olympic dream. Without that Rooseveltian “believe you can” resolve, nothing would ever be possible. The Singapore story is the same—the story closely intertwined with that of Lee Kuan Yew, who conceived of transforming a tiny island-country-state from a third world nation to a first world oasis.

That is the beauty of believing you can. It is the very seed that gives meaning to that Lao Tzu adage, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

(449 words)

Chester Chua, Secondary Four
September 2016

For more essays by Chester, visit Chester Writes.

This essay was written in response to the question:
“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” – Theodore Roosevelt. What are your views?


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