How to Raise a Humble High Achiever with Zac and Lan Mu


Dr Kimberley O'Brien

How to Raise a Humble High Achiever with Zac and Lan Mu

Welcome to episode 003 of the Impressive Podcast. In this episode, Kimberley talks with Lan Mu and her son, Zach Mu who has won awards for public speaking. How Lan Mu created such a humble and down to earth, yet high achieving young boy in Zach.

Lan will also be sharing the details about the Timor community and how she brought everybody together so that Zach has some great mentorship and family. Enjoy:

  • Time is a luxury many don’t value. Zac and Lu explain how time management is integrated into their lives.
  • Goals that attainable and interesting for a young person
  • Rules and how the reaction differs from a school-aged child to a teenager.

Enjoy the Episode

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About Impressive

Impressive is a weekly podcast that sheds a new light on the world of parenting. Join host, Dr Kimberley O’Brien PhD, as she delves into real-life parenting issues with CEOs, global ex-pats, entrepreneurs, celebrities, travellers and other hand-picked parents.

In an approachable on-air consultation style, she listens to some of the smartest, kindest parents share their latest parenting challenge with their incredible kids. Together they brainstorm solutions and Kimberley offer handy tips and valuable resources to help bring out the best in toddlers, teens and in-betweens. Drawing mostly on two decades of experience as a child psychologist, Kimberley also shares her personal insights as a mother of two and entrepreneur with a passion for problem-solving.

Further Reading


5 Tips on Preparing Young People for Greatness

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Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 00:08

Hello, I'm Dr. Kimberley O'Brien, a child psychologist, entrepreneur, and mum with a passion for problem solving and family adventures. Join me each week for practical tips and on air consultations with the smartest, kindest parents and their incredible kids. Find answers faster, do things differently, and take your family further. This is impressive. This episode is sponsored by Now let's get started.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 00:34

Hello and welcome too Impressive. I'm so glad you could join us today, mostly because I get to talk to some really inspiring people. We have Zac, who's eight years old, and Lan his mum joining us to talk about Zac's impressive awards as a public speaker. The family were originally from East Timor, Lan came across to Australia as a refugee, and she tells us a little bit about that and mostly around her philosophy as a parent and how she has raised her children to have such an incredible community around them. So without further ado, I'll let them talk more about their achievements and how they made that happen. This is Zac and Lan Mu. Thanks for joining us.

Lan Mu: 01:19

Well, my father likes to share stories with us all the time about the hardship that they went through. The  war broke out in 1975  when Portugal, that used to rule Timor  moved out. And so then there was a bit of a struggle for power. So there was a bit of unrest. In 1975, I was only a year old when Timor got invaded. So father packed up the seven of us, me being the youngest, and we went to cross the border to West Timor, which is governed by the Indonesians. And we stayed at a refugee camp for about 18 months. The conditions were quite harsh. People got sick, we were poor. Food was scarce. We lived in tin sheds until we processed the paperwork to go to Portugal.  So then we went after that. Yes. And we were migrants of Portugal and the Portuguese government looked after us for about seven years and then from there the  Australian government opened up the humanitarian gates I think where if you have a family member living in Australia, you were able to sponsor a loved one from overseas. So then my aunty did the paperwork and we came and the rest is history.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 02:38

And then what about Zac? When  was Zac born and what was he like as a baby?

Lan Mu: 02:41

Zac, what he is like now is just what he was like a baby. He's just placid. Still doesn't like his veggies very much, but we do make him, and he knows that he has to have veggies so that he can grow and  have all the nutrients that he requires. But a good listener always. Zac sticks to the rules, don't you?

Zac Mu: 03:03


Lan Mu: 03:04

Zac is a rules man. Yeah. So if say for example,  this morning I had to take him to school and he'll be like, You've got 12 minutes, mum. So the countdown's on. He's always got his watch. So Zac is a timekeeper. He keeps his watch on all the time. And he reminds me all the time. So mum, we've got swimming. Can you please hurry? He doesn't like to be late.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 03:36

Zac, have you got any tips for other kids your age  around  time management and how did you get so organised?

Zac Mu: 03:43

I don't know. I just felt like it when my mum and dad got me a watch, I wanted to use it so that they wouldn't be wasting money. And now I'm organised with my watch. I'm addicted to it now.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 04:02

Wow. Wow.

Lan Mu: 04:05

That was the best present. I think getting a watch for Zac, I think it was last year or the year before. I think that was the best investment, I think at the age of eight they can read the watch hands and can understand and just at school, I think just to look at their watch and say, look, I'm doing my work and in 10 minutes time the bells going to ring for lunch, so I need to hurry up and finish. Or especially getting ready for soccer training. Cause his father's always to the minute. So as soon as his father pulls into the garage, Zac knows that he has to be ready. So he'll look at his watch and gives himself that 10 minutes to get ready. And the mornings are great because I mean, when you're rushing and you're upstairs and he's downstairs, I know that the timekeeper will start yelling 10 minutes, 5 minutes, and I know I have to get my  things together.  Or he'll yell up and goes, don't rush, you've got 25 minutes take your time. I love it when he says that.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 05:10

I love that. It sounds like a real role reversal because often it's the parents that are saying, come on, we've got five minutes, and the kids that are   running along and trying to keep up, but I love that scenario where the kids are  keeping track of time. It sounds like it works with both.

Lan Mu: 05:26

And Kimberly, remember how I mentioned how when he won the state, I said to him, What would you like? It's yours. I was hoping something not too expensive and he said, I would like a Garmin watch, and I said you can have whatever you want, which Garmin do you want. And the only one that could fit him was the adult one, but it was a small version of it. Then doing his step up, so he'll do his, so he's got a goal that we set up for him,  so what was the first day? It was about 10,000,

Zac Mu: 06:00

5,000 and then it increases

Lan Mu: 06:02

Up to about 10,000 and then he'll try to meet his goals every day. So he'll come home, he goes, mummy, I've got one hundred steps to go to make 5000. So he'll do the hundred and he reaches 5000, and then the fireworks will come on and you'll get really happy. And then a month after it will be like 10,000, 15,000. So I think that was really good. And he had a on it, so he always was on time for everything.  And at the same time, he'll do his steps and that was his goal. And he used to look forward to it every day at the end of the day. And I think it motivated him to do a lot of things he wanted to do for swimming, but it slowed him down. We thought, Nah, take it off.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 06:47

Okay, gotcha. You know how you are  an amazing all rounder. How did you manage to achieve so much in such a broad space rather than just focusing on one thing and doing well in that? How do you manage to stretch yourself across academics, sports?  

Zac Mu 07:06

My  mum and dad, they push me to do maths, science, English, and that and my dad, he tells me to do soccer so that I can be fit and healthy

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 07:20

And how do you find time to have friendships and  have fun with all those other things going on?

Lan Mu: 07:26

Do you go to parties all the time?

Zac Mu: 07:29

No, not that much

Zac Mu: 07:34

I went to a birthday on Sunday and I liked it. It was ice skating and I skated really fast.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 07:46

Wow. That's another talent that you have. Do you have big goals for the future as well, Zac? Are you  thinking, Oh, I wanna do this and that? Or do you just live very much in the here and now?

Zac Mu: 07:59

I want to do swimming in the Olympics to beat like Ian Thorpe's record, 200 metre freestyle in one minute and 45 seconds.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 08:11

Whose record was that? Did you say? I missed it?

Zac Mu: 08:13

Ian Thorpe's

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 08:14

Oh, gotcha. Okay. Swimming champion. Have you ever met Ian Thorpe?

Zac Mu: 08:20


Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 08:21

Not yet. But he's one of your role models?

Zac Mu: 08:23


Lan Mu: 08:25

It's about children speaking about things that they can relate to. And I find that when you help them with a speech, get them to give their input and their understanding of a particular story that matters to them. With all my children's speeches, I always say to them right from your heart, and they can write pages of doodles and things like that, but then in the end you can pick about four or five lines that really do have an impact and then you  focus on those and then you say tell me more. How does this apply to you in your life? And things like that. And  we go from our speech like that and it becomes really funny because then they talk about their experiences. I think leading up to the first competition is probably when the kids practice the most because they've got to actually learn the speech and then  once they learn the speech and do it in front of the teacher to get picked for the school to represent the school and go to the next stage. By then they know their speech by heart. And these kids, it's a two minute, a three minute speech and they've got photographic memories because it's their story. They know most of the words by heart.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 09:33

It's Dr. Kimbo O'Brien here I thought I'd just let you know that I love nothing more than speaking to parents and children from all around the world. So if you'd like to set up a Skype or a Zoom call, I am really keen to help you brainstorm solutions to whatever issue it may be impacting on your young person at home or at school. Please just go to the Quirky Kid website to make your own appointment. That's au to make your own appointment. And I'll speak with you soon.

Lan how did you feel as a parent when he was the winner? What did you do and how did you feel?

Lan Mu: 10:12

Oh my goodness. It was amazing  how your body just freezes and because you think, oh look in your head, you do rank the kids as they go, and then you do rank them as they do their impromptu. I'm not trying to be biased, but Zac was pretty high in my rank and then when they announced his name, we were like, just shock to win something in New South Wales. That's amazing. He was only eight years old. He was, I think one of the youngest competitors.

Lan Mu: 10:47

I said to him, I said,  How did you feel? And he goes, I knew I won. And I said, What do you mean? He said, I just knew mummy. I had a good feeling because I spoke with my heart.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 11:00

Do you have any family rules that you stick to or family meetings that you come back to or things you revise or you pretty much stick to the same routine and  rules that come from that?

Lan Mu: 11:12

I think I stick to the same routine and rules I mean once in a while when they all muck up, we all sit down and you've got to say, listen here, I'm really tired today and today this is what's happened. I hope it doesn't happen again. You'll find that with Zac's age being the nine, he'll sit there and nod and go, okay, but the teenager, you look at him, he's looking at you and staring back at you and you're thinking, oh, you know.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 11:44

I'm just ducking in here. It's Dr. Kim O'Brien to let you know about Quirky Kids' performance psychology program for children aged seven to twelve years. The program is called Power Up. So it's performance psychology, helping kids to perform in things like exams, dance performances, or a musical presentation of some sort. Anything that involves a performance. Kids are often quite anxious and the Power Up program teaches them how to overcome their anxiety by having a plan. If you'd like to find out more about Power Up and about how we adapted this program that is typically used for adult athletes into something   for children, please go to, that's and find out more about PowerUp. Is there anything else that you can think of that's really contributed to Zac's confidence and his sporting abilities and his academic success?

Lan Mu: 12:45

You know what, I think role models are really important. I think having role models to look up too. I know Zac been so fortunate to start kindergarten and then have his older brother, his cousin in a much older year, and another cousin in year six that participated in the leadership program. So he can see all that from kindergarten and feel protected and see what they do for the school and    e'll look up at me and he'll say one day, mummy, I'm gonna be what Ryan is, the house captain of the school or Charlton's the school SRC leader and I want to give it a go. Will you help me write a speech? I go, by the time I think you can write your own speech,  I think he's got good role models. He's always had that, and I think even with the swimming or the cross country or anything Zac does in public speaking, he's always had the older cousins to look up to.

Lan Mu: 13:41
And I think he just basically just follows in their footsteps. I think it's really important. Yes, he's very lucky in that sense. And I think that's why Zac has done so well in all areas of school and even socially I think because he's always had the cousins and the brothers to protect him. I think he's always had that to guide him I think.  And even  when he is at soccer or whatever, and you'll do something silly, a typical nine year old child would do and you can see one of the cousins going up to Zac and go, I don't think you should be doing that.  He'll come back and you go, Kenan said that I shouldn't have done that. Maybe Kenan is right, yes because I could've hurt myself, he's very lucky in that sense. He's always had someone to look out for him and guide him I think and with myself and my husband, I find that sitting down with him every night having dinner, no electronics, that's the rule. Dinner time, no tv, we sit down, we have a meal, we have a bit of a chat.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 14:48

And then what about choosing a high school? Have you been tossing up academic versus sporting high school or is it just following the cousins and the brother to do the same kind of path or has that been another big decision to consider?

Lan Mu: 15:03

It's another big decision.  I mean, my  oldest child, Charlton goes to a Catholic school, which is across the road from my house. Both my boys, I think academically they could have gone to a selective school and I think they would've done well. But at the end of the day, I think the wellbeing and just the mental health of your child is important. I think there's a lot of pressure out there in terms of tutoring and things like that. In my community, tutoring is like, you'll find that I've got eight siblings in my family and you'll find that seven out of the eight have got their kids tutored.  I don't believe in that. I mean, my husband and I both came to Australia as refugees and we both went to an ESL school where we learned English and intensive English. And from there we  managed to go to university and  get good jobs and I think I'm so lucky to be raised and  have that support with my husband and myself where they're quite lucky that we can help them in terms of their homework. But in terms of going to an academic school and things like that, I think you're better off  putting them into a school where you are able to get to them.  

Lan Mu: 16:15
Say if there was a big severe thunderstorm, whatever, I know my child is only five minutes away and they know that I can get to them. And I think schools now, I mean my son's in year eight and it's not a selective school, but he's just got so much homework. It's a lot going on for a little teenager. And there are days where  five minutes past three, he's walking across a road with his cousin and his friends and I think I've made the best decision because he's laughing, he's smiling and he's home within five minutes. He just wants to dump that school bag, get that ice cream out in summer and just sit in front of the TV for a little bit or have a bit of a kick with his cousin in the backyard  and then start his work and I think it's a lot of pressure there.

Lan Mu: 16:57
And I think with Zac too, I'll be doing the same. I think if you were to put your child into doing a selective test you're competing with the best and these kids have been tutored since kindergarten and there's no way I can do that test. I mean, they get that problem solved within five seconds and it takes me a minute or two. I think that competitive environment, I think is I don't know, I don't think it's good for them. I don't know, for me, I think it would be hard. I said to my kids, you do your public speaking and you love it, but when you go into these competitions, I mean you're a winner already. It doesn't matter if you win or you don't. You've been selected from your class, of a school of 800 kids, you've done well already. It just doesn't fall from the sky. You've got to work for it. You've got to earn it. And when you've earned that and you've put in that effort, I said, it's yours buddy. And that feeling, how does it feel? I say to Zac, when you won, I said, How does it feel, Zac, that you earn that  trophy? You earn that trophy because you put in 10 minutes of your day every day. And he said, mummy, it feels amazing. I said, there you go.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 18:12

And that concludes our interview with Zac and Lan Mu today. Thank you so much to Lan for sharing how she's created such a humble and down to earth yet high achieving young boy in Zac. And also to Lan for sharing the details about the Timor community and how she has brought everybody together so that Zac has some great role models in his cousins at the same school and she's close enough to be there if the boys need her, such a great story. And also I'd love to thank you for joining us here on the Impressive Podcast. If you'd like to find out more about the podcast or have a look at those show notes, you can go to au. That's au/impressive, or you can join us on our Facebook community. If you search Impressive, you'll find us there. And that'll be a great opportunity to interact with other purpose driven parents. We would love to hear from you. Thanks again for joining us and we'll see you next week. I'm Kimberly O'Brien and this was Impressive.

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