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Be the Hero of Your Story

| “If you think that a movie of your life is boring because it’s a story about a victim waiting to be saved, begin writing a different story today. And become the hero.”

We all face challenges. But when you realize that you are the hero of your story, you see those challenges-- even unfairness and injustice-- as the reason to rise up and fight for your mission.

Borrowing from his brilliant book Business Made Simple by Donald Miller, this podcast will show you how high performing teens can adopt this winning mindset, starting today.


  • One question to help you answer, “Am I going to be successful?”
  • Why you should never see yourself as a victim of your story
  • Real-life stories that will awaken a hero inside of you
  • Why high-performing, elite students do not pursue happiness (and what they pursue instead)
  • How to quickly identify if you should start writing a new life story

     And so much more.


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Welcome back to season two of the Ivy League Prep Academy Podcast. Equipping you to successfully pursue the college of your dreams. We believe everyone deserves to reach their full potential, and the admissions process shouldn't hold you back.

If you asked me to estimate which middle school or high school student was going to be successful over the next few years, I could do so by asking one question how often do they position themselves as the hero and not the victim in their own stories? In other words, how often do they talk about themselves as if fate or something else outside of their control has given them a bad hand? We all have bad days, of course, and feeling sadness or grief and anger sometimes is normal and healthy and important. But the victim I'm talking about believes that fundamental elements of life are just not fair, and nothing they do can make a difference. Because if you believe that nothing you do can make a difference, then why do anything other than complain? Now, let me be clear.

There is injustice and unfairness in the world, far too much of it. But that is exactly why the world needs more teens who see themselves as heroes instead of victims. Think about your favorite movie or story.

You first become hooked when the character in the story faces conflict. The conflict might have been caused by unfairness or injustice or anything else, but the story only becomes interesting when the hero faces a conflict. In fact, the character becomes the hero by facing that challenge and going through the process of overcoming that challenge.

In film. This is called the Hero's Journey. Now, I recognize that I'm approaching this topic from a platform of privilege.

I'm white, heterosexual, male, and I get that I haven't had the same challenges that many other people have just because of my gender or skin tone or sexual orientation. I understand that. But I also believe that this principle, this mindset, is so important to your future success that I don't want to shy away from it either.

I want to share how important this is. So I'm going to use examples that are not my own. You may have heard of Corey Tenbum and her sister or Victor Frankel.

Both of these stories or both of these examples come from World War II and Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. But Corey Tenbaum, I think, is one of my favorite heroes in the world. She and her sister were interned in a Nazi internment camp, and they decided to play a game with each other.

They decided that life was so miserable and everything was so difficult that they were going to play a game to see how they could be grateful for everything. And you can imagine how challenging that might have been when they were really struggling to eat. They found gratitude in the fact that they could serve others.

And somehow, in this incredibly difficult situation, this extreme challenge that they're facing. They chose to be the hero by stepping up and finding gratitude in the little tiny things. However, at one point, they faced a challenge that went above and beyond the rest of the challenges that they had a really hard time figuring out how to be grateful, and that was the fleas inside of their barracks.

Their barracks were just full of fleas. They were infested by insects. And all of the women who were crammed into these barracks just struggled.

They had a really difficult time with the fleas, and they were biting, and they were just horrible. But Corey Tenbum and her sister Betsy decided to find a way to face this challenge and find gratitude, even for the fleas. Wow, what a challenge.

How would you do that if that were you? You're starving, trying to survive in a Nazi internment camp in World War II, and then you come home every day after just backbreaking work and labor all day long to sleep in flea infested quarters where you were bitten during the night. How would you find gratitude in that? How would you find a way to be the hero of this story and overcome that challenge? For Corey and Betsy, they soon figured out a way to be grateful. They discovered that the fleas were not just annoying to them, but they were annoying to the guards as well.

And over time, they realized that guards were not coming into their barracks to rape or to bully the women. The guards stayed out of their quarters because they didn't want to be bitten by the fleas. Corey and her sister recorded this story in her journal, and I think it's an amazing example of a hero stepping up and saying, I realize that the challenge is great, unbelievable challenge that had to be overcome.

And I believe that they were true heroes. They faced that challenge and found a way to get through it. Of course, Victor Frankel, with his world changing philosophy that has absolutely changed my life as well as I've studied him.

And we all discover that the pursuit of happiness is not what creates happiness. That Freud, Sigmund Freud was wrong, that humans do not spend their lives pursuing pleasure and avoiding pain. Instead, humans who are satisfied, high performers, and those who are listening to this podcast, I imagine all of you understand or should understand this difference.

High performing humans and humans who truly experience joy do not pursue happiness. They spend their lives pursuing meaning. And in the pursuit of meaning, they find happiness.

On the other hand, people who spend their entire lives pursuing pleasure and avoiding pain never seem to find happiness, never seem to find lasting joy. So Victor Frankel, also a victim in every sense of the word, trapped inside of a Nazi internment camp, watching friends and family die all around him on a regular basis. He was the hero of his story, not because he wasn't technically a victim.

Not because he wasn't bullied and didn't have injustice and didn't have unfairness all around him. He had that. But he chose to face his challenge and to rise above it.

He decided that his mission of publishing his work and his philosophy and what he discovered about Man's search for meaning that that mission was too important. And so he rose above the challenge and survived. He was the hero of his story.

And of course, the outcome of his story was just like Corey Tenbum. They were heroes. They faced extreme conflict, the kind that I've never faced in my life.

But they chose to rise up and fight for their cause, to fight for their mission and overcome those challenges. So deciding your identity is a hardworking hero on a mission will put you in a position to succeed. People love to join and support a hero who is on a mission.

And what about the victim? In a story, the victim's only role is to be saved by the hero. They do not grow or evolve in any meaningful way throughout the movie. Their job is to be saved from a situation where they have no way out.

The funny thing is, you know what? We are all victims at different points in our lives, but not everyone chooses to play the victim. If you've been cheated or hurt, I don't minimize that, and you shouldn't either. There are times when it is right and it is healthy to be angry or to be sad and to experience grief.

But that's different from playing the victim. We can play the victim even when we're the bully or the villain. We play the victim when we feel hurt or when we want sympathy or we just want to get out of feeling any responsibility.

The hero of the story, however, discovers that he or she has a way out. The hero has a mission to fight for that can change the world. When the story ends, the victim is safe but completely unchanged by the conflict, while the hero, though bloody and bruised from the fight, has evolved and saved the day.

Your mission is too important for you to spend time playing the victim. The Ivy League challenge is all about asking students, teenagers just like you, to stand up when you face conflict, even when that conflict is unfair or unjust, when something violates your core values, when you've been hurt or bullied or someone else around you has. That's the time when the hero of the story steps up and finds a way to overcome that challenge.

And there's all kinds of different ways that you can overcome it. But the point is, the person who sees themselves as a hero, the hero of their story reacts differently to challenges than the person who sees themselves as a victim. And here's the last thing I want to share.

Guess who decides the story? The author of this story also happens to be the hero of the story. You are writing your own journey through life, and you are the hero of your story. If you think that your story would be boring to read because you're not changing and evolving, you're not facing conflict and finding a way to overcome that conflict, that means that you're playing the victim.

Your story, indeed will be really boring to read or to watch on TV. No one's going to watch a story, a movie about a victim who just never finds a way to overcome the conflict that they face. If you hear this and you say to yourself that sometimes sounds like me, I want you to know that you are in the driver's seat.

You're the one who gets to write the rest of the story. You're the one who chooses what your mission is. You're the one who chooses how you overcome your challenges and how you face that conflict.

So you are the author of your story, and I'm challenging you today to be the hero of your story as well.