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On Winning, Losing, & Ivy League Admissions

| “Sometimes you win a competition and you lose because you didn’t get personal growth. But sometimes you lose a competition yet you grow so much that it turns out to be better than winning. And that’s the answer to all of your fears.”

Want to get a sneak peek into the Ivy League Challenge? Join us in a classroom where you will hear other students, who are just like you, express their thoughts, and concerns and get guidance live on a call.


  • Why holding yourself back in order to keep safe is a dangerous “strategy”
  • The one mindset shift that you want to start applying today
  • Deep fear of a student (that you’re very likely will relate to)
  • A powerful advice to help you overcome your fears
  • 3 magic words to add to your big goals and dreams

     And so much more.


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So really quickly, this is going to be a different kind of podcast because normally, I speak directly to you, the listener, or I interview an expert around some important piece of information that I think you'd be interested to hear. But today, I took a snippet from one of our recent classes out of the ivy league challenge. I did this because we moved in a direction that was created by the students. They kind of generated this theme around the fact that there's more nuance in life, that winning is sometimes losing, and losing is sometimes winning.

Most of what I've kept in this recording is my kind of summarizing what they've said, but they were the ones who really brought out that really profound idea. And I wanted to share it with my listeners. I hope you enjoy this. It's kind of a sneak to peek into the ivy league challenge and what it's like over zoom in the classroom。 And learn from it absolutely like we began this call today, right? Sometimes in sports or in a competition, you win the competition, but you don't gain anything, and sometimes you lose the competition. But you gained so much. It's much better than if you had won. And so sometimes winning is losing, and losing is winning. And we need to be a little bit more complex, a little more nuanced, right? In how we understand our interactions with the world. And so I love that.

So not, iii think that you're gonna love economics because you just described exactly kind of this economics paradox, right? That there's scarcity, not because there's not enough of everything, there's scarcity because when we say yes to one thing, we say we inevitably say no to something else. We can focus our energy equally on two things at the same time. And if we think we are, then we're just switching back and forth. We're focused on switching.

Yeah, like risk and reward. If you take this risk, take a bigger risk, and get a bigger reward. There's a higher chance that you won't get it.

Because it's so hard to get.

Here's the great thing.

So now, thanks for transitioning to that. One of the things that I don't know is if any of you listened to my podcast on the fear of poor audio quality. This is back when I was first broadcasting, but ii recorded it right after this class, right after week four of that cohort. What if I take the risk? And the potential reward is great? But also, I'm less likely to get it. And that's exactly the origin of your number three. That's this idea that I might put all this work in. And the grass isn't greener on the other side anyway, or I don't get what I wanted.

And anyway, I love what some of you may have heard about my podcast with Otta. I love what Otta said. He was I. He was a good student, not a great student. And he had ambitions to go to UC Berkeley, which is widely considered the more the best public university in the world. And one of the top 20, perhaps 25 schools, period, not just state schools. So he was ambitious for something that was nearly impossible based on his academic record. When he joined the Ivy League Challenge. If you don't already know, if you don't haven't listened to his interviews on my podcast, he did get into UC Berkeley, which was awesome. It was amazing. He did a great impact project, and his essays really demonstrated how his core values guided his decisions and led to his impact project.

And it all worked out. And I love what he said about what you just described soon. This idea that what if I take this huge risk and go for this university that I might get in? But yeah, there's a better chance that I don't, or at least there's a really good chance that I why don't I just play it safe? Why why do I really want to take that risk? And I love what he said because this is the mindset that explains everything. This is why we want awareness around our fear because of this one answer. And the answer is, let's say that the time comes for me to apply to college. And this whole time, I've been working so hard because I dream of getting into this, Columbia or Yale, or some Juilliard, some school that's nearly impossible to get into.

I work really hard because I'm really motivated by my dream to get into that dream school. And what happens if, let's say, at the very end, something changes in me? Does my impact project change me? My self-awareness changes me. And I realized that school motivated me to do all this work. That's not actually what I want.

Now that I know myself better, I'm not even going to apply to that school. Or what if we take it one step further? What if we say I'm not even gonna go to college? Because of my increased self-awareness because of my impact project. College is no longer my thing. If that were the case, what would be the best use of my time in high school? It probably would not be looking around at what my peers do and trying to fit in. Probably wouldn't have grown to the point that I could be successful out in the world if that's how I lived my life in high school. But because I wanted to get into a top-tier university, I stopped looking around at my peers and stopped trying to fit in. And instead, I shone the light inside, and I figured out what my core values are.

And then, I began identifying a problem in my community and began working hard to solve that problem because the problem violated my core values. In the process, I developed problem-solving skills and leadership skills, and I developed self-efficacy. I developed self-awareness and emotional intelligence and empathy and cognitive thinking, and meta-cognition. I developed all these skills that allow me to empathize with people who have this problem and then try to solve this problem and improve my community through my efforts because of my core values. If, instead, that's how I use my high school years. And I do that because I want to get into a dream school. It just so happens. That was the best use of my time.

Anyway, whether I want to go to college or not, the great mindset shift that can happen is, alright, there's a lot of fear in anxiety around doing big things. But guess what? This is like the theme of today's class that came from you guys from your sports at the beginning when we were chatting earlier. And then with Rachel, when she joined the theme, today is like, sometimes you win the competition, and you lose because you don't have the personal growth. Sometimes you lose the competition, but you grow so much that it's better than winning. And that's the answer to all of the spheres, isn't it? This idea is that it's not even winning the competition that is the win. It's not acceptable to that one college; that's the actual win. Plenty of people will go to that college. That's the win, and you will not have the life growth and the success and the happiness that you might have, even though you don't go to that college.

And so we need to have more nuance and more complexity in the way that we think about those big goals. Because we can say, it's a big risk to shoot for Harvard, to shoot for Juilliard, to shoot for the University of Michigan, or whatever your dream school is.

And there's a big risk that we won't get there. Or you can say, I'm going to shoot for it because if I don't get there, that's not even the point wasn't to win the competition. It is, but it's not. I have more complexity than that. I have more nuance than that in the way that I understand my life and my growth. Does that make sense? Is that resonated with anyone? So that is how we shift our mindset away from allowing fear to stop us from taking action. We move it into using fear to motivate us to be the best version of ourselves. Okay. I love it. All right. So now let's hear from you.

And then so this is really sure I just want to say, sometimes we aren't doing stuff like that, because and we don't play tournaments. We don't go to concerts because if you mess up and don't get in, you want to avoid that pain.

And what we're saying is that perspective that I don't want to try because there's a good chance. I don't win the tournament; I don't win the competition; it is not nearly as nuanced, not nearly as mature, not nearly as healthy as the mindset that says this is a big goal. This is bold. And if I'm totally honest, chances are, I'm not gonna happen, right? Chances are I'm not going to get it. Who cares? What? I'm going to be alive for the next four years anyway, right? If I'm eventually gonna be 18 or 17 and applying to college anyway, I might as well prepare in the way that's the most healthy and the most inspiring. And that builds me as a human being the best, right?

So I'm going to go and do hard things that align with my core values. Then it goes be me, and who cares? Right? We care. We want to win the competition where we want to get into the school. We want to make it to the recital or whatever it is. We want to make it into that inner circle we do. Yet we also recognize that the journey of getting there is at least as valuable as getting there. Elisa.

I just wanted to say one thing that really scares me. I'm afraid that I will disappoint my family, my family, if I don't get in. It's one thing. I know I'll be disappointed myself, right? I'll be sad. But it galls me to think as my family believes me; they think I'm really. I would be afraid to try also because I don't want to disappoint them.

That is thank you for sharing that. Because immediately you can see all of these chats coming in. Are these direct messages good there to everyone? You can see everyone saying that's me. I'm not so worried about myself. I'm worried about my family being disappointed. And that awareness and your willingness you're bravery to vocalize that Eliza is so powerful, because what just happened? 12345 people within 3 seconds of you saying that said, yes, that's me. Suddenly you just empowered five people because five people didn't realize that they weren't the only five people who thought that fear was the fear that they were holding onto.

Now, they realized they could share that burden with six of you, right? With the six of you. I want to tell you just really quickly. I am right, I spent time at Harvard, and I have a degree from there. I have a lot of friends there, and I've never met one, not even one. That's why I didn't have that fear. It's just so valuable to realize that's what happens when you have a track record of doing amazing things. You think that everyone, you think that you have more pressure from outside than is actually there. And so just that exercise of vocalizing it and seeing that everyone else feels the same way. And then using that awareness to say, but I have more nuance than that. I have more complexity in my thought than that. And I know that if I don't go to this school, I go to that school instead. What's the long-term vision here? What's the ten-year outcome? The tenure outcome is it doesn't. The school is going to be a cool story for a little while.

And then what I do with the resources at the school that I go to is what's going to shape my children and me and also kind of reflect well on my parents and my siblings. And that's the thing that's going to be more exciting. And what gives me a better chance of creating that kind of legacy? Is it the normal and common response, which is, I'm going to tie one hand behind my back, just so that everyone knows that if I accomplish this goal, then they know that I must be amazing because I did it with one hand behind my back?

And if I don't, then there's a built-in explanation for why I didn't accomplish it. I had my hand typed behind my back. So some people literally, if you hear people say, man, this test, i'm so unprepared. I just barely started looking at the problems 15 minutes ago, whereas I just barely started last night, and ii only spent 30 minutes preparing for this test. Man, I'm screwed. And you'll hear people say things like that, why they want to tell you I type one of my hands is tied behind my back. So when I'm in this boxing ring, ii literally only have one hand to box with. So if I lose, it's because I have a tie, a hand tied behind my back. Right? And no one wants to say, no, I gave it my best.

Because then you kind of feel like I gave it my best, and I still didn't win. I still didn't do it. That must mean that I'm not good enough. Right? And that gets back to the, and there must be something wrong with me now. And we don't want anything to be wrong with me. We want to tie our hands, and that's a normal response. It's not healthy, but it's normal. It's also very linear. It's; also, there's no nuance to that. There's no complexity to that. And it's not courageous. It's not aligned with core values. And so what's cool is when you decide that I might not succeed, but I'm going to give it my all. And you approach it with. Did I already tell you guys the three magic words? I will, in week five, when we start really looking at universities, and you decide this is my dream school. I want you to always add to your big goals and your big dreams. You're always going to add three magic words. You're going to say, and I want to go to Juilliard or something better. You always add those three words to every big goal; the bigger the goal, the more important it is to add your three.

I want to, and whatever it is, I want to win this tournament or something better. I want to get into all states or all regionals or whatever. I want to get into this competition. I want to qualify or something better. What you're doing every time you say those magic three words is you're reminding yourself of the reality that your success and your growth do not hinge on the thing that you're thinking at hinges on. And you begin to open up your mind to that complexity. Again, that's the tool to allow our awareness of fear to empower us.