Lean In, Stand Out, Step Up: How To Make Exceptional Students Unstoppable

Dan Ulin Speaking at Future Fest in Lahore

When I started Elite Student Coach it was with a simple mission: to take exceptional students and make them unstoppable. But how does that happen?

When I spoke at Future Fest in Lahore, Pakistan a few months ago I wanted to emphasize that this approach works for anyone. Whether you’re still a kid or in your 20s – the opportunities available in every part of the world continue to grow and we want to position everyone to seize them.

To simplify the journey from exceptional to unstoppable, I’ve distilled my approach into three actionable steps: Lean In, Stand Out, and Step Up. Each step is designed to build on the last, forming a roadmap for young individuals to follow as they forge their paths to success.

Lean In

This first step is about embracing your passions and confronting your fears.

Whether it’s computer science, robotics, or any other field, dive deep into what you love. Simultaneously, lean into your fears—those areas of uncertainty and anxiety about the future. It’s in these moments of discomfort that the greatest potential for growth lies.

The process of leaning in helps refine your focus and build resilience. Embracing your passions is fundamental, which mirrors what Rehan Allahwala said on our interview we recorded earlier this year.

For instance, if you have a keen interest in robotics, this isn’t just about participating in robotics clubs or classes—it’s about immersing yourself in the latest technologies, understanding the current trends in automation, and perhaps even starting a community project that showcases the practical application of robotics.

This deep dive not only enhances your skill set but also positions you as a committed and passionate individual in this field. Leaning into your fears, particularly the fear of the unknown, is equally crucial. During the presentation, I highlighted the power of embracing uncertainty.

Many young people expressed their apprehension about not knowing exactly what they want to pursue in the future. I encouraged them by saying, “Not knowing what you want to do is awesome… being curious and saying, ‘I don’t know, but I want to find out,’ puts you in a position to discover and expand your horizons.”

This approach fosters a mindset that values growth and learning over the security of the known, which is essential for innovation and leadership. If you wanted to be President for example, it’s a good idea to start at local government and work your way up. Just like if you want a doctorate degree – you first want to go to High School.

“Learn in” means immersing yourself in the field you care deeply about and networking with others who feel the same way.

Stand Out

In today’s competitive world, it’s not enough to be good; you need to be unique. Standing out means highlighting what makes you different and using your unique traits to distinguish yourself in applications to schools or job markets.

Dan Ulin Teaching English in Japan in 1985

Whether it’s through innovative projects, leadership roles, or community service, show how your distinct qualities and contributions add value in ways that no one else can. Highlighting your uniqueness can manifest in various forms, one of which is through the projects you undertake.

For example, if you are a computer science enthusiast, developing an app that solves a local issue not only shows your technical skills but also your commitment to community improvement.

This kind of project stands out on college applications and resumes because it combines technical expertise with social responsibility, showcasing a blend of skills that are highly valued in today’s market.

Taking on leadership roles within your areas of interest can significantly differentiate you from your peers. Leadership isn’t just about holding a position; it’s about the impact and the initiatives you lead. During the presentation, I discussed the power of connecting people with unique talents.

If you are someone who naturally brings people together, forming a new club or leading a team project that leverages diverse talents can be a powerful way to stand out. Demonstrating your ability to lead and inspire others in achieving a common goal shows potential schools and employers that you are not just a participant but a proactive, impactful individual.

Step Up

Power is taken, not given. This step is about seizing opportunities rather than waiting for them to come to you. 

From pursuing a research position by presenting a proactive proposal to a professor, to crafting a unique value proposition for a potential employer, stepping up involves taking initiative and demonstrating your capability and drive.

For example, if your dream school is Harvard – it would make sense to become as networked in the “Harvard World” as possible to increase your chances.

Rehan Allahwala

Dan Ulin Meeting Rehan Allahwala in Karachi

Proactively seeking opportunities is a key element of stepping up. For instance, if you’re interested in research, don’t wait for a position to be advertised. 

Instead, approach professors directly with a well-thought-out proposal that outlines how you can contribute to their current research projects. This shows not only your interest but also your initiative and understanding of the subject matter.

As I mentioned during the presentation, “Identify your five favorite professors or companies, write a one-page business plan…tell them what you can do for them.” This approach turns the traditional application process on its head, focusing on what you can offer rather than what you can gain.

Taking initiative also means creating opportunities where none seem to exist. If you’re interested in a specific field or industry, look for gaps or needs that haven’t been addressed and propose solutions.

This could be developing a new process, starting an innovative project, or even volunteering your skills to gain experience. “Don’t wait,” I advised in Lahore, “go in and say, this is what I think I can do for you.”

This mindset demonstrates your drive and commitment, qualities that are invaluable in any field and are sure to make you stand out as someone who doesn’t just fill roles but creates value.

My Parting Message to Everyone in Lahore?

You have the power to shape your future. The journey might be challenging, but it’s also filled with opportunities to learn, grow, and stand out.

Dan Ulin Giving His Closing Remarks in Lahore

Remember, it’s not about where you go—it’s about how you show up wherever you are. As we continue on our respective paths, I am excited to see how each of you will use what we’ve discussed to become not just successful, but truly unstoppable.