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When You Open Up, The Whole World Opens Up

Tam Pham
Tam Pham
7 min read

The last few days, my College Rejection Speech has received a ton of attention both on Facebook & YouTube. A lot of awesome lessons were learned and I thought I’d share:

1) Be vulnerable

The more vulnerable you are, the stronger your message will be.

In the speech, I started off by saying everything bad about how I felt during my experience of college rejections.

“I felt worthless, inadequate, and simply not good enough.”
“I got rejected from 8/10 colleges, including my dream university.”
“I was jealous of all my friends who got into their dream schools.”

Because I shared my deepest insecurities, you wouldn’t believe how many people opened up to me.

Not just saying, “Thanks for the speech.”

They sent me… ESSAYS.

  • Essays on their life story and how similar it was.
  • Essays on how much they resonated with the message.
  • Essays on how this speech was able to relieve some of their deepest fears

It was absolutely mind blowing.

2) Go above and beyond

When I emailed Daniel from “” for some advice (on something totally unrelated), I was BLOWN away by his detailed response.

He runs a popular blog with over thousands of readers so I assumed he was a busy guy. But he responded to my question as if he knew me his whole life and put so much thought and effort into it.

I would never forget his response and his kindness. Daniel told me he learned this from Mr. Rogers.

So what did I do when people asked me for advice? I sent everyone who messaged me... a super thoughtful message back. Twice their size.

Message #1 — The whole message couldn’t fit the screenshot
Message #2 — Hiding name & their messages to preserve their anonymity

I wanted to be sooooo helpful.

That not only will they have sound advice, but that they will never forget my random act of kindness… And hopefully go above and beyond to help their friends.

Everyone was blown away.

Message #3 — Awesomeness
#Message 4 — Reply Back

3) Impact EVERYONE

Even with the people who I didn’t know that shared the video, I messaged them.

and I commented on every single share.

and messaged / replied back to every single comment

I cared. Immensely. About everyone.

After this extra effort, I had a chance to engage in more dialogue… and help more people. In return, I made new friends.

Everybody wins.

4) Be Humble

The video received a ton of attention (in my standards). 20K+ views, 200+ Shares, & 800+ Likes in less than 48 hours.


Views and likes don’t mean sh*t to me though.

The only metric I wanted to measure was IMPACT.


I remind myself never to get caught up in the numbers, or the attention, or the 15 minutes of “fame.”

Ego kills people. Having a big ego can ruin everything.

I remind myself that we are ALL human beings. Equal on the playing field. That we ALL have a chance to impact others regardless of our race, age, gender, etc.

I remind myself that I am ENTIRELY GRATEFUL AND APPRECIATIVE of everything that has come my way. And I promise, I will never take it for granted. Ever.

If I do, somebody please slap me.

4) PASSION is contagious

People can just tell if you’re passionate about something or not.

How? I don’t know.

Is there a formula to determine how much passion one has? Even if there was, I don’t care. I wouldn’t use it.

Math isn’t my strong suit.

When I think of passion, I think of watching the other person’s eyes LIGHT up. That they will get lost in time… or in their own imagination.

You can just FEEL the warmth and the tingling sensations… Just from listening to them.

You can FEEL their presence take over the room while talking about this topic.

Oh my god. Talking to passionate people leads to some of the best conversations.

One thing I’ve learned is that you can’t “fake” passion.

Your passion takes over the game! You inherit some kind of magic power to motivate and lead people with your vision.

It’s amazing.

5) Overcome fear

I’m going to be honest, I never wanted to post the speech.

We had just shot and edited the video… and you wouldn’t believe how much I was cringing while I watched myself speak.

I don’t know if you love the sound of your own voice, but I don’t.

I had so many fears in my head

  • No one is going to watch this
  • My friends will think I’m a try-hard
  • This is WAY too corny…Booorrriiinng
  • People are going to tell me that I’m fake

Then I said, f*ck it.

And I hit: Post.

Moral of the story? Do sh*t that you are scared of.

You never know what the outcome might be. You never know what impact it will have.

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

6) Stay genuine

With every action I took, with every word I typed, with every thing I thought about… I asked myself:

Am I being genuine?

Do I really want to help people? Or am I just doing it to boost my ego? If it was the latter, I would immediate quit everything that I was going.

With every action YOU do, do you REALLY want to do it? Will it make YOU happy? Or are you doing it for some alternative reason?

When I posted the video, I never imagined the outcome and how it received so much attention. I originally made it because I wanted to help 1 person.

At least 1 person.

That was my goal.

I don’t care who it was… I just hoped ONE person watched my speech and would say: Wow. That made me feel a lot better.

Do things genuinely and with purpose.

7) Rise to the opportunity

My old high school teacher posted this on my Timeline.

I was up for the challenge... What’s next?

I had to quickly learn how to get press. I still don’t know how… but I’m working on it every day.

  • I’ve posted on Quora
  • Tweeted News Stations
  • Emailed dozens of reporters
  • Posted on College Confidential
  • Submitted the video on several media outlets

I don’t know if I’m doing any of these the “right” way, but I’m constantly learning… And working on it every day.

8) Persistence

This isn’t the first time I made a speech or a short film. I started back in 7th grade (2008) and have been creating content ever since.

No one read my sh*t. No one watched my videos. No one cared. But I stayed consistent.

This is me in 2010 making videos for Yu-Gi-Oh

I got better at writing. My stories were more interesting. I found new ways to craft my message and help people.

And I did it over and over and over.

  • I read books.
  • I asked for advice.
  • I learned from my failures.
  • I enrolled in an Improv class.
  • I even took classes on Storytelling.

So when people think this video was a “one-hit wonder”?

I’ve been doing this for over 7+ years and finally got a little bit of attention. People don’t even know half of the story.

9) No Excuses

I had someone message me and say how I should do a video to help Community College Students.

I said, that’s a great idea! I told that person how I wasn’t a CC student so I wouldn’t fully understand the struggle. I suggested that he would be the perfect one to do it (since he sent me a whole script on the whole idea)

That person told me,

“Nah, I can’t do it. I’m not as motivational as you…”

I asked, what!? You don’t just wake up and decide you’re going to be motivational. If you have a burning message that needs to get heard, do it. Anybody can make a video and share it on Facebook.

You don’t need a “title” to impact people. You don’t need a fancy camera. You don’t need to have some kind of fancy award.

YOU have all the power you need right at your fingertips.

He made another remark:

“I’m just the idea guy.”

This is what I replied:

Don’t put labels on yourself. It restricts you, your creativity, and your mindset to work on meaningful projects.


You are the perfect person to do it as well. You have the vision. You have faced the struggle. You have an important message that needs to be heard.

The next day, he messaged and says he’s going to do it.


I’m so proud of him and I can’t wait to see the outcome. If you really want something to happen, stop making excuses and DO IT!

10) Give Credit

I didn’t make the speech or video all by myself.

Over 30+ students generously gave me feedback. 3 different mentors gave me advice (Ryan Porter, Marisol Q, & Arjun Buxi). David & Isaac helped bring this project alive with their film and editing work.

My little brother was super supportive of me (as always!)

You don’t win anything all by yourself.

I’m super super super appreciative for everyone who helped bring this project to life. I individually thanked every single person for all their time & advice.

I added their names in the credits section of the video and they all noticed. Give credit where credit is due.

On that note, thank you to EVERYONE.


Your support means the world to me. Every like, every comment, and every share. This is a message that has to be heard and I can’t say thank you enough for spreading the love.

Stay awesome.

Tam Pham Twitter

I'm a writer and bachata dancer currently bouncing around Latin America. Trying to make the most out of my one wild and precious life.