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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

(So much of what I write is aimed at parents and educators, but this article is different. I encourage you to share this with any middle school and high school students who are in your life.)

There are great lessons that nature teaches us, if only we pay attention. Sometimes they’re right before our eyes, but sometimes they’re light-years away from us…literally. Are we mature enough to learn from them?

This is the story of a star wanna-be, one that had all of the ingredients for being a star, but failed. It turns out that this true story could be more relevant to your life than you know.

There’s a nebula out in deep space, about 450 light-years from Earth, and inside this collection of dust and gas there’s a dark little clump known as Core 47. Scientists tell us that Core 47 was in the process of becoming a star: it was a dense ball of gas, it began to condense while the chemical reactions within it went about their work in order to eventually ignite the whole mess and – drum roll – a star is born!

But no. Today when astronomers look at Core 47, there is no star. Instead what they discovered is that outside forces tore the poor little clump apart, before it could fire up its nuclear engine and begin to shine. In other words, it had all the ingredients necessary for stardom…and then collapsed.

Here’s where you come into play. Just like Core 47, you’re loaded with all of the components you need to shine later in life: you have talent, you have a natural curiosity to learn, and you possess the greatest computer that we know – the human brain.

But also like Core 47, you’re surrounded by outside forces. Many of these forces have one goal in mind: to keep you from igniting and becoming a star. To them, it’s much more fun to screw around and blow off your education; it’s more fun to mock your teachers and the students who do well in class; and it’s more fun to party today than to ever consider what comes next in life.

Unlike the clumps of gas in the distant universe, however, you do have a say in what happens to you. Everything in your life – everything – comes down to the choices that you make, and you have some big ones to make regarding your education and your future. If you let those negative forces around you tear you apart, all of your potential to shine is wasted. You become your own Core 47, a cold, scattered collection of what-could-have-been.

And while you do have choices to make, there’s one you DON’T have to make: whether to be cool or whether to make the most of your education. Surprise – you can do both! Choose to enjoy your time in school, but NEVER blow off your education. Never take your academics lightly, and never allow the forces around you – who, by the way, even though they’re your “friends” today, have no real interest in your future whatsoever – never allow them to knock you off your path.

It’s hard to visualize the future, but this much we do know: how you respond today has a crucial impact on your tomorrow. Shine on, little star.

Dom Testa is an author, speaker, morning radio show host, and has kept a ficus tree alive for twenty one years. He’s also the founder and president of The Big Brain Club, a non-profit foundation that helps young people recognize that Smart Is Cool. More info at DomTesta.com.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want their kids to make good choices.

Image courtesy of ramviswanathan via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.