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The Art of Storytelling

I’ve decided to publish my first self-development book, Self-Made Success: Ivy League Shark Tank Entrepreneur Reveals 48 Secret Strategies To Live Happier, Healthier, and Wealthier. You can order it here. I release an excerpt from the book every Sunday as a series of blog posts called “Self-Made Sundays.” Below is the third blog post. Read the last one here.

At 2400 Expert, we use three principles in our SAT & ACT prep courses: Strategy, Example, and Practice. So I’ll follow a similar format below.

Strategy: Use The Art of Storytelling
Two of my favorite Malcolm Gladwell books, Outliers and David and Goliath, are told through a series of anecdotes. Gladwell is able to connect with millions of readers because he tells interesting stories with powerful takeaways. Use stories to connect with your audience. People love stories.

Example: Use The Art of Storytelling
I used to dislike the fact that 2400 Expert is so attached to me as the founder. Not only does it make the company virtually impossible to sell (not that I want to), but I also thought it makes the company less professional since Princeton Review and Kaplan are faceless. However, we’ve found that students love having a tangible story they can relate to. I personally struggled with the SAT, but through focused preparation was able to raise my own score from average to perfect, which resulted in some excellent college acceptances and scholarship awards. My personal story helps inspire students to work hard in our courses and achieve their own college and scholarship goals. Here is my personal story:

After receiving a 1760 on my first practice SAT, I began revising every misdirected test-taking tendency. And with some test-day luck, I scored a 2400. Most people would be satisfied with a perfect SAT score. While I was certainly excited, I have always leveraged my assets to capitalize on opportunities. So I assembled 100 scholarship applications in hopes that I could pay for college. Despite 80 rejections, I did achieve my goal: my parents did not tap into their life savings.

In college at USC, I continued to push what’s possible by attempting to write a book sharing my SAT approaches. Unfortunately, 106 literary agents and publishers dismissed my book proposal with one stating “I didn’t find Shaan’s writing or persona particularly engaging – he’s not a great writer, no matter what his score is.” After writing hundreds of pages, I had two options: continue to hope for a book deal or give up. But when life gives you Plan A or Plan B…make Plan C. So I decided to leverage my material to teach SAT courses to help pay for upcoming medical school expenses. I used extra scholarship money that I had saved as initial capital and worked hundreds of hours outside of classes to launch 2400 Expert SAT Prep. The 376-point average score improvement in the pilot class confirmed my “easy-to-read” text actually resonated quite well with high school students.

When McGraw-Hill, a publisher that had already rejected me, saw what I was building, the acquisitions editor offered me a book deal. What I had originally wanted didn’t become a reality until I proved my expertise elsewhere. Ironically, I spent just as many hours in the same library during the summer of 2011 writing an SAT prep book as I did during the summer of 2006 studying for the SAT. The only difference was that in 2006 I was solely concerned about my own future, whereas in 2011 I was concerned about the future of tens of thousands of students.

SuperHumanSelf-Made Success Book by Shaan Patel

During medical school at USC, I continued to challenge defined limits by taking a leave of absence  to get an MBA from the Yale School of Management for a dual purpose: to learn more about healthcare management and to scale my company from a small business in Las Vegas to a national test-prep brand. Not only have I achieved both purposes, but I also appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank in January of 2016. The publicity from Shark Tank as well as strategic partnership with Mark Cuban has transformed my business. We truly are on our way to becoming one of the nation’s largest test-prep companies now.

I certainly could’ve taken the road well travelled and sat on my perfect SAT score. But I found an empty market niche and leveraged my assets to develop an effective curriculum that helped students improve their academic futures. Never let someone tell you that you can’t do something. The negativity someone projects on you is just a reflection of the fears that they latently harbor themselves.

Practice: Use The Art of Storytelling
Do you want to appeal to an audience for business, school, or otherwise? Tell a story. Most people have a compelling personal story to share, but few have spent the time putting it to paper. The above story took me dozens of hours to write. You don’t realize how rich your own personal story is until you spend the time to reflect upon it. Start now — use the art of storytelling.



Shaan Patel

Shaan Patel is the founder of Prep Expert Test Preparation (formerly 2400 Expert), a #1 bestselling SAT prep author, an MD/MBA student at Yale and USC, and winner of an investment deal with billionaire Mark Cuban on ABC's Shark Tank. He raised his own SAT score from average to perfect and teaches students his methods in an online SAT prep class.