Step Up for Scholars 2022: John Van Horn

Blog, Step Up for Scholars | 08/12/2022

Welcome to Step Up for Scholars, the second event in the 2022 Pat’s Run Challenge Series! We’re celebrating all 14 classes of Tillman Scholars over the next 14 days. Each day, we’ll share a story from one of our scholars to inspire you to push a little harder tomorrow in your step challenge. Today, we bring you 2012 Tillman Scholar John Van Horn shares with us the empowering message that your identity is not defined by what you do, but what you do gives you the tools that give you strength. Check out John here:

Hi, I’m John Van Horn 2012 Tillman Scholar. You know I want to share something that’s pretty deep and philosophical, but it’s changed my life over the past few years. I come from many different backgrounds; I’ve traveled down various paths personally and professionally. And you know, a common theme throughout all of them is that whatever I was doing at the time, I hid behind and turned them into who I was. I adopted them as my identity and throughout the years doing so many different drastic things very different things throughout the years, I was just dragging these identities along and accumulating and I was hoarding them hoarding identities. They got heavy, it got real stressful trying to figure out who I was when I had all these things that I thought I was.

Personal tragedy happened, I lost my mom a few years back. I was there for her last breath; she was my best friend and it shattered me, but what it also did was it made me take a step back and really face and try to figure out who I was. Maybe facing myself and each identity I had to face I had to say okay I’m not a flying crew chief, I’m not a college football player, meteorologist, storm chaser, drone pilot; let’s go through the whole thing real estate broker, I think I rapped at some point. And honestly it got so heavy trying to figure out who I was when I was dragging along all these things as a false identity, so facing each one, I came up with something called meeting myself.

When I actually had to face each one, I realized that they are not my identities, they’re actually my tools. They’re my strengths, so transferring that whole like mindset of identity into tools, all I was left with was the strength of the experiences. What I dropped was the limited beliefs that were associated with each one. Now I know this is a bit philosophical for some people, but this has been life-changing for me. I don’t feel like I have any limits and it’s not coming from a place of arrogance, it’s coming from a place of being so humbled by life that when I start realizing what I do and how I think, they are my tools. They’re my strengths, they’re not who I am, profound growth and severe optimism is my result and that’s my message I want to share with everyone.

Want to join the challenge? It’s not too late! Register by Aug. 14 at and you’ll get a commemorative t-shirt and hat.