Play Hard, Play Fair

Several years ago when I was in the twilight of my rugby career, I played a match against a touring side from Australia.  I don’t remember if we won or lost, but an incident that happened after the match has stayed with me.  One of the opponents came up to me and said, “You hit me really hard out there.”  Cathy, my wife, said, “Oh Bud, you shouldn’t be so rough.”  The other guy responded by saying, “No harm.  It was a good clean hit.  That’s what the game is all about.”

I was reminded of this incident as I watched the Steelers – Bengals game on Saturday.  I’m a Steelers fan.  I grew up watching them play.  My father had a friend who played for them back in the 1950s.  Several guys I knew at Penn State played for them during their glory years in the late 1970s.  I was hoping that they would win.

It was a hard fought game, and it looked as if the Steelers were going to lose.  However, late in the game the Bengals got two penalties that advanced the ball deep into their own territory, allowing the Steelers to kick a field goal and win the game.  One of those penalties came as a result of a vicious hit by one of the Bengals.  It was unnecessary and – in my opinion – a cheap shot aimed at injuring the Steelers player.  It wasn’t what the game is about.

This brings me to the career point I want to make.  During your career you will find yourself competing – for interviews, for jobs, for promotions.  It’s important to compete hard, but fairly.  Ethical practice is one of the things we preach at the Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver where I teach.  Ethical practice means that you don’t exaggerate on your resume, you don’t tell half-truths in interviews, you compete fairly for promotions, letting your work and enthusiasm carry the day.

Life is competition.  If you compete fairly you’re likely to come out on top a lot of the time.  Even if you don’t win, you’ll know that you acted in an ethical manner and while that’s a reward in and of itself, you’ll find that acting ethically, doing the right thing will get you noticed in the long run.

I have a friend who is a senior VP at a bank here in Denver.  When his bank was acquired, all of the other senior folks were let go.  He was asked to stay on, with an increase in responsibility and salary.  When he asked why, the CEO of the acquiring bank told him that they conducted a series of interview in which they asked bank employees who they most wanted to stay on.  His name came up in almost every interview.  The reason employees gave was that he was “honest and a straight shooter.”  He won in the long run.

Play hard but fair — whether you’re playing contact sports, or climbing the corporate ladder, and you’ll be on the road to success.

Your career mentor,


PS: I write this blog to help people create the life and career success they want and deserve. Now I’m going one step further. I’ve created a membership site in which I’ve pulled together my best thoughts on success. And, as a reader of this blog, you can become a member for free. Just go to to claim your free membership. You’ll be joining a vibrant and growing community of success minded professionals. I hope to see you there.

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