Strive Valiantly

Members of my career mentoring site will tell you that Teddy Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena” is one of my favorite quotes.  You probably know it, but if you don’t, check it out…

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Recently I spent some time with four people who were willing to get into the arena.  Shirin Porbanderwala, Patrick Brennan, Jim Gordon and Brian Hartman are MBA students at the University of Denver.  They entered the Aspen Institute’s Business and Society Case Competition this year.  The Aspen Institute invites 25 business schools from around the world to participate.

This is a tough competition.  First there was the local competition.  Several DU students formed teams to analyze a very complex case about the coffee industry and submit a written response.  Shirin, Patrick, Jim and Brian’s paper stood out from all of the submissions.  They won the local competition.  Then their paper was submitted to Aspen Institute judges in New York City.  Their paper was good enough to get them chosen as one of five finalists who were invited to New York to present in front of a panel of business leaders who acted as judges.

They had a week to pull together their presentation.  I volunteered to coach them as they prepared.  I was in awe of their commitment.  I was there for a few hours at a time.  They spent an entire weekend and several hours between classes the following Monday and Tuesday creating and rehearsing what turned out to be a dynamite presentation.

Then they were off to New York.  I watched the presentations from all five of the business schools.  After seeing all of the presentations, I was pretty convinced that Shirin, Patrick, Jim and Brian had won.  The judges disagreed.  They placed second.

And that’s where the arena quote comes in.  These four young folks were disappointed that they didn’t win, but they all were happy to have had the opportunity to participate.  Their faces weren’t marred by dust, seat and blood; but they strived valiantly.  They dared greatly.  They demonstrated the great enthusiasm and devotion of expending themselves in a worthy cause.  They were the opposite of cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

And that’s the key to life and career success.  You have to strive valiantly and dare greatly.  You have to be willing to go for it – and if you fail, you need to choose to learn something from the experience.

I’m proud of Shirin, Patrick, Jim and Brian.  They are role models – for their student colleagues and for anyone who wants to create a successful life and career.  Remember them when you are faced with a big challenge.

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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