Need A Career Pep Talk? Lessons From Teddy Roosevelt On Going "All In"

Imagine you have the chance to win an Olympic Gold Medal in the pole vault. It’s your big moment and you may even break a world record. With the intense glow of audience scrutiny, this isn’t the time to hedge your bets. If you try a safer approach or pause to consider all the risks, the game is over. Instead, your best chance of reaching greatness is to give the task at hand your every ounce of passion, commitment, and energy.

To reach your true potential, you need to be "all in." And it works the same in business as it does in sports.

Opportunity knocks for us all, sometimes more subtly than we’d like. Frequently that opportunity is shrouded with doubt and uncertainty; often it looks like a setback or even danger. Most of us ignore these opportunities altogether, or when we seize them we do so with a halfhearted approach.

“I’ll give it a shot”, we might say. Or, “Let’s see what happens.” The problem is—all the energy you put into developing Plan B ends up defusing your focus on the real prize. It turns out that the most successful people devour each opportunity along their journey with carnivorous ferocity. They give each shot everything they have, knowing full well that some will ring the victory bell while others crash and burn.

Think how silly Lady Gaga would look spending 10 hours a week working on her CPA license in case her music career flopped. Or what about a Major League Baseball player who never swung for the fences? Life is short and opportunities are fleeting. If you hope to achieve your full potential, you must put all your weight behind each punch. Start playing to win, and stop playing “not to lose.”

Sure, it’s easy to sit on the sidelines and point fingers. There are scores of people who achieve nothing of their own, but relish in the setbacks of others. But, at the end of the day, they’ll look back and wish they took a stand of their own. They’ll wish they were all in.

Theodore Roosevelt said it best, way back in 1910:

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 up 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.

When you are presented with an opportunity, attack it with everything you’ve got. No more half-and-half. It’s time to be all in.

[Image: Flickr user Rambis Photography]

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