I just finished the Brene Brown talk on Netflix, which if you haven't had the opportunity to watch, I would very much recommend – you can find a preview of it here.
My favorite takeaway from the talk is that we need to stop taking out our insecurities on others – a wonderfully true and resonate statement, especially in the age of internet message boards and social media and children growing up in the anonymity of this landscape. But that isn't the theme of this blog. I want to talk about what was the self-professed most important moment of the talk to Dr. Brown herself – which was when she read a quote from President Theodore Roosevelt. It also happens to be a quote my dad hung up on my wall when I was a kid, probably around 12 years old, and that stayed there until I left for college. I think I likely know it word for word from seeing it every day for multiple years.
“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.” - Theodore Roosevelt
So this is about what it means to dare greatly and fail, time and time again, and yet keep trying, which can have amazingly beneficial results in admissions and life. My own story in this blog is rather trivial – but we all have much more meaningful things we do care deeply about, and often do not strive greatly for because of fear of rejection. If there were one thing I could impart to people growing up in today's toxic and anonymously judgmental environment is the ability to not let rejection keep you from aspiring for your greatest goal.
"You will become as small as your controlling desire; as great as your dominant aspiration." - Heraclitus
It sounds so obvious. Why would you not move toward your greatest aspirations? Yet life encourages us to do the exact opposite – to self defend and seek to minimize rejection. So I want to say this again because life forces us to be so afraid of rejection while it takes shot after shot at our self worth. Why would we not dare greatly? Our time is far too short to do anything but to constantly strive toward the very best for yourself. You absolutely deserve it. The worst that can happen is that you don't hit your dream aspiration. There is nothing wrong with that; if you reach for the stars you are going to hit something pretty high.
Here's a personal example of my last 25 years of failing toward a goal, and then I'll broaden the scope of the blog to hopefully benefit others. I'm a runner and former competitive runner. But my best running years were from around age 16-21. That ended rather quickly, and since around 25 I have not run a sub 6:00 mile. I have beeen trying to hit this mark for 22 years. For 22 years I have been failing! Hundreds upon hundreds of attempts toward this goal without a single success. But there is a light I can now barely see; after 20+ years, I am getting close. In my last run, yesterday, I hit 6:08. All of this is, of course, is rather irrelvant so let me relate it to you.
What matters the most to you? For most of our readers, right now that very well might be applying to law school and getting into a dream school or schools. There is a cold reality: just like I have not hit the 6:00 mile, most applicants don't get into their dream school. Put in data terms, almost all applicants are below at least one median of at least one school. I write this though, to share three other realities the far and away surpass the above. I hope you remember them throughout the cycle and beyond.
Reality #1. You may actually hit the stars. I had the incredible privilege of working with a client this past cycle with the most ebulliently uplifting atttiude and spirit. They had a 165 LSAT, were non-URM, and we applied to a number of top 14 law schools. They received 6 T14 admits, including Harvard. The odds against Harvard, from a purely data perspective, were incredible. But once we took this person on as a client, who were we to say "you shouldn't apply to this school because the odds are against you" (disclaimer: we do have to turn down potential clients for this reason especially if they only are shooting for reach schools with no safeties because too many others will blindly take someone's money without giving them alternative options.)
Reality #2. The school you go to most often becomes your dream school, especially if you aim high, present professionally, and stay positive. So many law school applicants I have come to know – thousands – who just miss on a Harvard, Stanford, etc. fall in love with their school right outside those 3. Within weeks they could see themselves at no other place. I get these happy emails and texts 50x more often than I do "I still wish I could have gone to what was my dream school." Case in point, people often sign up for a spot on our transfer application help list and withdraw during or after their first semester. They are thrilled where they are and we are thrilled for them. If you dare greatly, you are going to get something great.
Reality #3. What if you are far from the mark? What if you score a 152 on the LSAT when your goal is a 173? I would encourage you to read this blog.
I truly believe I am going to get the sub 6-minute mile. But it really also doesn't matter if I hit that mark or not. I'm a much better person for getting up, training, living healthy, and shooting for it. I'm a far better person for not having given up. – as pathetic as some of my attempts have been.
What is your goal? Go all in. There will be no bad outcomes unless your fear of rejection is the outcome. All of those runs, and I mean there are hundreds, where I went for a sub six minute mile and I didn't make them. I regret not a single one. But even with this most small of aspirations, I believe to my core I would have lived a less rewarding life if I hadn't been trying. I can deal with the failure, and so can you. So put your self in the arena and let's see where that takes you!