Archive for May 17th, 2010

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.
~ Theodore Roosevelt

It seems everyone wants to know the secret to success these days.

There are seminars and webinars, books and CDs, late night infomercials and full-length videos touting the latest millionaire’s “10 Steps to This” or “5 Principles of That.”

But what if it were much simpler than all of that?  What if life truly were like the Kentucky Derby?

Think about what it takes to win:  The right choices — a lot of hard work, training, planning, determination — luck.

That’s right — luck — defined as what happens when preparation meets opportunity [Seneca].

Todd Pletcher, trainer of this year’s Derby Winner Super Saver, says, “It takes the right horse on the right day. On any given Derby day, the best horse can lose.”

And Pletcher should know.  Over the course of a decade, with 24 starters, the Kentucky Derby win eluded him until this year.

“You would like to say you need the best horse, but in this particular race I don’t think that is necessarily the case,” Pletcher says. “When you look at surprises like Giacomo (50-1, 2005) and Mine That Bird (50-1, 2009), they haven’t proven to consistently be the best horse but the horse who ran the best race on the right day.

As I was thinking about this story of a trainer who worked tirelessly for more than a decade before his dream was realized, I collected some life lessons:

  • You don’t have to be the best at what you do to win.
    • “You have to run the best race on the right day.”
  • You have to be determined, be ready, and show up.
    • “Obviously, the horse had all the tools to get it done,” Pletcher says. “But you’ve got to show up on the day.”
  • You have to be in the right race.
    • “Certain horses might show up in the wrong Derby. You might have a horse with natural speed who gets involved in a hot pace. You might have horses who are deep closers who don’t have enough pace.”
  • Maintain grace under pressure.
    • Jockey Calvin Borel shares what it takes to win: “Calm, cool, collected, a lot of luck and you just hope the good Lord is on your side.”
  • Enjoy the journey.
    • Owner Robert LaPenta, knowing that the percentages typically add up to defeat says, “Enjoy the ride. Very few people get to take it.”

Are you running the right race? If you are, run it until you win. Today could be the day it all comes together and you take home the trophy. But you won’t know unless you show up and give it your best.

And if you don’t win?

Take the advice of Mary Anne Radmacher, “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.”

Whatever you are, get in the race and enjoy the ride!


PS: Check out the entire story, Kentucky Derby represents a humbling, challenging race, by Tom Pedulla.

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