D.T.B.G

Recently United States launches its first astronauts into space since the end of the space shuttle program in 2011. SpaceX and NASA just launched at 3:30 pm eastern on Saturday May 30, 2020.

DTBG is an abbreviation for Dare To Be Great.

I was first introduced to the acronym when I joined RelateIQ in 2014. It was our official company motto. We had signs up in the office to remind us to D.T.B.G. and the number of times I’ve uttered either the phrase or acronym is probably incalculable.

It was probably years after I started using the term that I began to understand the phrases origin story. It stems from a speech from President Theodore Roosevelt titled Citizenship in a Republic delivered at Sorbonne in Paris, August 23, 1910. The speech is long, and there is a key section that is called The Man in the Arena speech. Here is that section:

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.

This quote is at the start of Bernée Brown’s book Daring Greatly. Throughout the several hundred pages of her text (which I have listened to once and am in the process of re-reading), Bernée talks about the work that we as humans need to go through to actually dare greatly. She talks about shame and vulnerability and many stories and asides along the way. There is more to the book and more that I will write about once my thoughts have fully been collected, but using this quote caused me to look at it again.

Here’s the thing, I’ve been misunderstanding DTBG from the beginning. My understanding was that I shouldn’t just strive to do okay, but should strive for the highest honors and the greatest achievement. Going all out for everything at all times. Leave nothing behind.

After reading more of the speech and dissecting the the paragraph above I’ve come to a very different conclusion about this passage and the meaning of Daring To Be Great. Yes, Roosevelt was talking about achieving greatness, but the way to get there isn’t what I thought. There are going to be moments where swinging for the fences is the right thing to do, but more than taking a big swing, getting off the bench and swinging at all is the important thing. We have to try. It’s about the trying, win or lose. It doesn’t need to be about winning but playing the game.


In the present time with so much going on, I’ve been stuck on how to contribute, how to stand up and play. Between the Black Lives Matter and Covid 19 crisis, I’ve felt extremely powerless. I don’t know what to do. Not knowing what to do has kept me in a place of sitting on the bench. A place of thought and criticism. I’m afraid to DTBG because I’m afraid of hurting or offending others. I’m afraid of standing up and taking time and space away from other voices that need to be heard.

But greatness isn’t achieved by those who sit by and read. By those who criticize others. Who judge one thing as the wrong thing to do be done and another as the right thing. The act of doing is the art of learning. I’m hoping to follow this motto that has been in life for over six years now, and I’m finally just beginning to understand.

Cover Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash

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