Keep On, Keepin’ On

Before I start, I’d like to give a special thanks to Maria Fakhoury and Samiha Sher who gave me the idea on which this article is based on. 


As we approach the New Year, and with millions of people recharging their resolutions list detailing what they intend to accomplish, I thought it was fitting to talk about persistence, resilience, and determination i.e. never giving up on what you set out to achieve.

I’ll share with you a story of an experience I went through and the lessons I learned. I hope from this, you can extract some value and apply it to your pursuits in life.

You’ll never make it: Man, if only I was given a dollar for every time I heard that.

I was in third year of university, when I was told about a top-tier finance competition called the Rotman International Trading Competition (RITC). RITC is an annual event held in the heart of Canada’s financial district, downtown Toronto, hosted by the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. The competition brings 50 of the worlds top universities alongside 6 of their brightest Finance/Accounting students. RITC utilizes simulated trading cases that closely mimic different aspects of real world markets.

Guess what I did….

….That’s right, I applied. The kid, who in high school was always underrated, doubted, and wrote off, the overweight, never serious, and always failing kid applied to one of the most difficult competitions to get into.

From the students who applied, a few were chosen for an interview which was meant to screen out the top 8 candidates. From there, the chosen 8 were to present a case that demonstrated ones applied knowledge. From the presentations, 2 would be cut from the list, leaving 6 final candidates who would attend the competition.

Given that I had good grades and was heavily involved in extra-curricular activities like being apart of many university clubs, attending various competitions, and working part-time at the Finance Lab, I was given the opportunity to interview for the competition with the Financial Lab Manager who was organizing and managing this competition. Guess what happened….

…I failed miserably. In fact, out of the 8 candidates who were chosen, I placed last. The interview was very, very difficult – it was one of those interviews that everyone dreads, where you are asked a sequence of complex logic questions, mental math questions, along with finance/economics/geo-politics questions.

1st lesson: there is always light at the end of the tunnel. Be optimistic, have faith, have hope, that one day, through hard work and determination, your plans will fall through. 

The 8 people who interviewed and were chosen had to prepare a presentation on a case that was provided by the Financial Lab Manager. This was to be done over the Christmas break and presented to everyone in the beginning weeks of January.

2nd lesson: the wolf at the top of the hill, is not as hungry as the one climbing it.

Going into the break, the thing I didn’t do was take a break. I put my heart and soul into preparing for this presentation, I woke up every single day, read a ton of books/articles/and anything I can get my hands on to help me prep for the material, and essentially outworked everyone else – because I wanted it more, I had to, and I was never going to give up, despite being #8.

We came back from the break, and it was time. Time, to present our cases to the team and from these presentations, the Financial Lab Manager would pick the top 6 who would eventually go on to attend RITC (the competition).

I gave it my all, I gave it 120%, and I was satisfied. Win or lose, sometimes what matters is knowing that at the end of the day, you gave it everything you had, everything you could have done, leaving no stone unturned, and going to bed with no regrets.

I waited patiently, diligently, and anxiously to see what the results were….

…..I made it. From #8 to #6, I was placed on the list of students who were to go to the competition. Thankfully, this was a happy ending, right?

3rd lesson: “all men are created equal. Some work harder in preseason.” – Emmitt Smith

But what if my story didn’t have a happy ending? What if I wasn’t chosen, despite all my efforts? Of course,  I would be disappointed, I would be a little sad/upset because after all I am human. However, this “down” feeling wouldn’t imprison me or keep me down in the dirt. Just like you train your muscles at the gym, you have to train your brain, rewire it, take control of it, and manually change your altitude so to alter your attitude.

You see, it’s never about how many hits you take, how many times you fall down, how big of a screw up you are, all that shit does NOT matter – what matters is today. Right now. This second. What can you do right NOW that will change your destiny, your life, and your future?

If I didn’t end up making it to the competition in my third year, I would have worked my ass off throughout the summer, to ensure I get a better chance at making it in my fourth year. If I also didn’t make it in my fourth year, I would take the lessons, knowledge, and maturity I gained during my experiences to do something else, like write this article for instance, where I can share my lessons and hopefully help others who may be going through a similar situation.

4th lesson: the magnitude of success is always hidden behind the little gems of daily repeated efforts.