I Dare You!

I Dare You!

Summary of the book I Dare You! Based on the extensive personal experience of a business pioneer, the book invites you to follow a four-dimensional program that has proven successful for thousands of people to help them achieve their full potential: physical, intellectual, social and spiritual.

By William H. Danforth, 1980, 170 pages.

Note: this guest column is written by Blaise, author of the blog leblogduleadership 

Review and summary of “I Dare You!”:


The author, William H. Danforth (1870-1955) was the founder in 1894 of the Purina Company, the world’s leading pet food company. He was also the co-founder, in 1925, of the American Youth Foundation, which is still in operation today. Its objective is to develop leaders of all vocations, to inspire young people to discover, develop and give the best of themselves and to provide them with the tools to live a balanced life.

For the record, the Purina company logo comes from the concept of personal development that the author deals with in I Dare You, in which he uses a checkerboard to illustrate it. He explains that there are four key elements in any existence, four aspects to be balanced. In his checkerboard, the “physical” was on the left, the “mental” on the top, the “social” on the right and the “spiritual” at the bottom. Each aspect, when emphasized, stimulates the other three in turn.

It’s always good to discover the origin and history of things that we see every day but we never bother to wonder how they came about.

If there is one main thing to remember about the book I Dare You, the common thread of the book, it is its theory of the Challenge and its application in everyday life. From the very first pages, the author tells us, “As a first step, I challenge you to read this whole book, tonight, before you go to bed. Don’t stop. Read it quickly to get the gist of it.”

It’s hard to issue a challenge on paper. But imagine if someone were to look you in the eye right now and say, “I dare you!” It could be any number of things, but of course the point is that it’s something you value, a dream you want to achieve, a goal you’ve had in mind for ages that you always manage to put off.

You need to realize that if you approach life in a combative way, it can bring a completely different perspective to your life. You can’t be a winner unless you take on the challenge. Deep within each individual is the desire to be someone, to achieve something. But most of the time we sit around and wait for the opportunity to arise. Opportunities do not come to those who wait. They are seized by those who have the desire to make a move.

Indeed, if, every morning, you jump out of bed, full of fight, are determined to defy the people and circumstances that could beat you, you are on the right path to victory. If you confront problems with determination and a spirit to not allow yourself to lose, you’re already halfway there. If you strive for more responsibility, it will meet you half-way.

H.G. Wells, the author of War of the Worlds, tells us how every human being can decide whether they will be truly successful in life. He writes: “Success is to be measured not by wealth, power, or fame, but by the ratio between what a man is and what he might be.”

There is a lot of wasted talent and ability throughout the world. Everyone has the ability to excel but only a few dare to do so. Who wants to achieve things that are pointless and have no value? To want something permanent in life, to develop your talents to the best of your ability, that is your challenge. To aim for a goal that will force you try your hardest in order to achieve it, that is your challenge.

If you dare to use your talents, you will become stronger, physically, mentally, socially and spiritually.

The circle of life is only complete if each of these four elements is developed. Throughout history, the lives of great men reveal the secret of the four dimensional life. Take a look at any of these great men, irrespective of their age or occupation. You must see life from all angles, draw strength from all directions and unleash your abilities on every front.

Ultimately, you will increase your skills significantly if you share the benefits of these skills that you possess.

The things that are the most valuable are those that can be shared and not diminished; those that are shared are increased in number. Our least valuable goods are those which, divided, lose value.

Note: Arnold Schwarzenegger does not say anything else when he talks about his six rules of success, especially the 6th one, namely, to give back.

If you don’t feel challenged, don’t bother to read I Dare You. But if you can and are determined to do it, then jump right in, now.

Part 1: I challenge you to be strong

The author tells us that when he was a child, he lived near swampland where fevers and malaria were common place. He went to school in the city with a sallow complexion and a sunken chest, while most of his classmates were healthy.

His teacher, George Warren Krall, was a health freak. One day he spoke to him directly in front of the entire class, looked him straight in the eye and said in a tone he never forgot: “I challenge you, William, to become the healthiest boy in your class.

At that age in his life he was shocked, for it was obvious that all his classmates were much stronger and tougher than he was. However, it was him that the teacher spoke to, he must be completely crazy!

He pointed at him and said, “I challenge you to shake off those endless fevers and colds that you have. I challenge you to fill yourself with fresh air, pure water, healthy food, and to exercise every day until your cheeks turn pink, your chest expands, and your joints grow strong.

As his teacher spoke to him in this tone, William felt something happen inside him, his blood responded to the challenge: it bubbled and rushed back from all parts of his body to the tips of his fingers, which then tingled with the anticipation of battle.

The boy then drove the toxins out of his body, built up his body until he was as strong as anyone else in his class, and from that day onwards he was never ill again. A teacher had challenged a young man with a pigeon chest to become strong. A spark of strength, determination and courage lit up within him in response to the challenge.

Illness robs us of time, courage and money. Wealth cannot buy health, but health can buy wealth.

It is hard to say for sure what the essential criteria of a successful career are. Everyone who has been successful will, generally, differ in terms of their background, personality, education and experience. However, one common attribute can be found among them, which is energy.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Can I handle hard work?
  2. Can I keep up the pace and not falter?
  3. Do I still have drive and stamina?
  4. Have I kept up a good work rate?
  5. Do I have a second wind and have the ability to bounce back?

Indeed, how can you be energetic if you’re not in good health?

The most important thing is to install the idea in your head and the desire in your heart to dare to actively put the idea into practice.

You enjoy a particular sport and a strong team soon signs you up: you obviously stick to a specific workout, you sleep for eight hours, you regularly drink water, you pay attention to your diet, you walk, you run, basically, you follow a rigorous program.

Life is a much bigger game, but the same rules apply.

Whenever you compromise your physical strength, such as if you eat or drink things that are inappropriate or that change your sleep patterns, remember that at some point you will suffer the consequences.

When you need more energy, more effort, or more time, if you haven’t taken care of your health, you may fail, become discouraged, or not be able to make the most of all of your hard work because of a glitch at the worst possible time.

To keep fit doesn’t have to be hard. You can keep fit and enjoy it. There is no secret to be able to keep fit and healthy, other than common sense: how can you expect your body to continue to function well if you ignore it and don’t pay it any attention? We all know it, but very few of us do anything about it.

In fact, unfortunately, a lot of people are not prepared to pay even a small price for good health.

Exercise with the right attitude. Habits control most of the things we do, but they are mostly mental, and if you modify a mental attitude, it can change a bad habit into a good one.

You must do something about it immediately, because your worst enemy is the desire to put off the battle. Unless you start your fitness program now, you might as well throw this book in the bin because it won’t do you any good in the end.

How you put this regime in place, its organization, its content, are up to you. The most important thing is to sow the seed of the idea in your head and the desire in your heart to have the courage to actually put the idea into practice.

Even Michael Jordan, someone who is considered, by many observers, to be the greatest basketball player of all time, had to follow a strict fitness regime in order to win six championships, despite his athletic prowess.

Part 2: I challenge you to think creatively

The mind of a general is what makes someone a general. Fearless people can’t afford not to think. Likewise, you can’t afford not to exercise.

The difference is that a physical challenge doesn’t promise half the thrill of an intellectual challenge. The physical life brings happiness, but the intellectual life brings interest, an interest that encompasses and consumes you.

It is a real worry to see so many intellectual lives come to the end once they leave school, purely due to the fact that people overlook the need for further education if they are to achieve anything in the future. Theodore Roosevelt died with a book under his pillow, as he took on board even more ideas from others.

Charles Franklin Kettering, an American inventor, engineer and businessman, which included director of the General Motors Central Research Laboratory, wondered why his mother, who lived in the country, wasn’t able to have the same standard of electrical lighting as those who lived in the city. His mother always used oil lamps. He turned his attention to this issue and eventually the Delco system brought lighting to thousands of remote American farms.

Similarly, he was annoyed that he had to get out of his car every time to work the crank. Why not start the car via a dashboard switch? The automatic starter was born.

Later he discovered that it took 31 days to paint a car, one coat at a time because of the time it took to dry. Kettering wanted it done in an hour. Everyone thought this was crazy. However, a process was invented and an entire car was painted in one hour. One hour instead of 31 days!

As he himself said:

“It doesn’t matter if you try and try and try again, and fail. It does matter if you try and fail, and fail to try again.”

And it is so easy to let others think for us, the big temptation is not to think. We look at newspaper headlines and allow them to influence our opinion of the world. We neglect to read more in-depth articles related to many different topics that could offer us some very useful insights into the world.

Challenge yourself to learn and be more knowledgeable than anyone else in at least one field of life. To do this, you will have to form your own opinion and think for yourself.

In preparation to take on more responsibility, take on extracurricular studies. If you read well written books, your knowledge will be increased and your brain will be stimulated. To start off, read one book a month.

A useful resource is a notebook. It will greatly help you to remember facts and Olivier Roland himself recommends that you take notes in his best-selling book Everyone was unlucky enough to fail their studies. Get into the habit to make notes, as it is straightforward and very useful.

Most of us would like to be a Bernard Shaw or a Thomas Edison. But how many of us would be prepared to put themselves through the early, tough years of a Shaw or Edison? “Everyone has the will to succeed, but not everyone has the will to set themselves up for success” (Bobby Knight, coach of the 1984 Olympic basketball team in which a certain Michael Jordan played).

Don’t think about what you can’t do. Think about what you can do. Has your mind functioned at its best? Of course not. Your job is to find out exactly how far you can push yourself intellectually and then dare to use it.

To get yourself started, why not take inspiration from one of the most creative minds of our time? Here is Steve Jobs’ famous speech to students at a graduation ceremony at Stanford University.

I also suggest you read my review of American artist Twyla Tharp’s book on the ways of creativity, The Creative Habit.

Part 3: I challenge you to develop a magnetic personality

Leaders who have the ability to make friends are able to take on twice as many challenges as someone who is a loner.

What is personality? Can personality be developed? Of course it can. If you are a true leader, you will be able to develop your personality. Give everything you have. Every bit you give helps to develop your personality far more than what you give.

Personality is a vague, intangible thing when it’s written down on paper. But how real, how fantastic it is in life. What can you do to specifically develop your personality?

The first thing to do is to build valuable relationships. The author was in Florida, and he decided to meet Mr. Henry M. Flager, treasurer of the Standard Oil Company and close associate of the renowned John D. Rockfeller. He thought the influence of such a man would stimulate his own life, and he was right.

If you never meet people who have bigger aspirations than you, act bigger, are bigger, much bigger, how can you grow bigger yourself? This is the nature of inspiration.

The author didn’t have a letter of introduction, but “fools rush in where angels fear to tread”: he simply wrote to him and said that he was an ambitious young man and that he would like to meet him. The outcome was that he received an invite to his rather grand home.

He showed him around, told him about Rockfeller, his early life and the tremendous challenges he had faced. The author wrote notes on everything, the philosophy, the rules of life, and as a result of this meeting he completely changed his outlook on life. It was a watershed moment for him.

Make sure you learn something from every great person you meet. If you get nothing from them, blame yourself. You will reap the benefits if you are able to meet great men and women, but you will do even better if you try to emulate them.

What are other ways to develop your personality? It involves your ability to develop some simple but vital characteristics: empathize with others, put yourself in their shoes, no matter what their situation in life.

Develop leadership skills, to deal with the small things as well as those that are more important. When you meet someone, for example, your task will be to offer inspirational ideas, no matter what the subject.

Consideration of others is also a valuable attribute. We cannot forget the person who sits across from us at work. Thoughtfulness is a gift of self, and thoughtfulness in the little things is the best way to grow your personality. Take note of birthdays, children’s names, for example.

It’s not the gift you send that makes others appreciate you, it’s the thought that goes with it.

Finally, treat everyone the same, be natural, straightforward and honest with everyone, whoever they happen to.

In relation to this issue, the more you give, the more you are able to give. Develop the art to make friends and then keep hold of them, give up your free time for them, seek out the best in them, get to know them, love them, discover their interests.

On a social level, the results are soon tangible, as each day you influence others.

At this point, the author suggests that you ask yourself some simple questions in order to progress:

  1. Is the value of my contribution to the community greater or smaller than in the past?
  2. Has there ever been a time when I contributed more to the well-being of others than now?
  3. Am I more friendly than I was last year, or less so?
  4. Am I more jealous, moody, angry, or otherwise socially more inhibited than I was before?
  5. Is it possible to think of another situation in which I would be more successful if I were to try to help others?
  6. What is my biggest social challenge?
  7. Do I dare to take on the challenge to develop an exceptional personality?

Part 4: I challenge you to develop your character

There is an old Hindu legend that in ancient times all men were gods, but they sinned and abused their divine power so much that Brahma, the god of all gods, decided to take away man’s divine power and hide it somewhere where he could never find it to abuse it again.

“Let us bury it deep in the earth,” said the other gods. No,” said Brahma, “because man will dig the earth and find it. “Then let’s throw it into the deepest ocean,” they said. “No, said Brahma, because man will learn to dive and find it there too”. “Let’s hide it on the top of the highest mountain,” they said. “No, because one day man will climb to the top of all the mountains of the earth and will be able to find his divinity”. “So where can we hide it so that he cannot find it?” asked the gods. “I will tell you, said Brahma. Hide it deep within man himself, he will never think to look for it there.”

It’s that spark that we need to turn into a flame. It is something authentic, the inspiration that naturally leads us to do the right thing at the right time. Be fair, honest and trustworthy.

Nothing will grow your perspective more than the development of this last and most important element. Since time began, man has been capable of a spiritual life.

Strength and courage are essential in the development of the physical, intellectual and social aspects of your life. These qualities are also needed on a spiritual level.

Exercise and study are very tedious for someone with the wrong mental attitude, but if you view character building, ethics, morality or religion – whatever you call it – as an opportunity to develop yourself, then spiritual things will offer you a new perspective.

Challenge the way you think, be courageous enough to live in the presence of the best. For instance, spend a week in the presence of the most inspirational people the world has to offer. Read the biography of someone prominent, study the paintings of a great master, listen to a good record, read a beautiful poem, go to a play or a good movie, watch a sunset, get to know someone who interests you, the options are endless.

Physical strength requires exercise. Sharpness of mind requires study. An attractive personality comes from an aptitude to be useful and helpful. Spiritual development demands action, to accomplish good things rather than bad. We can only progress through action.

Create a plan for yourself that demands nothing less than your best, all the time. Don’t be discouraged if your initial efforts are not rewarded. One coach said:

“We learn almost nothing from a win. All our knowledge comes from a defeat. A winner forgets most of his mistakes.”

You know your own life. There is only one challenge for you and that is to excel. Don’t worry about the demands it places on you or the outcome, just give it all you’ve got.

In the meantime, you might want to read this article to learn about the traits of people who succeed to bring out the best in themselves.

Conclusion on “I Dare You!”:

From a quote by William James (American psychologist and philosopher, older brother of Henri James, famous writer):

Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action.”

I Dare You is definitely not a book to read before bedtime, it should be read in the morning, when you have the whole day ahead of you and can spring into action right away. I Dare You has too much excitement within its pages to be a bedtime book. And, I bought this book at a bookstore in Montreal and read it non-stop from cover to cover. It was really inspirational!

I Dare You is far more than just a simple book, it is a template for a practical life, a practical plan of action. It is a thought-provoking book that pushes you to do more than you’ve ever done before, that challenges you and compels you to take action.

You can sense the author’s genuine desire throughout the book that we take action to realize our full potential in life. He knows that the path to true success is tough and full of obstacles, but he challenges you to take it and make every step an adventure.

The great thing about this book is that it doesn’t just throw out ready-made recipes, it feels like it was written from the heart rather than from the head. It seeks to ignite a flame, to motivate you to excel in all areas, to make your life into an example for others to emulate with the inspiration of other great men and women whose work the author has shared.

What is at the heart of I Dare You is that it talks to you directly and challenges you to achieve what you want, to do it now, to take action, to give everything you have.

William H. Danforth tells us: “Some of my young friends, who seek the pleasures of freedom, maintain that happiness consists in letting oneself be carried along by life, that resistance is vulgar, that self-expression is synonymous with self-indulgence. Nonsense! I’m willing to debate the issue with them. The line of least resistance produces crooked rivers and twisted men. Every fish that swims upstream with effort is worth ten that lazily hang out in the bays.”

The 1st edition was a limited edition for his company employees, family and personal friends. The first editions quickly sold out due to the high demand from business managers, corporate executives, student organizations, colleges, schools, professors and people whose job it is to guide young people.

I Dare You is an inspirational book and it was this that led me to write about it: we all need inspiration and as Elon Musk mentions in one of his interviews, this ability to inspire others is (unfortunately) greatly underrated (“the value of inspiration is very much underrated”).

“It’s not about what you know, it’s about what you consistently do.” (Anthony Robbins)

Interesting quotes from I Dare You

“Caesar saw Britain, not the gruelling marches, treacherous tribes, and danger on every hand between him and his goal. He had an objective and a sense of direction. Napoleon saw Italy but not the Alps. Washington saw the Hessians at Trenton. A smaller man would have seen the ice-filled Delaware.”

“It is human to delay things. It is divine to begin things.”

“The launch of your boat is an occasion for celebration, but it’s the storms and waves that are the real test.”

“Christopher Columbus was crazy to want to sail around the world. The Wright brothers were foolish to want to fly. But suppose they didn’t try?

“When Henry Ford wanted unbreakable glass for his new models, he didn’t go to the experts. They knew too many reasons why it was impossible. Bring me passionate young people who don’t know the reasons why you can’t make unbreakable glass,” he ordered. Give this problem to ambitious young people who think nothing is impossible. And his unbreakable glass, he got it.”

Strong points:

  • Addresses your heart rather than your head;
  • Gives you motivation and energy;
  • Examples from the author’s own experience;
  • A 4-dimensional concept that encompasses the main aspects of life.

Weak points:

  • Written in 1931, so some of the examples are out-dated;
  • If the book I Dare You motivates you to want to do something, it’s up to you to set the agenda.

My rating : Fluent In 3 Months by Benny Lewis Fluent In 3 Months by Benny Lewis Fluent In 3 Months by Benny LewisFluent In 3 Months by Benny LewisFluent In 3 Months by Benny LewisFluent In 3 Months by Benny LewisFluent In 3 Months by Benny LewisFluent In 3 Months by Benny LewisFluent In 3 Months by Benny Lewis

Have you read “I Dare You!”? How do you rate it?

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