The Donald.

The windswept hair.

The uptight board room.

The golf courses, hotels and TV shows.

The runner up?

I'd never watched Donald Trump's hit NBC's TV show 'The Apprentice' until last season and now I'm enthralled with the current season - again featuring celebrities battling it out through a series of corporate challenges.

Even though contestants dress in black business suits, the show has introduced America to some talented, colorful individuals - like 41-year-old real estate developer Clint Robertson from Texas.

He may not have Donald's fluffy mane and even-fluffier wallet, but he impressed the heck out of me, ya'll.

Speaking of serious business, I've been given much advice over the past five years as I begin my professional career but one of the best bits was to 'find people you admire that are successful and ask them how they got there.' With the world getting increasingly smaller and smaller due to technology this is getting pretty easy.

So, after rooting for Clint through the seventh Apprentice season only to lose to 30-year-old unemployed lawyer Brandy Kuentzel of California, I tried my luck at an interview. I wrote him a message online and we set up a phone interview. When I called, he was talking to Donald; the world is very small.

Robertson's work ethic, positive attitude, dedication to his faith and family and that famous Southern accent captured the hearts of Americans and through our phone conversation I realized why: He's the real deal. Maybe there are some people on reality TV shows who can remain memorable without bumped-up hair, slurred speech or pile of roses to dish out.

Robertson faced hardships when the economy tanked - his house went into foreclosure and he struggled for the first time to take care of his family of five. And even though he didn't win the season's $250,000 prize, he said he signed up because he'd never done anything like this before.

For those of you who have watched the show you may be surprised to know how the process really works. First off, there are no retakes in the boardroom.

'It's not a very contrived show. The only thing that was contrived - just because it had to be - was the final decision,' Robertson said of shooting two alternative endings - one, in which he won, and one that showed his competitor Brandy winning the six-figure job with the Trump Organization for a year.

'They do this every year because what if someone goes off the deep end, ends up in jail or - heaven forbid - dies between when the filming ends and the final show airs. They had to have both endings in the can,' Robertson said. 'We didn't know who was going to win until that final show aired.'

Is your time in the boardroom really about 10 minutes?

'Those boardrooms could last most of a day, sometimes. There were several stages. Everyone is in there, they excuse the winning team and then they excuse the people who aren't called back,' Robertson said of his filming, which lasted from April through July 2010. 'They bring in food in between filming times.'

His favorite task he had to complete on the show? Building a perfume display case for Kim Kardashian's fragrance. And Kim approved of the acrylic display with light-up shelves to display perfume bottles, backlit with pinks and purples.

'It reflected how I could adapt and welcome things I'm unfamiliar with,' he said.

And even though Robertson didn't win the job, he told me that becoming an acquaintance of Donald Trump's and the TV exposure has helped his career leaps and bounds. He said that everything happens for a reason and the experience was really fun.

His secret to a happy life? 'Be happy and be at peace and do the best to your ability because you know in the end it's not in your hands, it's in the Lord's hands.'

And Lord knows, success in business is all in whom you know.

'I have an inbox full of messages I haven't even responded to,' he said. 'And then there's the Facebook messages. I've got all sorts of opportunities out there. I'm only limited by the amount of time I have to talk to these folks to figure out what I need to do. Had I won, I would have been pigeonholed for a year and unable to pursue a lot of these things.

'I'm not just trying to make lemonade out of lemons. I was dealt lemonade already. It's some good stuff.'

Nicole DeCosta is the West Linn Tidings editor and the editor of the Homes section within the Lake Oswego Review and West Linn Tidings. She is also the editor of the LO magazine that appears in the Lake Oswego Review. She also writes features for the Review.

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