[Words of the Week] The Man in the Arena

12 Jul

“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. ” – Theodore Roosevelt

My drill instructor in JROTC gave me this quote on a small, blue card that I later carried around in my pocket. I was 16 at the time and I didn’t know how closely this quote would stick with me almost 10 years later. The last few lines sum up how we should live our lives: “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.”

Regrets are sh*tty. Really. Which is why Roosevelt compares those who regret not taking chances as ‘cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.’ It’s better to say ‘at least I tried’ than to say ‘what if?’. You can’t know whether or not something works unless you go for it. You have to be in charge of your own life and happiness. You have to work hard for something that you want.

There have been many similar quotes that hit home the same way [“You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” -Wayne Gretzky] but Roosevelt’s interpretation seems to make it more real. He gives both sides: you could succeed or you could go up in flames. Not knowing one way or another is even worse than failing.

Sure, it’s easy to say, but it is *much* more difficult to execute. It takes a certain level of, um, let’s say ‘intestinal fortitude’ to break out of your comfort zone and do what must be done. But, you can do it. I can do it. I’m going to do it. (I’m sure you can tell, I have a specific situation for which I’m psyching myself up. :-P)

Bruises and broken hearts are temporary. Regrets last a painful lifetime. Choose wisely. Go big, then go home 🙂

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