The Man in the Arena

A fragment of Theodore Roosevelt’s speech that has made its way into history and will be remembered longer than others is “The Man in the Arena”. It speaks directly to anyone doing something of any value.

Are you a student, an entrepreneur, a sports person, a teacher, a doctor, a fireman, a politician? (yes, some of them do something of value too, like anyone else). Are you doing anything of significance? This paragraph is for you:

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.

Many things in life are hard and not necessarily valuable, but almost everything valuable is hard. And building that is full of pitfalls, reverses, mistakes and misses. And some people will criticize you and be quick to point out all those mistakes you made. With ZERO skin in the game.

But, perhaps inadvertently, they are making you a favor because…the Obstacle is the Way. Remember that everyone has an opinion. But an opinion is not the truth. Opinions are not facts. Opinions are imperfect perspectives, from imperfect beings, with imperfect perceptions, imperfectly conveyed; and imperfectly understood.

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. Viktor Frankl

And of course, the same, equivalent ancient wisdom from Epictetus:

When something happens, the only thing in your power is your attitude toward it. It is not the things that disturb us, but our interpretation of their significance. Things and people are not what we wish them to be nor are they what they seem to be. They are what they are.”Epictetus


Also, we often times misunderstand failure. Failure is not what we think it is. Failure is not the end, but the beginning of a new journey, with some newly acquired experience. A journey for which we can be better equipped.

Another quote from a magnificent Stoic:

“I judge you unfortunate because you have never lived through misfortune. You have passed through life without an opponent—no one can ever know what you are capable of, not even you.” – Seneca.

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