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April 23, 1910. President Theodore Roosevelt was in Paris, France, giving a speech at the Sorbonne, or the University of Paris. Titled “Citizenship in a Republic,” Roosevelt’s 35 page speech included one notable passage that has come to be known as “The Man in The Arena.” It goes:

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.

This is some powerful stuff, and it applies just as much now as it did then. Everywhere you look there are critics. Movie critics decide the Rotten Tomatoes score. Analysts on First Take and PTI and other ESPN shows debate and dissect the current sports news. The news networks discuss current events Countless websites give grades to the latest video games and movie releases. And these are just the paid critics. Every single person has an opinion on how Lebron could play better or how After Earth could have been made better. It’s easy to have an opinion and criticize. It’s significantly harder to actually go out and do.

That has always frustrated me and something I try to avoid (although I fail quite often). For sake of ease, we’ll use basketball as an example. How many people have criticized Lebron, Kobe, and Russell Westbrook, among others? Just about anyone who has watched basketball. It’s really easy to tell someone how to play basketball when you’re sitting on your La-Z-Boy and knocking back a cold one, and even easier if you’ve never played basketball (that’s my personal favorite…people who have an opinion without ever having done the sport or activity). These guys are the best in the world. They worked their butts off for years to get to where they are. You and I definitely don’t know better.

Instead, as Roosevelt says, it is better to be “the man who is actually in the arena.” The doer of deeds. It’s ok if you can’t make it to the top. You may not become the greatest salesman or guitar player or baseball player. That’s ok. You are striving to be the best you can be. As Roosevelt says towards the end, “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.”

I love that line. It is better to strive and fail than to never fail at all. That is how I seek to live my life. I would rather go for it and endure the pain of failure than to sit back. I don’t want to look back and wonder what if.

I want to be the man in the arena.


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