Back in the day, we had a +1 on “The Optimizer in the Arena” in which we reflected on Teddy Roosevelt’s epic “Citizenship in a Republic” speech that became known as “The Man in the Arena” speech.
Quick recap: It’s April 23, 1910. Fifty-two year-old Teddy Roosevelt has already served two terms as the U.S. President. Here’s the passage that’s worth tattooing on our consciousness:
“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.”
Today I want to do two things.
1. Shine a spotlight on that Roosevelt mojo from above one more time. (We’ll consider that part #done.)
2. Shine a spotlight on some Brené Brown wisdom on the subject.
In Daring Greatly, she says: “Going back to Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena” speech, I also learned that the people who love me, the people I really depend on, were never the critics who were pointing at me while I stumbled. They weren’t in the bleachers at all. They were with me in the arena. Fighting for me and with me.
Nothing has transformed my life more than realizing that it’s a waste of time to evaluate my worthiness by weighing the reaction of the people in the stands. The people who love me and will be there regardless of the outcome are within arm’s reach. This realization has changed everything.”
Let’s remember two things.
1. The people who love us will be there regardless of how we fare in the arena. (Very important!)
2. The people not living their own hero’s journey/daring greatly in their own arenas will be our most vocal critics. There’s basically an inverse relationship between the vitriol of someone’s criticism and their own engagement in the arena. Meaning, the less a person is daring greatly, the more they’re prone to criticize those who are. Those who are all in get just how hard it is to step into the arena and offer compassion rather than criticism.
(btw: Notice this goes both ways. When WE are most engaged in our lives, we criticize a *lot* less than we’re not. So, if you’re all snippity snip sauce, check in and see how YOU are not rockin’ it rather than find all the things someone else is doing wrong!)
As Brené advises, we need to untie our sense of worthiness from the opinions of those in the bleachers. Period.
She then quotes her friend, Scott Stratten, who wrote UnMarketing. His immortal words capture it perfectly: “Don’t try to win over the haters; you’re not the jackass whisperer.” <- Hilarious.
Here’s to standing wholeheartedly in our worthiness (as Brené would say), appreciate our loved ones in the arena who have our backs, and have compassion for those who are struggling with their own vulnerability as we DARE GREATLY.