Teddy Roosevelt, J.K. Rowling, and Brene Brown walk into a bar. . . .

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If you like plainer text:

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 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.
– Teddy Roosevelt (often called the ‘Man in the Arena’ speech. Taken from a speech given at the Sorbonne in Paris, France, 1910).

It is not the critic who counts.

How many times do we listen to the critic? How many times are WE the critic? How many times do we look on from the cheap seats and criticize others. How often are we in the arena, getting discouraged by those comments from the safe zone?

Because there is no effort without error and shortcoming

That sounds familiar. . . .

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Both Rowling and Roosevelt strike on the same point. Life IS failing. Its making mistakes, getting messy, getting back up, and trying again. Failing means learning that was NOT the way to accomplish your goal. Lesson learned, thank you life, moving on.

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 best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.

Here, I believe that Roosevelt is reminding us that we must pursue our passions without concern for the end result – but because there is a fire inside us demanding that we see it through. Win or lose. Succeed or fail. Maya Angelou says ‘A songbird doesn’t sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.’ Your song is your fire. SING LOUD. If some mock you for daring to raise your voice – turn to other people, because you are daring greatly.

So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

How interesting. In Roosevelt’s view (which I share), it is better to have tried and failed, than to extinguish your fire and sit quiet and safe. If any of you out there has seen the first Rocky movie – this makes me think of it. I refuse to be concerned about ‘spoilers’ in a movie older than I am – so here’s the scoop. Nobody boxer gets a chance at the title bout as part of a publicity stunt. Training montage, love story, motivational music. . . . . and then the big fight at the end. And he loses. And that’s not even the point of the movie. The point is that this nobody stood toe to toe with the best boxer in the world and put everything out there. He failed while daring greatly (and then there was a sequel and then like 47 more sequels after that.) I think of those Olympians (especially divers, gymnasts, figure skaters, snowboarders, skiiers) who go for the ‘big move’ only to fail – but they failed trying to do something amazing. They could have gone ‘safe’ and had a clean routine. But then they have to walk away knowing they didn’t leave it all out there, that they held back. And they will always wonder ‘what could have been.’

I came across this speech via Brene Brown – who has called it ‘life changing’ for her. One of her books is even titled ‘Daring Greatly.’ So I am ending with a quote from Brene reflecting on this speech and what it has meant to her. Because while the crowd in the cheap seats can be loud – sing your song – sing loud – because its not the critics who count.

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