The man in the arena

The man in the arena

Citizenship in a Republic is the title of a speech delivered by Theodore Roosevelt at the Sorbonne in Paris, on April 23, 1910.


The most memorable section of the speech is referred to as The Man in the Arena; someone who is out there fighting the battle, as opposed to someone sitting on the sidelines and watching:


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.


It’s a notable passage that emphasizes something important:


If we spend our lives trying to become perfect or “bulletproof”, we will squander our precious time. There are gifts unique to us and there are contributions that only we can make. To develop what we have we must walk into the arena, and become visible.


But those who become masters of their craft not only found the courage to show up and be seen, they’re also likely to activate consciousness in those still striving to become perfect or “bulletproof” – we just can’t take it personal.


If criticism is the consequence of the courage that we hold, then we must become aware of the sender of the criticism. Does the feedback come from the man in the arena, or does it come from someone sitting on the sidelines and watching? We get to decide who’s feedback we value and hold close.


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