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Curated Leadership Random Thoughts

The man in the arena

On April 23, 1910, at around 3 pm at the Sorbonne (aka The University of) Paris, Ted Roosevelt delivered a rousing speech called “Citizenship in a Republic,” which would come to be known as “The Man in the Arena.”

Little did Ted know that even a full 110 years after that event, people would still remember and get fuelled by his words. I bumped into this bit from the speech while reviewing my journal entries from 2019 and early 2020. And here 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 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.”

Theodore Roosevelt

In short, if you’re not helping, shut the fuck up and let others do their work. And if you’re the one doing the work, keep going instead of getting distracted or discouraged by the criticisms. They’re cheap to manufacture, easy to dispense and add absolutely no value to the outcome you’re trying to achieve.

If the snippet above fired you up, it makes sense to take the time to read the whole speech. It’s a long one (about 35 pages) but deeply inspiring.