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  • Writer's picturejonwilson3

Enter the Arena!

This quote came up three times today. Clearly it’s a sign that this is what I have to write about today!

“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.” ― Theodore Roosevelt

Read it twice, or more, and notice where you are aligned with this and where you aren’t.

There are sooo many insights, gifts and opportunities in this short quote. Here are my thoughts.

“It is not the critic who counts”

People will judge you. They are often yelling from the cheap seats. They are not in the arena and they won’t ever reap the rewards. And, people will judge you either way. They’ll judge you if you do. They’ll judge you if you don’t. So why not choose the thing you really want?

“the man who is actually in the arena”

Where are you fully IN the arena? And where are you on the edge? And where do you shout from the stands? It’s my belief that we all inhabit these spaces in different ways and in different contexts and at different times. That’s OK. But for what’s most important to you, where are you?

“whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood”

You’re going to get knocked down. If you enter the arena, you will get knocked down. You’ll have ‘failures’, you’ll have critics, things won’t always go your way or how you imagined sometimes. Awesome! In those challenging moments there will be a voice somewhere inside that says “well, here’s some evidence that I’m in the right place”. The spectators don’t get bloodied. It’ll be tough, you’ll lick your wounds, and in time you’ll recover - it might be minutes, it might be days or weeks, but if you’re on the right path you’ll get back up and go again.

“who comes short again and again”

Keep going! Another quote if I may: “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm” - Winston Churchill

“who spends himself in a worthy cause”

Know your WHY. If your sense of purpose isn’t clear and strong - if it doesn’t feel worthy to you - then you won’t be pulled towards it and you risk the arena getting the best of you.

“the triumph of high achievement”

To strive and fight for what you really want despite the fears and doubts is a noble cause and worthy of the high sense of achievement that comes.

“at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly”

How do you want to feel about your life on your death bed? Will the fears that are holding you back now be important, or will you be thinking… if only I’d dared greatly? As a coach said to me recently: “dare to be star”.

“his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat”

Enough said.

One footnote. This could be taken to mean that we must all have high and mighty goals to change the world, or that we should risk everything for a lofty mission. No, that’s not it. It’s simply the courage to take a stand for what is most important to us and dare to follow that in a way that feels authentic and aligned with our values and sense of purpose. Don’t risk your house, unless you really want to, but show up vulnerably and risk some failures, hits to your ego or feeling some shame or regret.

How do you relate to the arenas in your life?


This article is part of 100 Days of Creation, my challenge to myself to write 100 articles in 140 days, each taking no longer than 30 minutes to write and publish.

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