One of my favorite quotes by Theodore Roosevelt was from a speech in 1910 entitled “Citizenship in a Republic” and it is probably known by many of you.
“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.”
I have always read that and was inspired by the concept of striving valiantly and knowing the triumph of high achievement, but never really thought too hard about the phrases “comes short again and again” and “fails while daring greatly” because I somehow, superstitiously, thought thinking about failure could and probably would sabotage the chances for success. Lately, though, I have been reexamining the concepts of goal-setting, achievement and success, and it suddenly struck me that President Roosevelt wasn’t talking about succeeding. Rather, he was talking about something far greater, participating, or rather, doing, regardless of the results.
This speaks to several fundamental concepts I have found important for being balanced in life. First, there is the concept of choice. I have a longer post I am working on about choice, but for this post I wanted to highlight one point from that post, and that is choice is active. It moves you from reacting to acting and puts you in control of your path. It gives you the rewards accompanying success, although it also carries the risks of failure and the responsibility for the choices made. Importantly, though, choice changes you because it makes you committed, which is the second concept. To participate in something requires you to have at least a minimal amount of commitment to it. There is certainly a relationship between the level of commitment and the likelihood of success, but, at a minimum, participation is important because of how it forces you to commit. Third, and similar to commitment, is the concept of passion. As with commitment, to participate in something you have to, at a minimum, be interested in it, and, also as with commitment, there is a correlation between the level of passion and the likelihood of success. The final concept I want to address is not directly imbued in the concept of participation, but, rather, is what drives the correlation between commitment, passion and success. That concept is perseverance. The greater your passion and the greater your commitment, the longer you are inclined to keep trying and the more resilient you become to coming “short again and again”, which increases your chances of succeeding.
So, my post really just boils down to this. Enter the arena. Make your choice to participate and strive for the worthy causes. Most of all, realize that, regardless of the outcome, if you do step into the arena the worst you can do is to fail “while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”