The [Hu]Man In The Arena

There is this Theodore Roosevelt quote from a speech he made in 1910 that's recently become quite popular in psychology and business circles.

It goes like this:

"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."

Have you ever noticed that it's much easier to give advice to your loved ones than it is to receive that very same advice? On the same note, it's much easier to pass judgment on another's decision than it is to make one yourself?

Or perhaps you take it a step further... "That guy's podcast sucks," you think. "I could do better."

This is one of the great ironies of life. It is also one of our greatest collective hypocrisies. We suggest what we cannot do. We critique another's decision, but were too afraid to make the call ourselves. We make lofty claims about our skills in comparison to others without ever backing it up with action.

The hard truth of it is: while we will always need some extra players on the sidelines, players who will hopefully get their shot eventually, for the team to win--someone has to actually play the game. And for you to have any chance of improving, or becoming great at whatever your chosen "sport" is, it has to be you.

I say this from having stood on the sidelines of my life for many years. Sidelines, which I must admit provided a certain degree of comfort. By "sitting out" but still within close proximity to the game, you feel involved without all the consequences. You can yell, scream, and cheer all you want, which feels like it's having an impact. But you don't have to deal with the pressure, nerves, fear, excitement, and challenge of the game itself.

I am often questioned as to how and why I am comfortable sharing intimate details of my life on the internet, or how I got comfortable with putting my writing "out there." And to those people I say:

"I sat on the sidelines long enough. I've been watching the other players. I see and understand how they're playing--but I can't learn myself until I step onto the field. I will have no idea if I am any good until I put in the work. No, I'm not the best right now. But if I want to be, I can't sit on the sidelines. I have to give it a go."

For as Theo says: "the critic is not who counts... the credit belongs to the [hu]man who is actually in the arena..."

Kate Ward