As someone who appreciates the outdoors, Theodore Roosevelt is a bit of an icon of mine. He was a dedicated conservationist, and during his presidency he set aside around 200 million acres for national forests, reserves and wildlife refuges, paving the way for the National Park Service. He also gave one of the most iconic and inspiring speeches in 1910 which is known as the “Man in the Arena” speech. The most notable section states:
“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's 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”.
Doesn’t that give you chills? I have read and listened to this speech many times but still get them. Let’s break it down a bit.
One of the most important parts of this speech is the idea of the ARENA. What does this mean to you? It's different to everyone. Being in the arena could mean fighting for a raise at work, starting a new sport or returning after an injury when you’re older and everyone else if half your age (wait that may only be me…) It could also mean saying NO to adding more to your already full plate, or it could be something as simple as being kind and compassionate to yourself when you're struggling, seen recently, as Lane Johnson, the Philadelphia Eagles right tackle, opened up about his battle with depression and anxiety rather than suffering in silence which took an inordinate amount of courage.
The best description of the arena that I’ve found is from the famed storyteller vulnerability researcher Brene’ Brown who states “it’s where the only thing that is guaranteed, is that you will get your ass kicked”. Its anywhere you need to roll up your sleeves, getting ready to get dirty knowing you might not succeed the first, second or even the third time. It is about showing up in your own life and high fiving yourself every time you get up!