Becoming The Man in the Arena


I’ve been pondering this quote by Theodore Roosevelt…

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.

The arena… a place where battles are mightily fought under a cloud of onlookers.

Who is this warrior and what battle is he fighting in the arena?

He knows pain. He knows exertion. He knows loss yet he also knows triumph. He knows victory.

Who are these people in the stands?

  • There are those who, inspired, feel a primal urge to compete like the warrior before them and therefore cheer him to victory.
  • There are those who will never step foot into the arena yet feel the need to verbally pummel the doer, weakening his fortitude.
  • There are those who are quietly thankful to not be competing in the arena, fainting at the sight of blood.

Who am I in this arena?

Am I… the mighty warrior, fighting for what I believe in?

Am I… inspired by this strong warrior to pick up my shield, preparing to enter the arena?

Am I… the critic who has no intention of ever entering the arena yet I will give testimony to how to fight a good fight?

Am I… the meek onlooker who doesn’t even dare look for fear of seeing something that will make me uncomfortable?

Who are you in this arena?

We’ve been all these people in the arena. We’ve been the one too scared to dare greatly. We’ve been the critic… watching the courageous gladiators… thinking we could do better… hurling our insults. We’ve been inspired to consider stepping into the arena yet we haven’t yet.

I want to live my life bravely in the middle of the arena. I’ve stepped my feet into the sacred space but simply been circling the outside, not fully engaging to where I’ve broken a sweat.

I want to be the warrior ‘whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again… but who does actually strive to do the deeds’.

So how do I become the man in the arena?

Decide to enter.

Those already striving valiantly in the arena inspire me but until I decide to join them, I am still an onlooker. Their tenacity gives me courage to make that choice. Will it be tough? Yes. Will there be pain? Yes. Will I get my butt kicked? Probably what I fear the most. Will it be worth it? Yes… if I know why I’m there.

My arena is Full Throttle Living.

I can see myself standing in the middle of the arena, gazing upward in victory, being cheered on by the crowd. When in reality, I have been playing small. I’ve not been brave enough to move toward the center of the arena where I can have real impact.

I’ve decided I want to play bigger in this arena.

Playing bigger means I seek out speaking opportunities instead of waiting for them to find me. Playing bigger means I dig deeper when I write and speak and challenge myself to excavate my heart. Playing bigger means I finish my ‘Love the Journey’ product I started three years ago.

What arena do you want to step into?

Muster the courage.

Muster is a military term meaning to assemble troops for battle. We’re going into battle in our arena so we must draw upon courage in preparation. What we face will not be pleasurable all of the time so we’ll need strength to face the challenges. We will only learn courage by practicing it.

In my arena, courage is sending out my speaking one-sheet to people and organizations that have the power to say NO and not taking it personally when they do. Courage is writing what really matters, not editing to please the masses. Courage is facing the dark corners of my life and learning from my pain and my mistakes. Courage is wanting to show up and be seen despite my flaws and shortcomings.

Where do you need to muster courage in your life?

Silence the critics.

There are two types of critics in our lives… people on the outside looking in and the ever-present inner critic.

1. People who heckle from the sidelines do not have the courage to enter the arena themselves. Some want to see us fail. Some enjoy seeing the blood, sweat, and tears. “I told you that you shouldn’t even be in this arena.” Why do their voices seem so much louder than the others?

To these hypocritical voices we must say, “If you’re not in the arena getting your ass kicked like I am, I’m not interested in what you have to say.” Find those critics who believe in what you’re fighting for, have earned your trust, and listen for their words of encouragement.

2. My loudest critic is the voice within my head. The voice that makes me question my worth and my value. The voice that raises questions of doubt and drains my self-confidence. This voice is tougher to silence.

I feel defeated in the arena when I listen more to my inner critic than the still small voice of truth. I am learning to tune into the voice of my authentic self… the one who wants me to succeed in the arena. When I hear the jeering of my inner critic, I practice finding the truth to offset the lies.

What critics will you deal with while you’re in the arena? How will you ignore the jeers and hear the cheers?

Final Thoughts…

To stay in the arena will take bravery, courage, and support from those who have earned the right to share in your victory. Your arena is a worthy cause that demands your enthusiasm and devotion. You don’t belong in the stands ‘with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.’

You are a warrior! You belong in the arena!

It will be a daily struggle but the outcome is worth the fight.

Be brave… be strong… rise up and be seen.

I welcome your comments below. What arena do you want to step into? What can you do to find courage? What critics are you listening to? What critics are you ignoring?