One of my favorite figures from history is President Theodore Roosevelt. He lived an amazing life. He accomplished so many big things – he built the Panama Canal, won a Nobel Peace Prize, started America’s national parks system.
But he received a great deal of criticism during his lifetime, exactly because he dared to do big things. After his presidency, he gave a speech in response to all of those who had been hollering and sniping at him through the years. In it, he said that “it is not the critic who counts. The credit belongs to the one who is actually in the arena.”
I find myself thinking a lot about what President Roosevelt said. I think a great deal about battling in arenas. We live in a world that is in many ways broken and scarred – a broken, weary world that loves to kill our dreams, to strangle them to death before we have a chance to fully nurture and embrace them. We live in world vehemently hostile to hope.
Theodore knew this well. He pointed to the critic outside of the arena, and we must confront him as well. Choose to live your life at full volume, with strength and joy and passion, and you will surely confront those who will try to tear you apart. The fight in this arena will be harsh and difficult. Living an inspired and inspirational life is often difficult and unglamorous, completely devoid of glitz and pomp. The road is painfully perilous and uneven, and it will take a long, long time before our dreams will be achieved.
So why fight? Why step into the arena at all?
Because, as President Roosevelt said in that same speech, our place is not with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat. We leap into the arena despite the critics and the doubts and the difficulties. We act in defiance of them. And that act alone is the beginning of victory.
Jump into the arena! There is room enough for you to the left and to the right. Your place has never been, your place will never be with those cold and timid souls who stand frozen in fear just outside the arena’s edge.
The opening bell has sounded. Climb into the arena, set your legs, straighten your back and keep your head and your hands held high – held high against Doubt, held high against Criticism, held high against that small voice inside you, begging you to give up and get out. Ignore it. Crush down your fear and doubts. Endure in this arena. Lean on those who love you when you begin to falter. Keep fighting until Victory is won and your dreams are achieved.
The credit belongs to the one who is actually in the arena. The joy belongs to the one who is actually in the arena. True Life belongs to the one who is actually in the arena. So get in, and let’s go.