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  • Writer's pictureGarth

Man in the arena

Updated: Jan 30, 2019


"so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat"

Click on the picture below to read the full speech

Description & Discussion:

Teddy Roosevelt delivered this speech in 1910 while visiting Paris. His audience consisted of uniformed Army and Navy officers, 900 students and 2000 ticket holders. In his speech called "Citizenship in a Republic" (which would later be known as "The Man in the Arena"), Roosevelt took aim at those who criticized the intentions of those trying to make the world a better place.

I think there are three relevant things to unpack in this speech. The first, and perhaps the most relatable, is that he establishes criteria necessary if you choose to become part of the "peanut gallery." In other words, if you're going to criticize, you better have a solution. The second, as evidenced by the diversity of his audience, Roosevelt delivered a speech that contained universal appeal. The idea presented within his words easily transcended generation or profession.

The third and perhaps the most overlooked point, is that he presented a new metric and expanded definition for what should be celebrated as successes. Nowhere in his speech does he say "The credit belongs to he who wins." Instead, he references the person "whose face is marred by dust, and sweat and blood." He goes on to say that "Their place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat." This is authenticity at its finest. We preach from pain, and we share our scares. Regardless of outcome, scars tell a story and effort creates experience that only feeds the high why of victory.

Decision, Design & Discipline:

This is one of my favorite passages for many reasons. Mainly, it redefines what we view as success. Failing is not failing to win. Failing is being too scared to try, and criticizing those who do. Success in this context isn't defined by winning or losing. It is defined by having the courage to step into the arena, and being authentic in who you say you are.

Ask yourself what stories or lessons you're afraid to share because you've failed by existing definitions. Re-evaluate that notion based on the context defined in Teddy Roosevelt's "The Man in the Arena" speech. Are they still failures? Would they no longer be failures if you shared those lessons learned?

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