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Sorta Random Sunday: Get in the Arena!

If there is one thing that I hope to teach my kids in life (Ok…there are a lot of things but this is a big one), it is to get in the arena. It can be one of the scariest things in life. But also the most rewarding. And honestly, it’s only until you get in the arena that you really start living.

A brief history of the arena

In 1910, one year after leaving office (and after hunting around Africa for a year, which I have separate thoughts about), Teddy Roosevelt gave a speech in France called “Citizenship in a Republic.”

In this speech, he birthed the idea of the “(wo)man in the arena.”

get in the arena

Roosevelt said:

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.

What does it mean to actually get in the arena?

If I were to paraphrase this portion of the speech pertaining to the person in the arena, it would go like this.

It’s better to have tried and failed than to not have tried at all. At least if you try you have the chance of success. And even if you don’t succeed, you learn for your next attempt in the arena. In fact, the only way to guarantee failure is to not step into the arena at all.

Further, once you are in the arena, you can ignore everyone who isn’t in there with you – the critics. They don’t know what it means to be there.

Focus instead on those there with you. Those whose endurance rivals their enthusiasm. Those who are working to be better. To make a difference.

And then, never get out.

My experience

I am constantly reminding myself to step into the arena. I am a more introverted and quiet person by nature. No one Iikes criticism. But I had an especially hard time with it when I was younger. And that made me wary of putting myself out there where I could get criticized.

However, at some point, I recognized that criticism was not all that bad. Especially because most criticism came from people who were not actually doing anything. And those who really mattered and were in there with you rarely criticized. Instead they gave advice. Because they knew that failure or missteps were just part of the process.

For me, stepping into the arena has looked like this:

And those are really just in the professional aspects of my life. Personally this happens all the time as well. Even coaching my son’s little league baseball team requires stepping out of my comfort zone and putting myself out there to be judged.

The experience has its bumps in the road. You can even look at this post and scroll down to see the first ever comment that I received on this blog. Another critic.

However, being in the arena has been the best shift I ever made in my life. Because that’s where life is lived. We all deserve to chase out true passions and purposes. And they never will align with everyone else’s. But if we let that stand in the way, we will never find our true callings and happiness.

What is your arena?

My challenge to you today is to think about what arenas you want to get into. Have you actually stepped in? Or do you hesitate because you worry about doing it right or what bothers may think/say?

Be honest with yourself. None of us are perfect.

It could be altering your professional career to more align with your values. Or starting investing in real estate. It could be sharing your story. Or picking up a new hobby you always wanted to try.

Whatever it is, get in the arena. I promise you won’t regret it.

Here are some other posts to held you make this jump:

What do you think? What is your arena? Have you ever worried about what others thought? How did you overcome this? Let me know in the comments below!

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    Jordan Frey MD, a plastic surgeon in Buffalo, NY, is one of the fastest-growing physician finance bloggers in the world. See how he went from financially clueless to increasing his net worth by $1M in 1 year and how you can do the same! Feel free to send Jordan a message at [email protected].

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