“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.”
Maybe you’ve heard of this speech or read it before. It was delivered by Teddy Roosevelt in April, 1910 in France, and is often called “The Man in the Arena” speech. Powerful stuff. Until recently, when reading this speech, I’d focused mostly on the first sentence, the one which begins, “It is not the critic who counts…” and read these remarks as an attempt to dismiss criticism as unimportant because the critic is not the one in the fight.
But after reading Brene Brown’s remarkable book Daring Greatly last month, I’ve found much more in common with the end of this passage. And that’s what I want to focus on today. The second sentence begins with this phrase:
“the credit belongs to the [person] … who strives valiantly … who at the best knows … the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…”
If he fails, he at least fails while daring greatly.
In Brown’s book, she applies the idea of “daring greatly” to a whole number of scenarios in life. But in the context of making something, producing a good or service, following a personal calling, this idea was powerful for me.
You may have heard that next week, I’m launching a Kickstarter campaign for my middle grade novel The Misadventured Summer of Tumbleweed Thompson, a frontier adventure book for young readers that’s part Tom and Huck, part Homer Price, and hopefully a real hoot.
I thought it might be interesting to share a bit of explanation about the process leading to this decision. So, over the next couple of days, I’ll be posting a bit about why this season in my life finds me daring greatly, how I got here, and what perils and questions are part of the process.
I hope in some way these posts will help to encourage you on your path of making things, whatever those things are. Maybe you’ll discover, like I have, that you’re more capable of daring greatly, of striking out in pursuit of something you’ve always dreamed of doing. Wouldn’t that be cool?
This is my story. Maybe in some measure, it’s yours.