(This quote is from Theodore Roosevelt’s “The Man in the Arena”)
“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 thing about the critic in my life is that the external critic is by far the least prominent critic. My loudest critics are the Greek chorus inside my head. How much I point out that I stumble! Based on time spent, my favorite activity is pondering where I have stumbled, and where I am currently stumbling.
I have a bottomless appetite for looking for where I might do 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, “
I’ve talked about this before. Action is so glorious! The darling of my heart to act, to DO, and strive valiantly. YES! I wish to strive valiantly.
But erring and coming up short? Oh no. Let us never never do that. If such a horror were to happen, I would paper it over with the same act re-taken, only THIS time properly, again and again to prove I would never never do THAT mistake again. See? Look how many times I did it right. Like a stuck machine, again and again, re-doing the mistake but correctly this time.
How pointless. How regressive. This shameful habit needs releasing.
“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,”
The first job I had that I was proud of, the first one that counted (althought in retrospect, I am not giving McDonald’s enough credit), I was so terrified that I would screw it up, I carried a notebook with these words written large on the cover:
Show me a girl who makes no mistakes,
And a will show you a girl who does nothing
Doing nothing was worse than making mistakes. Barely.
I carried that notebook for years, and I still barely believe it. So most of my actions are careful careful don’t make mistakes actions.
But they are actions.
I am hungry for that high achievement in a worthy cause. I am so eager for it. It is the thing that gets me taking action in spite of the very very terrifying prospect of making a mistake.
The fear of making a mistake can set my heart racing, fear of that critic who I may encounter will clench my muscles, shoot acid though my stomach and rob my sleep.
What if the worst should happen?
“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. “
There is that other saying, it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
Or another pithy quote from John Stuart Mills.
“It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, is of a different opinion, it is only because they only know their own side of the question.”
It is better to take a chance, try for something big and to fail, or be dissatisfied. It is of value to try even if you don’t succeed. It is of value, in fact to fail.
Success requires failure. And trying, failing, and surviving the failure is valuable.
I’m not happy when failure stares me in the teeth. I would do almost anything to avoid it. Anything except give up on myself.
But let me tell you, there are times when giving up sings a siren song. It comes down to 1% more intolerable to give up on myself than give up.
So I keep trying. My life belongs in the arena, and when I fail–which I will and I do–I hope to fail in the right direction.