It is Not the Critic Who Counts

The Man in the Arena

There are many pictures and quotes hanging on the walls of my room, but one stands out above all the rest. “The Man in the Arena,” by Theodore Roosevelt has a profound impact on me every time I read it. Roosevelt starts his speech by saying, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose faced is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly…”


Action is the single greatest word in my life. That comes from the fact that I’m very aware that I have no idea how much time I have left on this earth. Tomorrow is never promised. All I do know, is one day my time is going to run out. Realizing how precious my time is makes me incredibly hungry to create, and leave a lasting legacy with the actions I take every day.

About a year ago, I read Andrew Roberts’ biography of Napoleon, which is a book I highly recommend. In the introduction, he quoted Winston Churchill who described Napoleon as “The greatest man of action born in Europe since Julius Caesar.” In the end, that’s what I want to be known as most; “A man of action.” To strive valiantly and dare greatly in a worthy cause is what makes me jump out of bed in the morning.

After recently jumping into the arena of life with my book and company, I understand now more than ever the importance of marching forward in the face of criticism. I know my ideas won’t connect with everyone, and that opens me up to be criticized by others; but I am willing to accept a life of action and criticism over a life of ease and comfort.

I believe deep down in my heart and soul that my cause is a worthy cause. There are people in the world looking for a change, and looking for someone to step into the arena to challenge the status quo. I plan on being that person.

I truly believe we as human beings have a natural inclination to act. When we take action, we experience this overwhelming feeling of fulfillment; when we fail to act, we’re consumed by regret. I’ve found that too often though, we are consumed by regret. I think the main reason for that is, we fear the criticism of our peers. But I urge you to keep moving forward and take pride in being criticized. It means you’re in the arena.

As Aristotle once said a long time ago, “There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.” I say then, put it all on the line for your cause. So that “your place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

3 Comments Add yours

  1. davis says:

    Reflecting on just the quote. In a world with instant global communication we find ourselves constantly in a position to share ideas, explain our values and most importantly challenge ideas. Though most of us do not hold a political office or wield political power directly, billions are provided with the freedom to speak and access to global communication. With such capabilities at our disposal we are empowered. Though however small our influence, our freedom to share ideas, explain our values and challenge other views gives us a pathway to the “arena”. We take action every time we open our laptops. We are are acting in every post, in every shared article, in every meme…etc Action is easy, the question I find more difficult is what cause do we act on the behalf of? Which purpose do I devote my energy to? How does one determine wether their actions are in fact in favor of a “worthy” cause? Many immoral men have put it all out on the line for their cause. In this way action is not inherently good. And criticism is not inherently bad. To point out how the strong man stumbles, exposes how the strong man may not be so strong. To point out the way in which he stumbles and the implications of his stumbles provokes him to grow, to change, to reconfigure his position. In this way criticism is a means for growth and even collaboration. Perhaps in todays global arena, the critic counts more than ever.


    1. taylordvoss says:

      Very interesting points. You’re exactly right; stepping into the arena today is easier than it ever has been. I think in determining what cause do we act on behalf of, I like to ask myself, “Am I empowering others?” and “Am I making those around me better?” If I can answer yes to those questions, that symbolizes a worthy cause to me. Many immoral men have absolutely put it all on the line for their cause, and thank you for pointing that out because that’s an important point to touch on. They put it all on the line for a destructive cause; they weren’t empowering others, rather tearing others down in pursuit of their own agenda. I also agree that criticism, given with the right intentions, is a means for growth and collaboration. But I would also say living in a world where we can take action every time we open our laptops, we also have critics who share their criticism without the intent of being constructive. In today’s global arena, criticism that provokes growth truly does count more than ever.


  2. Michael says:

    If I quit every time someone told me it would never work; I would live somewhere below status quo. Nowadays when someone says I will fail, I get excited. That usually means I am on the brink of something special. #lovethehaters


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