‘The Man In The Arena’: Much More Than A Quote

As I write, I am under the assumption that most of you who will read this post will have also had prior exposure to the ambitiously moving quote from Theodore Roosevelt, known now more prominently as “The Man In The Arena”. Though expression of equal and greater value in regard to it’s surrounding content both initiates and further facilitates these words, given its lot in the grander scheme of oracle derive, for those who have not yet felt the quotes might, enjoy:

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.

As stated; Moving; Powerful; Inspiring. However, in this short piece of mine what I wanted to share with you all, as mentioned in the preceding passage, was content of equal or greater value, both prior and post Roosevelt’s illustrious recite. Below I will share with you words leading up to the discounting of the critic, to those eloquently following suit with the cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat; again, enjoy:

Prior to the discounted critic:

The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer. There are many men who feel a kind of twister pride in cynicism; there are many who confine themselves to criticism of the way others do what they themselves dare not even attempt. There is no more unhealthy being, no man less worthy of respect, than he who either really holds, or feigns to hold, an attitude of sneering disbelief toward all that is great and lofty, whether in achievement or in that noble effort which, even if it fails, comes to second achievement. A cynical habit of thought and speech, a readiness to criticize work which the critic himself never tries to perform, an intellectual aloofness which will not accept contact with life’s realities – all these are marks, not as the possessor would fain to think, of superiority but of weakness. They mark the men unfit to bear their part painfully in the stern strife of living, who seek, in the affection of contempt for the achievements of others, to hide from others and from themselves in their own weakness. The role is easy; there is none easier, save only the role of the man who sneers alike at both criticism and performance.

In short; Do yourself instead of talking of others doing. Act as opposed to remaining apprehensive. Remain indifferent to the words of others who merely contain the superficial expanse of aggressive words but very little, to non-existent, in their actions fruition. We all contain the ability to act, but we must be courageous in its implement and in its practice. It's OK to be afraid, but fear more the consequence of idle and fear less the act itself. Click To Tweet

Post those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat:

Let those who have, keep, let those who have not, strive to attain, a high standard of cultivation and scholarship. Yet let us remember that these stand second to certain other things. There is need of a sound body, and even more of a sound mind. But above mind and above body stands character – the sum of those qualities which we mean when we speak of a man’s force and courage, of his good faith and sense of honor. I believe in exercise for the body, always provided that we keep in mind that physical development is a means and not an end. I believe, of course, in giving to all the people a good education. But the education must contain much besides book-learning in order to be really good. We must ever remember that no keenness and subtleness of intellect, no polish, no cleverness, in any way make up for the lack of the great solid qualities. Self restraint, self mastery, common sense, the power of accepting individual responsibility and yet of acting in conjunction with others, courage and resolution – these are the qualities which mark a masterful people. Without them no people can control itself, or save itself from being controlled from the outside. I speak to brilliant assemblage; I speak in a great university which represents the flower of the highest intellectual development; I pay all homage to intellect and to elaborate and specialized training of the intellect; and yet I know I shall have the assent of all of you present when I add that more important still are the commonplace, every-day qualities and virtues.

In short; development of the collective should remain the highest standard and consequential aim of a society. However, this starts with the individual, with the lone development and sustain of self-mastery. Thereafter, or in midst of, the greater pursuit of collective progression, not in terms of industry or of capital expansion, but in the realization and in the development of an aware, able, and self-mastered people. To interject with ever relevant and always comprehensible Stoic perspective, to quote Marcus Aurelius, “That which is not good for the bee-hive cannot be good for the bees.” We are the bees and our moment of existence, along with our universal position is the bee-hive. We are responsible, so as a people, let us become aware of this responsibility, for the hive and for the bees which make up that hive.”With great responsibility comes great power”, and that power is found in the human practice of doing.

The responsibility we all were handed from our first breath, or rather from our first insight of being and of aware, remains ours to our last breath, or rather in the passing on of character and of understanding on a generational basis; this will be difficult, this will be hard, and this will be ours. Own the duty or be owned by the duty's in-acted upon declare. Click To Tweet And, to further quote Theodore Roosevelt, in moments of our inevitable disbelief or refrain, find strength and courage in these words:

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”



Attached below is a copy of Roosevelt’s entire speech, titled “Citizenship In A Republic”; I encourage you to read it. However, as with any reading, understand the context the best you can, take from it what you will and leave behind what you choose. Reading itself is an act of individual understanding, unique to you, your desires, your perspective and your ever evolving existence. And remember, enjoy!

The Man In The Arena – Citizenship In A Republic – Theodore Roosevelt

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