One of my favorite quotes of all time is from Teddy Roosevelt’s speech Citizenship in a Republic in 1910.
To me, this quote means that we need to keep trying things, fail or succeed, no matter what others say. Daring greatly means taking risks, even when (especially when) the odds are against you.
I’m horrible at following Teddy’s advice. I care too much about what the critics think and where the odds are stacked. I tell myself I don’t enjoy writing and choose a hobby that’s also enjoyable, but much easier, then I do that instead. I’m working on it, I’ve read the book, I’ve taken small steps toward the arena, I’ve written the blog posts. But eventually I’m going to have to actually take action (write something meaningful) despite my reservations.
When I think of the man in the arena, I think of my husband Donnie. He’s always been the man in the arena, (sometimes I have to push him into the arena) but hes always been different. At nearly 7 feet tall, one gets accustomed to standing out from the crowd. But he embraces it. He lives his life the same way, his way.
Last night, we were watching the life cycle of Monarch butterfly and there were literally hundreds of thousands of
butterflies in one tree (a group of butterflies is called a kaleidoscope – how cool is that?!). There were so many butterflies crammed on each limb that the branches drooped down. Meanwhile, the tree next to it, same type of tree, was completely empty. I remarked, “Donnie, if you were a monarch butterfly, you’d be on that other tree enjoying your space and mocking the butterflies that were uncomfortably cramped on the other tree, “Stupid butterflies.” He agreed.
While, being in the arena has major benefits, one thing Donnie never gets used to is the criticism. Who can? And, boy is he criticized. He’s failed. He’s succeeded. He’s dared greatly. But the other butterflies don’t understand that. They only understand sameness, routine, conformity. It’s instinctive. Donnie wouldn’t survive as a monarch butterfly.
Luckily! We are not butterflies. We are humans (duh). We need to stray from the kaleidoscope and try new things to grow and thrive. We have to go through a lot of pain, dust, sweat and blood to succeed and live whole lives. But it sucks in the arena! (Clearly I’m conflicted) Many of us (me) never enter the arena because we (I) anticipate the pain involved. Unfortunately, if we never enter the arena, we could be (gulp), “those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
For the record, Teddy Roosevelt probably didn’t hate Monarch butterflies.