Be The Man In The Arena

The Man in the arena quote by Teddy Roosevelt is one I’ve talked about extensively in the Impossible Manifesto when I released it a couple years ago. Lately it’s been coming up in my head over & over again. It’s worth a read (or two).

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. – Teddy Roosevelt

I’m on the cusp of announcing a big venture coming up. It’s probably the most intimidating thing I’ve ever contemplated. Honestly, I’m not quite sure if I can do it or not. It’s definitely on the edge of what I think is possible. But it’s also one of those ideas I get in my brain and I’m not going to be able to sleep until I do it – so I might as well go for it, right?

I was talking with a friend about this and she mentioned, that even if I tried it and failed miserably, it wouldn’t matter because at least I’m in the arena. She didn’t even mention the quote above directly, but I knew exactly what she was talking about.

It always seems to come back to the debate between being the one doing the critiquing & the one doing the doing.

It’s way too tempting to sit on the sidelines and heckle the guy in the arena taking punches to the face and say that’s a bad idea. It’s even easier to sit on the sidelines of potential things you might do someday and heckle the future about the punches you might take someday take & why it’s “smarter” to just avoid them. It’s hard as **** to actually get in the ring and take the punches yourself because then it’s your beautiful little face that is as risk of getting messed up. You’ve got skin (and a face) in hte game.

I’ve got a big project coming up that’s going to push me in ways I haven’t been pushed before – but more than anything it’s getting me back to getting in the arena, even if I get beat up, I’ll be able to sleep knowing I’m going after it.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. – Marianne Williamson

Be the man in the arena – even if you take a few punches to the face. At least you’re in the arena.

photo credit: cliff1066™

photo credit: photography by rockfingrz

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  1. shawn carey says

    “heckle the future about the punches you might take someday take & why it’s “smarter” to just avoid them.” Life requires that you get hit. Getting back up is a decision to make. Awesome post Joel!

  2. says

    Great quote, I read that a while back and completely forgot about it until now. One of those that I should have saved somewhere.

    The other quote you have is one I’m always sending out and telling people about. The part right after you ended it I’m not big on, but a few lines later it goes, “As we are liberated from our own fear, Our presence automatically liberates others.”

    I dig that. : D

  3. Harpreet says

    That was very motivating; Thanks Joel for this amzing post.
    I always try not to be the critic but the player, but somehow fail on several occassions coz it’s way too tempting to just ‘sit on the sidelines and heckle the guy in the arena’.
    I’m going keep this post saved with me so that every time that I’m even remotely tempted to be the one to sit on the sidelines….

    Thanks again, Joel.. You’re amazin!

  4. says

    “It’s way too tempting to sit on the sidelines and heckle the guy in the arena taking punches to the face and say that’s a bad idea.”

    Yeah, that’s what most people do. It’s far more comfortable to talk about those who are actually doing things rather than trying to do things ourselves. That’s why it’s important to filter the things you hear from your haters and criticisers because most of the time, they are saying bad things about us because they are envious or can’t stand the idea of someone being more courageous than them.

    Good luck with your project, Joel, and we’ll see how close to the edge this project will push you through.

  5. Sheyne says


    I just want to say thank you for a really encouraging post. This is superb. I’ve shared it with a couple of friends.

    If you need help, just ask. And if I can I will. I would love to.

    Good luck with your new venture.


  6. Kieran says

    I love this attitude. Just like your cold shower therapy, whenever I am faced by a task that seems hard I think back to the toughest thing I have ever done, which was become a professional Muay Thai fighter. I literally got in the arena. I lost three times but I came out of that a much mentally stronger person and started tackling other things which seemed “impossible” beforehand.

    Look forward to hearing about your new project Joel. All the best.

  7. angeline says

    I feel inspired to get into the arena as well and over come my great fear at this point in time. Thanks Joel. I believe that you will make it and you won’t give up. Its better to at least try and not regret later on as to why you didnt even attempt to. There is always a time for everything and if your time is now, then take it.

  8. barbara says

    Perfect timing for me. Quotes great for project I have been wanting to begin! Thanks so much. Can’t wait to hear what you are taking on!

  9. says

    The “Man in the Arena” by Teddy Roosevelt, is one of the greates quotes of all time.

    When ever I want to challenge my self I read it and the one below.

    “Life is not a journey to the grave with intentions of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming … WOW! What a ride!”

    Hunter S. Thompson

    I can’t wait to hear what your next challenge is. You are an inspiration to us all.

    Adventure Insider

  10. says

    Funny you posted this because today I walked into B&N today and picked up a copy of Teddy Roosevelt’s biography can’t wait to crack it open. Look forward to following your upcoming big venture.

  11. Guy Davoren says

    Great post.
    Another thought provoker.
    All the best with your new project.
    You have plenty of supporters. I hope that support helps you in some way, maybe when things get a bit tough.

  12. says

    Hey man, if it’s keeping you from sleeping, I would say do it. I feel like not sleeping is unhealthy lol.

    In all seriousness, very interested to see what you have coming out soon.

  13. says

    The quote works equally well as a metaphor as it does literally. I’m wondering if it’s meant in a more literal way….

    Whatever you’re planning I hope you find a way to succeed

  14. Cheryl says

    I really like the quote, one that needs to keep being repeated, at least for me. It always feels a little scary to start something new, especially outside our comfort zone. This is where I am headed this year too, leaving the academic world behind to pursue work with my hands and my heart. In this process, I met with a person that lives exactly like that, he gets ideas and tries them out, he lives differently than everyone else in this cookie cutter city, and he is amazing. Inspirational people pass our way for a reason. I think whatever it is you want to do, if it adds to life, contributes in some way, doesn’t take away or cause harm, go for it, stay in the arena, it’s only the experiences that count.

  15. Trista Robichaud (@hntrpyanfar) says

    Great post. Could you consider changing “man” outside of the TR quote to “person” or “warrior”?

    A generation of little girl warriors like myself would thank you. :)

    • says

      Hi Trista,

      I think “man” can be interpreted as all mankind. I’m going to leave the quote as Teddy said it and I think all woman warriors are smart enough to understand the quote to include them as well :)


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