Quote of the Day – 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 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.

Theodore Roosevelt

I first saw this back in the 1980s, posted above the desk of a much older (and wiser) engineer. It struck me as a worthwhile philosophy, and guided me to attempt things I might not have otherwise tried.

On the other side of the coin, it has informed my approach as a book reviewer. A reviewer, by nature is a critic. When I write a book review I try not to focus on where the strong man stumbled, or the doer of deeds could have done them better. It is easy to write a negative review, showing how clever the reviewer is, but much harder to write one focused on a book’s strengths and merits.

Seawriter

There are 23 comments.

  1. Member

    Seawriter: I first saw this back in the 1980s, posted above the desk of a much older (and wiser) engineer. It struck me as a worthwhile philosophy, and guided me to attempt things I might not have otherwise tried.

    Then you did it right.

    Seawriter: On the other side of the coin, it has informed my approach as a book reviewer. A reviewer, by nature is a critic. When I write a book review I try not to focus on where the strong man stumbled, or the doer of deeds could have done them better. It is easy to write a negative review, showing how clever the reviewer is, but much harder to write one focused on a book’s strengths and merits.

    And this is very good, too. I have also written reviews, and I always refused to do a negative review. Sometimes this meant refusing to do a review of a certain book at all.

    The one hole in the quote, though, is people such as you or I who have been in the arena and then go on to advise others on how to do it without going through every hard knock that we went through. In other words, those who have been in and may still be in the arena, but are willing to coach young talent. A coach will sometimes have some harsh criticisms of the performance, but the goal only starts there. With the negative critic, it ends there.

    • #1
    • May 26, 2017 at 6:43 am
    • 10 likes
  2. Member

    This conversation is part of the Quote of the Day Series. It can be the easiest way to start a conversation on Ricochet, or one can put more effort into it as Seawriter has. If you would like to join in the series, you can sign up for a date in June here.

    • #2
    • May 26, 2017 at 6:45 am
    • Like
  3. Member
    Seawriter Post author

    Arahant (View Comment):
    The one hole in the quote, though, is people such as you or I who have been in the arena and then go on to advise others on how to do it without going through every hard knock that we went through. In other words, those who have been in and may still be in the arena, but are willing to coach young talent. A coach will sometimes have some harsh criticisms of the performance, but the goal only starts there. With the negative critic, it ends there.

    The difference is the criticism is provided privately and to the individual concerned. I do not consider that as being a critic. I consider that as mentoring. It falls under category of praise in public, criticize in private.

    If I am writing something general (How to Write a Procedure, for example) and have to use negative examples, I try to use things I have done or anonymize them.

    Seawriter

    • #3
    • May 26, 2017 at 7:00 am
    • 8 likes
  4. Member

    Seawriter (View Comment):
    The difference is the criticism is provided privately and to the individual concerned. I do not consider that as being a critic. I consider that as mentoring. It falls under category of praise in public, criticize in private.

    If I am writing something general (How to Write a Procedure, for example) and have to use negative examples, I try to use things I have done or anonymize them.

    Exactly. “Don’t be like this guy.”

    • #4
    • May 26, 2017 at 7:02 am
    • 2 likes
  5. Member

    Habitual negativity is something I loathe about most professional critics. If you approach entertainment daring it to entertain you, rather than eager to be pleased, it’s time to change professions.

    • #5
    • May 26, 2017 at 7:25 am
    • 11 likes
  6. Member
    Seawriter Post author

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    If you approach entertainment daring it to entertain you, rather than being eager to be pleased, it’s time to change professions.

    Could not agree more.

    Seawriter

    • #6
    • May 26, 2017 at 7:30 am
    • 2 likes
  7. Coolidge

    Seawriter: . . . .fails while daring greatly . .

    That is powerful. And your approach to editing, as affected by Roosevelt’s words, is quite appealing.

    • #7
    • May 26, 2017 at 9:42 am
    • 3 likes
  8. Member

    That’s a great quote. I used to have it framed in my office.

    • #8
    • May 26, 2017 at 10:02 am
    • 4 likes
  9. Member

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    The difference is the criticism is provided privately and to the individual concerned.

    That’s what I was going to say! It’s a pretty big difference. Great quote.

    • #9
    • May 26, 2017 at 10:09 am
    • 5 likes
  10. Member

    I try to be careful with my musical criticisms around lay people. I have reasons for my opinions, based on my own professional standards. But everybody is entitled to his/her opinion and are free to like what they like.

    • #10
    • May 26, 2017 at 10:26 am
    • 8 likes
  11. Member

    That is excellent advice and a good attitude with which to approach life.

    • #11
    • May 26, 2017 at 10:41 am
    • 4 likes
  12. Thatcher

    Seawriter: It struck me as a worthwhile philosophy, and guided me to attempt things I might not have otherwise tried.

    I read this quote years ago, then made a copy and pasted it on the wall in my office. It finally got me off my butt to begin writing. Over 4100 books sold on Amazon the last 5 years. Nowhere near J.K. Rowling’s total, but for me – it’s victory in the arena.

    • #12
    • May 26, 2017 at 10:44 am
    • 10 likes
  13. Inactive

    Seawriter (View Comment):
    The difference is the criticism is provided privately and to the individual concerned. I do not consider that as being a critic. I consider that as mentoring. It falls under category of praise in public, criticize in private.

    If I am writing something general (How to Write a Procedure, for example) and have to use negative examples, I try to use things I have done or anonymize them.

    That’s such a wise method of critiquing. Sometimes in a mentoring capacity, we do have to provide feedback that’s negative. But if you’ve already built up credibility with the individual—they know you care about them and have their best interest at heart—they are so much more likely to listen and benefit from your critique. Helping people change and become better is truly a long hard slog of one-on-one time investment.

    • #13
    • May 26, 2017 at 11:17 am
    • 2 likes
  14. Member
    Seawriter Post author

    Songwriter (View Comment):
    But everybody is entitled to his/her opinion and are free to like what they like.

    Did I say I was not or did not? I just do not feel a need to advertise my opinion broadcast.

    Seawriter

    • #14
    • May 26, 2017 at 11:28 am
    • 2 likes
  15. Coolidge

    I know TR was much more than just a politician, but I can’t help wondering if it was his political experience that informed this quote. I’m often frustrated with Ricochet discussions because we don’t give the people in the political arena enough credit. When they fail to live up to our standards or achieve our preferred outcomes, we’re pretty quick to attribute their failures to immorality, incompetence, spinelessness, or self-serving tendencies. Of course, it’s easy to identify these shortcomings among politicians, and, being human, almost all of them can fairly be accused of these failings at one time or another. But relatively few politicians are primarily motivated by these things. On the other hand, we rarely acknowledge how difficult it is to achieve the consensus required to get things done in a lawful republic, and, rather, behave as if what we believe is so obviously best for the country it should be easy to affect. I’m not suggesting that we stop criticizing our elected officials, but we would do well to consider this quote both as we establish our political expectations, and as we offer our criticisms when those expectations go unrealized.

    • #15
    • May 26, 2017 at 11:42 am
    • 4 likes
  16. Member

    Great Quote. I have this framed on the wall in my office over my desk!

    • #16
    • May 26, 2017 at 12:37 pm
    • 1 like
  17. Inactive

    Tell it to John Boehner , who just called Trump a “disaster”.

    I cant stand being so angry all the time.

    • #17
    • May 26, 2017 at 12:49 pm
    • 6 likes
  18. Member

    John Boehner is a miserable sot.

    • #18
    • May 26, 2017 at 8:33 pm
    • 2 likes
  19. Member

    Mike LaRoche (View Comment):
    John Boehner is a miserable sot.

    He’s just mad because now there’s someone who’s oranger.

    • #19
    • May 26, 2017 at 8:35 pm
    • 3 likes
  20. Member

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    Mike LaRoche (View Comment):
    John Boehner is a miserable sot.

    He’s just mad because now there’s someone who’s oranger.

    Haha! Yep, now he has one more reason to drink. ?

    • #20
    • May 26, 2017 at 8:37 pm
    • 2 likes
  21. Member

    Mike LaRoche (View Comment):

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    Mike LaRoche (View Comment):
    John Boehner is a miserable sot.

    He’s just mad because now there’s someone who’s oranger.

    Haha! Yep, now he has one more reason to drink. ?

    And cry.

    • #21
    • May 26, 2017 at 8:40 pm
    • 3 likes
  22. Thatcher

    Mike LaRoche (View Comment):
    John Boehner is a miserable sot.

    I was thinking of a four letter word that begins with “s” and ends with “t” . . .

    • #22
    • May 27, 2017 at 8:18 am
    • 2 likes
  23. Member

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    Songwriter (View Comment):
    But everybody is entitled to his/her opinion and are free to like what they like.

    Did I say I was not or did not? I just do not feel a need to advertise my opinion broadcast.

    Seawriter

    No. Sorry – I was simply stating what I have to remind myself of – as a professional – that the folks who don’t like what I like are as entitled to an opinion as I am. (I can see how you might have read that the other way.)

    In fact – in my own book on songwriting, I was careful to only use other writers’ work as positive examples. If I ever needed a negative example, I could find one in my own work!

    • #23
    • May 27, 2017 at 9:32 am
    • 2 likes