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

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  1. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    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
  2. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    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
  3. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    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
  4. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    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
  5. Aaron Miller Inactive
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    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
  6. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    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
  7. Trink Coolidge
    Trink
    @Trink

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

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

    • #7
  8. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

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

    • #8
  9. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    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
  10. Songwriter Inactive
    Songwriter
    @user_19450

    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
  11. Mike LaRoche Inactive
    Mike LaRoche
    @MikeLaRoche

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

    • #11
  12. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    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
  13. Merrijane Inactive
    Merrijane
    @Merrijane

    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
  14. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    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
  15. Chuck Enfield Inactive
    Chuck Enfield
    @ChuckEnfield

    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
  16. Marley's Ghost Coolidge
    Marley's Ghost
    @MarleysGhost

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

    • #16
  17. Hypatia Inactive
    Hypatia
    @Hypatia

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

    I cant stand being so angry all the time.

    • #17
  18. Mike LaRoche Inactive
    Mike LaRoche
    @MikeLaRoche

    John Boehner is a miserable sot.

    • #18
  19. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

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

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

    • #19
  20. Mike LaRoche Inactive
    Mike LaRoche
    @MikeLaRoche

    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
  21. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    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
  22. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    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
  23. Songwriter Inactive
    Songwriter
    @user_19450

    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
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