Forget The Critics. Thank Teddy Roosevelt.
I learned to forget the critics a long time ago. It seems that no matter what you are trying to accomplish, there’s always someone, or a group of people, who wants to criticize you and your efforts. Fortunately, early in my life, I read the (voluminous) Teddy Roosevelt biography by Edmund Morris, which led me to my favorite quote of all time:
“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 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 and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for 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 he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
Powerful stuff. Obviously, this quote is from a different era, so “she” can be substituted for “he” in this wording. This mindset applies to all people, regardless of gender, race, age, etc.
The perspective of this quote resonates with me on many levels.
First, it’s inevitable that you will stumble if you are going to try to accomplish anything meaningful. You need to become comfortable with the stumbles, even embrace them, as they are the milestones on the path to achieving your goals.
Second, while your face may not actually be “marred by dust and sweat and blood,” you will take some hits. Depending what your goals are, the hits may not be physical. Rather, they may be blows to your ego and your confidence. You cannot be deterred. You must access your considerable will to succeed, and then press on.
Third, if what you’re trying to do is for a “worthy cause,” not necessarily non-profit, but “worthy” still, you are more likely to be able to access even more perseverance and drive. As the saying goes, you need to have a “big enough why”. I see people give up all the time, and usually when this happens it’s because they did not have a big enough reason to motivate them to carry on. Don’t be a dabbler. Engage in activities in which you are not just interested, but to which you are also committed.
Finally, and perhaps most powerfully, if you don’t let the critics get you down and even keep you from pursuing your goals and dreams, you’ll never have to count yourself among “those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat”. Find the courage to pursue your goals, regardless of the resistance you may receive, and you will never have to look back and say “what if”. From my perspective, having to do so may be the biggest failure one could ever face.
I look forward to your thoughts and questions. Please leave a comment (“response”) below or in the upper right corner of this post.
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