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I love this quote:

  • 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, “Citizenship in a Republic”, Paris, France April 23, 1910). It has become an aspirational model for my day-to-day life. I was first introduced to the quote in the book Daring Greatly by Dr. Brene Brown. Dr. Brown hypothesizes that we make meaningful connections with other people only when we are vulnerable to the risk of hurt and/or rejection.

A friend explained it another way: “A ship may remain safe at harbor, but that is not what ships were built to do.”

So, I have started to look around me for people who are daring greatly, risking the possibility of failure in their reach for success. Several recent examples stand out to me. My youngest boys started running with a local track club. It was certainly a large step outside of their comfort zones as they both realized that there are faster boys. Suddenly, they had to face the possibility that they would be measured and might not be good enough.

When it came time for the first race, one son began to complain of stomach pain. He asked not to race; he thought that practice was good enough and left him fulfilled. As a parent, I had a choice to make: allow him to back out or require him to compete. I am all for allowing our children to make choices; at the same time, I do not want him to learn a pattern of changing course just because something is challenging, difficult or unpleasant (or even all three).

My wife and I encouraged him to run, that winning wasn’t the most important thing. We told him that win or lose, it was most important for him to give his best effort. He still didn’t want to, but he got out there and ran anyway. It was spectacular to watch him face his fears and conquer! He didn’t win the race, but he certainly won the battle. I was definitely inspired by his willingness to put it all out there.

I see that regularly in my practice, as people are facing significant changes in their lives. They face changes in income and standard of living. They face the prospect of having childcare providers spend more time with their child than they will. They look to reenter the workforce with minimal experience. They contemplate starting new businesses to provide for their needs. How amazing to watch them face and conquer their fears in the name of creating something better for themselves. It is equally inspiring to watch them square their shoulders and face their challenges head-on. I am honored when I can enter the arena with them.


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