April 14, 2016

Teddy Roosevelt Nails It


One of this country's more colorful figures, Teddy Roosevelt, summed up the difference between a talker and a doer very well. In a speech in France in April of 1910, he said, 

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled 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 by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievements, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place will never be with those timid souls who know neither victory or defeat. "

Today, our culture tends to listen more intently to the critic, the person who says something or someone else is wrong and flawed. We delight in stories about people failing and falling from great heights. While we have a celebrity-worshipping mindset, we can't wait for that celebrity to stumble. 

I could argue that the critic versus doer is as good a description as any of the fight each of us has in crafting a satisfying retirement journey. Our internal critic says we should do something, or we can't do something else. We build our own box around our dreams, looking for reasons to not move forward. A spouse, partner, or friend may say something that makes us doubt our ability to accomplish what we dream of. Even louder, is the voice in our head that says, "No, don't risk it."

I will have a post soon about how our fear of being less than perfect at something keeps us on the sidelines. Teddy's quote says the same thing, but with more flair and power. 

This is a short post, but one I hope will cause you (and me) to stop and think for just a moment. Do we play the critic with ourselves and others, or are we a doer, or supporter of one? Does a friend want our unqualified backing, or our unending cautions? Which would we want?

Pick carefully. Your choice has amazing power.

9 comments:

  1. I am probably a stronger critic against myself than anyone else. I seem to always want to be in constant motion and to settle down with any thought or action for any length of time goes against my grain. I seem to always want to live in the future when in reality the future never really comes but for an instant and then it is in the past. The Bible says something about living in the moment; I continuously have a hard time with that idea. I need to work harder in just appreciating the moment...

    I don't allow much fear in my life and I love change because it is something different. Thanks for the thought provoking post Bob. It is what I need right now to be able to settle down in daily life after my week at Disney World. Things don't have to be "exciting" all the time...

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    1. Disney World is a great escape from reality. They do everything in their power to create an environment that is the antithesis of the real world. If Disney ran the country we'd have long lines for everything and high prices, but the infrastructure would work and people would smile...not a bad tradeoff.

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  2. I forgot to mention that Teddy Roosevelt is by far my favorite Republican. Why can't there be more like him around today? His recent biography by Doris Kearns Goodwin entitled "The Bully Pulpit" is well worth the read if you are interested in getting to know him further.

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    1. He was a fascinatingly complex man. I will add that book to my list.

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  3. Here is a quote from Henry Van Dyke that seems to fit: "Use the talents you possess, for the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except the best."

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  4. The Roosevelt quote and your interpretation really resonated for me. I am retired for less than a year and have been floundering with how to constructively spend my time. I decided to conduct a program on WW II memories with residents from our local Veterans Home. I am very excited about this endeavor but have had some dropout from one of the original participants and pushback from another. That caused me some concern about the potential success of the program.

    Your blog post helped me put in perspective that "nothing ventured, nothing gained". If the program is not perfect, so be it. I am exploring new territory and making new acquaintances. I have already succeeded in just the effort of trying.

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    1. First of all, what a great idea! Helping recall and preserve memories is well worth doing. If you get some folks who want you to do it a little differently or drop out, that does not diminish from the overall project. Maybe you can add a tweak here and there, but you cannot please everyone.

      Absolutely you have succeeded in just trying.

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  5. Teddy Roosevelt's words are profound and true. It is the man in the midst of trying (whether failing or succeeding) who I admire most.

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    1. Agreed. It is the effort that counts.

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