Man in the arena

Of all the quotes I have read in my life so far, there is one that stands above the rest. There are millions of them out there and I have no doubt that each and every philosophical quote ever printed would be held dearest to somebody. So mine, the one that impacted my train of thought upon reading immediately goes like this;

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how 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; 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 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’ve had a constant battle throughout my life with wanting to be liked by everybody. I suppose a lot of us have. But the difference between you and I is in how much we want others to like us. I’ve wanted to be liked by all but not once, even in my youth, wanted this by not being who I am. To put on a facade for one particular individual to enjoy my company would mean that I’d need to then adopt another for the next person who needed coercing. You can imagine, this would quite quickly become a tired game to play of inauthenticity.

So I’ve then battled with the notion that there are unfortunately people out there that do not like me for their confirmation bias based justified reasons. I know I’ve certainly judged people in the past and justified my reasonings as to why I dislike them. It’s not a personal thing, as much as we try to convince ourselves. For the people we judge that have barely had any interaction with us or even, none, are the people we may see something in of ourselves… Whether it’s their bold body language that screams confidence to the point of obnoxiousness, their absenteeism of acknowledgment to other people around them, their nonchalant approach to an appointment that demands punctuality…It could be absolutely anything about a person that brings you to making a judgment call on who they are and what they stand for.

But who are we to cast someone in the too difficult basket if they don’t appear to laugh at our (probably subpar) ice breaker joke? Do not be offended. Be curious. For everybody operates on slightly different plains and notices different beats of the way the world moves around us. So the way we judge a person usually comes at a misinterperated slight against the person we believe we are! It’s not you, it’s not personal, take a deep breath and remember who you are!

*Remember who you are.

As the days pass by and I come to refined realisations on the person I am and who I have become, I now realise that my uncompromising character will never please everybody. And this is okay! Oprah Winfrey seems like a pretty likeable woman no? Yet there’s people out there that would love to see her fail at her most incredible skill, empathizing with an array of individuals and bringing their stories to light.

So if there’s people out there that would love to see her fail, there’s most certainly going to be people out there that would love to see yourself and your humble narrator fail just as much.

Be wary of the ones that always please us

So with a quote like Roosevelt’s now ingrained in my mind, all I can think about is the plight of mine. That no matter how many people may be out there riding on a train of self loathing to see another person they know trying hard in life. See a person they want to fail all because it hurts them to know that a real person in their own neighbourhood is giving life a real crack.

This, this very notion at first actually didn’t bother me at all. It didn’t bother me because I didn’t think there was anyone out there that either cared or noticed. And that was comforting. It was comforting compared to what I’d eventually discover over the months down the track of stories that would get relayed back to me. Knowing that people were out there completely comfortable in fabricating scenarios of a person they once knew and also believed wouldn’t cycle back in their direction.

There was a period of time where this information had me down a peg or two. Self doubt and also a lack of trust in people I thought I knew and people in general, had me uncertain about my path. But what I learned of this obstacle was that only the people that truly matter in your life are the people you should take advice from. They are the people who are there for you when you need them most. They are the people that won’t always tell you what you want to hear, rather what you NEED to hear.

*Seek out words you NEED to hear, not words you WANT to hear.

Be wary of the people who only ever tell you everything you want to hear. There is an episode in the popular adult cartoon comedy series ‘Rick and Morty’ titled ‘Total Rickall’ where the entire episode is based around an alien parasite hiding in made up forms of characters the Smith family ‘remembers’ as being life long friends or relatives. The parasite wants to break out to outside world throughout the episode so it can expand over the globe etc. Now Rick knows something is up early in the episode and is constantly trying to locate the culprit and then eliminate the parasite. But this parasite expands into more characters every time it takes the family into another ‘false memory’ that tricks the family into believing they’ve shared great times with additional characters. Before long the household is filled with dozens of extras and Rick now knows blood must be spilled… Now the main turning point comes when Morty finally realises that the only REAL family members are the ones he can remember having bad experiences with. The parasites memories are always fantastic and rewarding. From here Morty, Rick and the family begin eliminating every single character that fails to deliver a bad memory.

Now this episodes main message (in my opinion) is that the people in our lives that haven’t always been the best possible versions of themselves towards us. Or have been in arguments but ultimately overcome them. Are the people that (more than likely) can be trusted and indeed worthy of taking advice from. They are the people that aren’t going to compromise their character at the expense of you liking them on false pretenses. They are people that you need in your life if you want the best chance of fulfilling relationships.


So becoming your own alpha and disregarding all that will try to push you off your path should be your priority in life. Back yourself in what you believe is right for you and whenever you feel a little uncertain, approach a trusted friend to get that dose of reality you desire.

You are the man (or woman) in the arena! Only take heed from the ones who are also in their own arena battling for the best version of themselves. Or the idols that you know have spent their time in the arena in the past and surely have words of wisdom to share with you.

Bleed, sweat and build calluses on your mind doing what you need to do to grow!

Nick Donnellan

Self awareness is progression


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