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The Man in the Arena

By Albert Angulo

Inspired by the speech of Theodore Roosevelt in 1910, which made echoes in my life 100 years later.

“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.”

“Citizenship in a Republic,”
Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910

Yes, my friends — while looking for inspiration I found this incredible speech by Theodore Roosevelt. As I found myself on the verge of starting a new project that will require total vulnerability from me where I can potentially hurt but at the same time, help a lot of people, where I am going to have to make an incision on my heart in order to let it all out and shame is trying to take over me.

But isn’t that what life is about — daring greatly, being in the arena? When you walk up to that arena and you put your hand on the door, and you think, “I’m going in and I’m going to try this,” shame is the gremlin who says, “Uh, uh. You’re not good enough. You never finished that book you wanted to write. Every single one of your love partners has left you. I know your Mom wasn’t really a psychologist. She was a social worker. I know those things that happened to you growing up. I know your grandmother rejected you because you were dark colored; I know you don’t think that you’re handsome enough or smart enough or talented enough or powerful enough; I know your dad never paid attention to you because you didn’t play basketball; I know you were never in a private but in a public school.”

And if we can quiet it down and walk in and say, “I’m going to do this,” we look up, and the critic that we see pointing and laughing 99% of the time is who? Us. Shame drives two big tapes “You’re never good enough” and (if you can talk it out of that one), “Who do you think you are?”

Shame is that thing that prevents you from lighting up, and I have listened to it so many times but I am going look into its eyes and say, “There is no room for you in my life anymore. That’s enough!”

So I’ll leave you with this thought. If we’re going to find our way back to each other, vulnerability is going to be that path. And I know it’s seductive to stand outside the arena, because I think I did it my whole life, and think to myself, “I’m going to go in there and kick some ass when I’m bulletproof, when I get more experience, when I lose the weight, when I have the funds and when I’m perfect.” And that is seductive. But the truth is that never happens. And even if you got as perfect as you could and as bulletproof as you could possibly muster, when you got in there, that’s not what people want to see. They want to see you go in with the same faults they have. They want to be with you and across from you. I just want for myself and the people I care about to dare greatly.