Theodore Roosevelt and the man in the arena.

Theodore Roosevelt and the man in the arena.

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Theodore Roosevelt was as mean as a bear, as tough as a bull-moose and widely admired by legends the likes of Ernest Hemingway.

While Teddy is most known for being the 26th president of the United States, he was also a prolific writer that wrote something like 47 books on topics ranging from naval warfare to hunting big game to navigating the rough and tumble world of politics.

Teddy?s coveted speech, The man in the arena is hands down one of the most powerful pieces of prose I?ve ever read.

During my adolescent years whilst pursuing dreams of one day becoming a collegiate athlete, I had the entire piece taped to my bathroom mirror where I?d read it every evening while taking a brush to my teeth before slipping into bed and drifting off to sleep.

I imagine when Teddy first gave the speech in 1910, he didn?t have the slightest clue it?d be inspiring young Americans a century later.

I read it was shortly after Roosevelt had left office. He had stopped in Paris to speak to a modest two thousand person audience made up of ministers, military officers and hundreds of students.

The speech was titled, Citizenship in a Republic but would become infamously known as The Man in the Arena.

It went something like this?

Teddy is typing now.

?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??


Those damn words still stand straight the hairs on my arms.

The only other piece I could liken its power to is Charles Bukowski?s prose on going all the way or perhaps (and this might be a stretch) Ira Glass?s thoughts on battling frustration as a budding creative.

What I do know is that at a time like this, I need to re-hang Teddy Roosevelt?s words back up on my bathroom mirror.

In fact, at a time like this, I think all of us do.

But, I digress.

By Cole Schafer (but mostly Theodore Roosevelt).

Sticky Notes is my email list reserved for entrepreneurs, creatives, marketers, writers and freelancers looking to sell like hell (without losing their soul).

Originally published at on April 9, 2020.


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