When I was a young man training for my under belts, I can remember having doubts about whether or not I could make it to Black Belt or not.
I remember thinking, “What if I fail?” and “What if I look stupid.” And then there was the whole competition thing. I knew that National Karate had a strong tradition of producing champion competitors, but what if I could not live up to that? Although competition wasn’t required, there was a part of me that wanted to do it. But what if I didn’t win? Could I handle the rejection and failure?
The Man In the Arena
Then one day I took a class at Grand Master Larry Carnahan’s National Karate School. In giant letters on the wall there was a mural of a quote from Theodore Roosevelt titled, THE MAN IN THE ARENA. It read…
“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.”
That moment changed me. I realized that I had to face my fears because I didn’t want to be one of “those cold timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” I realized that great men sometimes fail, but they don’t let the fear of failure keep them from being a “doer of deeds”. I wanted to be the Man in the Arena!
Victories and Defeat
Over the last 30 years of martial arts training and teaching, I have come up short many times. Yet I have also known great triumphs, and great victories. I dare say that the victories could not have been achieved without paying my dues or risking defeat. I don’t know what the future holds for you and me, but I hope we will “spend ourselves in a worthy cause and strive valiantly.” And if we fail, then at least we will fail while daring greatly!
I would like to challenge you to “dare greatly” and pursue the goal of achieving a Black Belt! Or give a Karate Tournament a try. You only fail if you are afraid to begin. Go ahead – get some dust, sweat and blood on your face! You can be the Man in the Arena!
By Cristian Nelson
If you liked the “Man in the Arena” article, you will also like Overcoming the Fear of Failure article.