Are you in the arena getting your ass kicked?

man in the arena brene brown

The last few weeks for me have been amazing and wonderful in different ways, and also felt brave and at times a bit scary as I embarked on something new that immediately felt important and that felt risky.

I was reminded of the idea of “to dare greatly”, and then that led me to some thoughts from the amazing Brené Brown, a leading researcher, writer and speaker on the power of vulnerability.

Today sharing some concise learnings from her from her book Daring Greatly and from President Theodore Roosevelt.

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.” ~ President Theodore Roosevelt.

This famous passage is known as “The Man in the Arena” speech, and Brene Brown was greatly inspired by it and wrote her book Daring Greatly around this.

In the edited talk on this below, she gives three lessons that she has learned and applied around “The Man in the Arena”, and to me the one that resonated most was this:

“If you are not in the arena also getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback”

This resonated strongly for me on multiple levels.

When we dare greatly, we may often feel nervous, even scared as we take risks. We may reach out for feedback or advice, we may also likely be given unsolicited feedback and advice from, depending on where we are daring greatly, colleagues, friends, family.

All too often those who are giving feedback and advice are “armchair warriors”, they are speaking from the sidelines, they are not “in the arena”.

So, I love the liberating thought from Brené Brown, and if we do receive feedback or advice, I agree with her to focus on getting this from people who are or have been in the arena.

Theory and qualifications are great, but have they been there, have they risked like you are risking? If they haven’t, they can only partly understand, they can only partly empathise.

Always ask a teacher, coach, consultant what experience they have “in the arena”. All well and good having consulting tools and methodology to help you with your leadership and business, same for doing an MBA or other academic training. However, I recommend you to aim higher. Find someone with those tools to share with you AND who also have been “in the arena” and dared greatly themselves.

In closing, a three-minute excerpt of her speech:


Also published on Medium.

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