Who dares wins
The title of this post is the motto of the famous British SAS (Special Air Services) special warfare unit. The idea behind the motto is that if one has the courage and audacity to take risks, that person will succeed in life. It can also be interpreted that courage itself is its own reward. I couldn’t agree more. Our world today seems teeming with critics, especially on social media, who aren’t willing to take risks themselves. People who are keen to point out what’s wrong – often anonymously – with other people, but seldom provide any constructive solutions. People who are afraid to enter the arena themselves.
The term “Schadenfreude” comes to mind when I read their criticisms. There’s no good translation in English for this term. The closest we can get is “pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune.” I’ve always wondered why people criticize others for daring to something (and failing or not doing it well enough) that the critics would never dare to do. I recently stumbled across and old quote from a speech given by Theodore Roosevelt, former President of the United States, in Paris, France in 1910. I had never seen this before and fell in love with it immediately. It captures this phenomenon perfectly. It’s called “The Man in the Arena”
“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.”
Consider the source
When being criticized and reflecting on whether to determine if the criticism is valid, you should always consider the source. Is the critic knowledgeable in the subject? Has the critic done the same thing? (Leadership 101 says never ask your people to something you haven’t done or wouldn’t do.) And is the critic brave enough to use his/her or own name or does he/she hide behind the cloak of anonymity? As Aristotle once said, “There is only one way to avoid criticism: Do nothing, say nothing and be nothing.” Jean Sibelius says, “Pay no attention to what the critics say. A statue has never been erected in honor of a critic.” Elenore Roosevelt added, “Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do and damned if you don’t.” Even Benjamin Franklin got into the act: “Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do.”
You do or you don’t
As Yoda said, “you either do or you do not. There is no “try.” In other words, you either do something with the full intent and commitment to do it or you don’t do it at all. Anything less than full intent and commitment will usually fail. If you don’t believe me, try this simple experiment. Place a book on the floor in front of you. Now “try” to pick it up. As you can see, you either picked it up or you didn’t. There was no “try” involved. There was an effort that either succeeded or failed. Expressions, such as “I’d like to,” “I want to,” “It’d be great if” and so on accomplish nothing. Wanting to do something is very different from actually doing something. Rarely does a person with such a mindset grow.
Cold and timid souls
After all, the point of taking risks isn’t the outcome itself but the process. Through taking risks, we must confront our own fears, and sometimes that leads to failure. Daring to take risks doesn’t mean succeeding every time, which is ok! Daring to take risks may lead to failure, but even that can make us more resilient. When you dare to take a risk, you’re showing the courage to face the fear of uncertainty. No matter how it works out, you learn, improve and become more resilient and confident. Don’t be like those cold and timid souls mentioned in the speech who never get to experience the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat. People who choose instead to sit things out in safety and comfort and criticize those who’re willing to risk failing. People who are never willing to take a risk and therefore never grow. Don’t be one of those! Be one of those who – no matter what the outcome – is willing to step into the arena and take risks.