Enter the Arena

"It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, 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 the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat." -Theodore Roosevelt

A willingness to step forward, when others are stepping backward is a trait that lies at the very heart of what it means to be a fighter, a fireman, a soldier, etc.. Although this may be a desirable trait, it is by no means an easy one to acquire. Stepping into the arena takes courage; it requires a certain dispassionate view toward outcome; it requires perspective. 

What makes stepping into the arena so difficult is the possibility of failing; or to be more accurate, failing in the eyes of our peers or loved ones. Most people find it much easier to take risks if they can do so anonymously; it is when we are taking risks in front of our own circle of family, friends or peers, that the price tag suddenly seems all that much higher. This is a pity indeed, because so much growth and innovation comes from risk-taking; so when we fail to take risks, we pretty much resign ourselves to a state of inertia.

Innovation is naturally driven by necessity and circumstance, and our capacity for creativity seems boundless; for it is when we are cut loose from the confines of familiarity that we can truly tap into our innovative potential. Becoming more innovative is more about familiarising ourselves with risk, and less about staying with the tried and true. 

Living, working and training in an environment that allows for, or even encourages, risk-taking, provides us with a sure-fire path to betterment. The more we are 'punished' for taking risks, the less inclined we will be to do so, and the more opportunities for growth we deny ourselves. 

Most of us are very risk-averse; naturally so; for this trait has been passed down through the DNA of our ancestors - if they were not risk-averse, we probably wouldn't be here today. But the world we live in has a very different set of risk factors than the one occupied by our ancestors - we can go to the shop and try a new food, without much risk of dying from it; but how many of us choose to do this? And how many, find great comfort in staying with the tried and true? 

Someone had to ride that first horse; someone had to eat that first olive; someone had to build that first bicycle. On the mat, when we try out new ideas, we are taking risks - but think on it - what price do we pay for messing up? Easy .. tap out; start over and try again? The risk here is virtually zero and the only thing on the line is really our ego. Take our ego out of it; and it all becomes a learning experience.

But there are many arena’s in life; there is the competitive arena; there are relationship arena’s, business arena’s, financial arena’s, innumerable sporting arena’s; the list goes on and on. Cultivating our own personal ability to step into new territory, to take risks and be willing to appear a little foolish almost guarantees us a life of success. 

Learning is just that; learning. It requires that we fail and fail often; but what we get in return for our seemingly unending string of failures, are a collection of successes, that set us apart from the rest. 

The secret is simple; if you want to live an extraordinary life, full of verve, adventure and success; you must, you absolutely must, be prepared to step into the arena and fail gloriously; day after day. It’s difficult to imagine any better advice than this. 

John B WIll


Unknown said…
John Will is great BJJ coach

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