Who is in the arena with you?

“A lot of cheap seats in the arena are filled with people who never venture onto the floor. They just hurl mean-spirited criticisms and put-downs from a safe distance. The problem is, when we stop caring what people think and stop feeling hurt by cruelty, we lose our ability to connect. But when we’re defined by what people think, we lose the courage to be vulnerable. Therefore, we need to be selective about the feedback we let into our lives. For me, if you’re not in the arena also getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.”

Brene Brown

I heard this quote referenced by someone that I really respect yesterday and had to go look it up. Specifically the quote that she referenced was: “if you’re not in the arena also getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.” I love that last sentence but I think I appreciate the wisdom in the prior lines just as much.

It is so easy for people to get in the arena and feel that they have the right to criticize and attack simply because they are present. Don’t believe this is true? Sit in any football stadium in America and listen to the fans around you. You will hear things like “that referee is blind,”“the quarterback missed a wide open receiver, he can’t throw the ball,” and “the coaches don’t know what they are doing.” Are the fans right? Maybe sometimes they are. But they aren’t the ones on the field. They don’t have the pressure of having to perform in front of others, they can simply sit there and offer input without having had to invest any blood, sweat or tears. Now I have been guilty of doing this plenty of times myself and unfortunately it isn’t just when I have been at a sporting event…

I believe that the most beautiful wisdom in the quote is contained in the lines right before the part about getting your ass kicked: “The problem is, when we stop caring what people think and stop feeling hurt by cruelty, we lose our ability to connect. But when we’re defined by what people think, we lose the courage to be vulnerable. Therefore, we need to be selective about the feedback we let into our lives.

Who are you letting into your life? Who are you giving permission to provide feedback that truly matters and is meaningful? Are those people in the arena with you?

There are really two ways a person can be in the arena. They can be there in the literal sense, side by side in the fight. Or they can be there with you in spirit fighting alongside you and supporting your struggle. The key is that they are fighting with you, not attacking you. They are on your side. If they aren’t then they truly aren’t in the arena with you, or perhaps they are, they are just on the other side of the sword…

The arena quote that Brene is pulling from is one of my all time favorites and I have a copy of it on a plaque in my office that I reference regularly. Here it is in it’s entirety:

“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.”

Teddy Roosevelt

Find your purpose, and live it…

“If you are lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it.”

John Irving

What is it that you love to do? Have you found a way to make a living from it? So many people in this world have “jobs” that they do to simply earn a living. If you can find the beautiful intersection between a calling, a passion, and God gifted purpose you are a lucky soul indeed.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

Perhaps you aren’t lucky at all, perhaps you are just blessed…

To achieve courage, start with discipline…

“Self-control is the chief element in self-respect and self-respect is the chief element in courage.”

Thucydides

This quote took some time for me to think through and meditate on the deep meaning behind the words. Clarity came for me when I started at the end and worked my way backwards through the quote. (Begin with the end in mind…) Below is my interpretation of each of these components and then the dictionary definition.

Courage = The ability to stand up for what you believe in, regardless of personal implications. The dictionary definition is: “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.”

Self-Respect = The awareness one has for who you are, what you believe in and why you believe what you do. The dictionary definition is: “a proper respect for oneself as a human being.”

Self-Control = That ability and discipline to make decisions that limit the control the outside world and your emotions have over your actions. The dictionary definition is: “restraint exercised over one’s own impulses, emotions, or desires.”

Working my way backwards through these gave me these thoughts. If I want to demonstrate courage in my thinking and actions (which I do) then I must know who I am and what I believe in, i.e., self-respect. To have this degree of self-respect I must have (self)control over my emotions and impulses so that my behaviors are a product of choice, not a reflection of others or the outside world.

So, when thinking through it this way it brings these questions to mind. What are the areas of my life and decision making that need greater discipline and control? How do poor decisions, or lack of decision, lead to lessened self-respect? What is the courage I wish to have and how can I change myself through discipline and self-control? What changes can I make that will reflect outwardly who I am and what I believe?

Heavy stuff for early in the morning but something I found to be both clarifying and thought provoking.

Do something!

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

Dale Carnegie

Sitting around waiting for things to happen just sucks. I am the world’s worst at being patient because sometimes patience just feels too much like inaction. I’ve long lived by the tule that it is better to do something, even if it is wrong, than to do nothing at all.

When you are doing something, anything, then you don’t have time to be afraid and worry about all the “what ifs.” Sometimes the action can be physical, sometimes it can be sitting down to reflect and plan the work. Doing something is the key. There is no time or space for sitting idly by in life. If you do, then you will reap what you sow which is nothing…

Courage > Comfort

“You can choose courage, or you can choose comfort, but you cannot choose both.”

Brené Brown

Which of these appeals more to you? It is easy to say “courage” but then you have to follow it up with action. I think another way of saying this is “You can choose change, or you can choose complacency, but you cannot choose both.”

It takes courage to change. It takes courage to recognize that something needs to be better. It takes courage to take action and hold yourself accountable to a higher standard than anyone else.

If you choose comfort that is your choice. Just don’t be upset if you don’t achieve what you dream about. It takes courage not comfort to achieve your dreams.

Do. The. Work.

“Do. The. Work. Every day, you have to do something you don’t want to do. Every day. Challenge yourself to be uncomfortable, push past the apathy and laziness and fear. Otherwise, the next day you’re going to have two things you don’t want to do, then three and four and five, and pretty soon, you can’t even get back to the first thing. And then all you can do is beat yourself up for the mess you’ve created, and now you’ve got a mental barrier to go along with the physical barriers.” 

Tim S. Grover

This quote comes from a book titled From Good to Great to Unstoppable that is is a very worthwhile read.  Tim is a trainer/performance coach for some of the world’s most elite athletes.  The kind of people who win championships and are the top 1% of the top 1%.  The type of folks that demonstrate the work ethic and drive written about above.  

Do you know what is interesting about this?  Every single one of us has this opportunity in our lives.  We might not all be genetically gifted by God to play football or basketball but every single one of us has the ability to “Do. The. Work.”  It is a choice.  Being a champion at something take relentless effort and doesn’t come without a high personal cost.

You have to choose to do the work.  You can either own the work, or the work will own you.  It’s your choice, but make no mistake, it is a choice.  Choose wisely.  

 

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