The 4th of July is a good time to reflect on these words from a great American:
|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; 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.|
That’s Teddy Roosevelt speaking at the Sorbonne a century ago in 1910.
Some truths are timeless: The critics, your critics, will always be there, lurking and worthless.
Which reminds me… I had a very bright young woman in my office this week. She was bright and educated and clever and fantastic, but I have to admit, I wasn’t buying her very well-expressed desire to join our team, so I said:
“Hey, look, I do career advice for a living. When you put the kids to sleep, and you have a moment in your day, and it’s just you, what do you dream about doing?”
And she was passionate, she was engaging, she was alive!… alive in the way that only the fire can bring, and she inspired! — and I’m a guy that lives for inspiration!
But her passion wasn’t for my business — online recruitment — it was for something else. Maybe that something else could be considered a hobby, maybe it could be considered a small business, maybe it could be considered to be not so quite very prestigious as the other fancy names and pedigrees that popped like fireworks from her resume.
But it was passion and it was hers!
I loved it!
So I asked “Why don’t you go and do that? That’s what makes you passionate, that’s what makes you alive, that’s what makes you happy. Why don’t you go and do that and be amazing at it?”
And her answer comes rolling back, quieter now, eyes turned down, “Well, my parents / friends / colleagues / classmates don’t think it’s very impressive and that I should be doing something else with my time — something more valuable.”
And I asked her: “When have great things ever been accomplished by doing what other people wanted you to do?”
And you know, Readers, it’s true.
There’s no storybook about “The Boy Who Followed Somebody Else’s Dream”, no movie rights sold for the tale of “It Wasn’t Within My Purview To Consider Alternatives”, no Sinatra tune entitled “I Did It The Way My Critics Requested I Do It”.
All the songs, all the movies, all the books say the same damn thing about you and your dream for a reason, Marc — because it’s true!
You’ll be on a stone slab someday too soon — far too soon — and your children will look at you and you’ll look at yourself, and you’re going to ask, and they’re going to ask, and wherever you are right now just do me a favor and…
…and listen to the wind breathe.
And count the years between here and birth — your birth, on the occasion of the country’s birth — and count the years between here and death.
And count the words of your loved ones, and your family, and your friends, and your kids, and your own words in your own head about who you are and who you want to be and who you always wanted to be. And realize that that is beautiful. And that is what you were made for.
And count the words of the critics and naysayers and the negative people in your life and the words they’ve piled up like stones for you with their wants and their desires and their demands of you.
Count the piles and feel their weight and add them up and ask yourself…
Which one do you want to carry with you to the end? Which one do you want to carry for the rest of your days?
Which one is worthy of you?
This Fourth of July, Marc, declare your independence from your critics.
It’s you who counts.