I share these words from a great American, Theodore Roosevelt, every 4th of July:
“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 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 and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for 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 he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
We seem to be a nation full of critics now. In this social media era, we’ve got more critics, haters, naysayers, cancellers and negative people than ever before. And the tools they have at their disposal for spreading their fibs, poison and unhappiness are more powerful than ever before in our history.
So it feels like TR is on to something with his put-down of those ‘cold and timid souls’ who point out our stumbles, because they aren’t trying to do anything with their own lives.
‘Never read the comments’ might be TR’s catchphrase today to warn you away from the toxic parts of the internet.
So instead of listening to the critics, or reading the comments, this Fourth of July, it’s worth remembering that it is professionals like you who make this country great. You lead your companies, you lead your teams, you lead your communities, churches and synagogues.
And being leaders, you know that someone always has something to say about it. A critique, a carp, a complaint. Seems like everyone in the comments section believes that they can do your job better than you.
But, funny, isn’t it, that they’re not the ones getting up early, getting the kids off to school, completing the TPS report, wooing the new recruit, talking the client off the ledge, lending a patient ear to an employee in trouble, explaining to the higher-ups why investing for the future is the right move, all while balancing a back-to-back meeting schedule, fighting an inbox that seems to sprout emails, and trying to get in some quality time with the family, the spouse, the squeeze at night.
No, they’re typing dumb insults in the comments, critiquing you and your ambition, energy and grit.
It’s you who understands TR’s “great enthusiasms, the great devotions, the worthy cause.” You didn’t put yourself through the trials of studying hard, working your way through school, slogging it through those early years, pushing yourself harder and harder, because you were looking for an easy life.
You wanted a successful life.
You wanted to make something of yourself.
And, thanks to TR and all the Americans who came before and after him, you have the chance.
The chance to be devoted. The chance to be worthy.
This Fourth of July let’s give thanks for TR, let’s give thanks for America, and let’s give thanks for the country we love.