Throughout my life I have been fortunate to have many positive mentors that meant a lot to me in my personal and professional development. They advised me as it related to two important sayings that I am sure many of you have heard. I am also fortunate in my professional business career to continually be associated with organizations that have lived by both of these important quotes and helped in the development of many people. Both precepts were said many years ago but continue to be very relevant to this day.
The first, longer maxim (possibly some will call it a passage) was delivered very eloquently in a 1910 speech given by President Theodore Roosevelt in Paris about citizenship in a republic. It has been repeated since then by people from all walks of life for a variety of different situations and in recent years quoted and used in books by Brene Brown (author, professor, and leadership trainer in business, sports, the U.S. military, and more). That piece of this very long speech is entitled: “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.”
As they say, I hope all of you don’t mind rolling up your sleeves, getting dirty, and participating in the game of business, life, sports, and being a productive citizen in this world. Don’t be that Monday morning quarterback or the one in the conference room who wants to criticize and never be responsible for that project that could possibly change the course of your business or life. This applies to everyone but I specifically challenge leaders to have the acumen and trust for when they should be in the arena by themselves or right alongside their teammates while at the same time being a developer of and being vulnerable with your team. We all know the stories of many people who tried in the arena thousands of times before success. The star of the recent ESPN Special “The Last Dance”, Michael Jordan, once said, “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
Now as far as getting in that arena in whatever you are participating in, the second saying is extremely important to ensure all of us play within the rules of every game in life, to achieve the greatest satisfaction of winning and knowing we gave our best. The first time I was aware of this saying was when I was told the story of the 1925 US Golf Open when the great Bobby Jones brushed his ball with his club in the deep rough on the 11th hole of the final round. His playing partner tried to talk him out of reporting it but Jones knew it slightly moved his ball, a rules violation. Bobby Jones lost that golf tournament in a playoff as his score on the final day tied him for the lead. He just needed one less stroke. So the second saying that has guided my life is “Play the ball where it lies.”
Whether you are in the arena or not, never take an unfair advantage of rules, speak falsehoods about your competition, or basically cheat at all costs to win. Do right no matter who is watching and always play the ball where it lies. And in the end be gracious in your losses, but more importantly humble in your wins.
Continue to surround yourself with the right people and mentor others. Don’t let greed get in your way to the extent you don’t help others and don’t maintain the highest integrity. If you’re consistent enough, you will get the rewards from winning in life you want to share with future generations.
We are all far from perfect in life and decisions, but this advice has been priceless to many and especially to me. Hopefully you have or will have those mentors in your life that help shape and form you so all of us can continue the positive that comes from generational knowledge and experience. Therefore, to help our planet, we all need to continue to be a little better every day.
So get in the arenas, or support those that are in an encouraging and helpful way when not in the arena, and do it all with the highest integrity and trustworthiness. This applies whether you are at the top or just starting your climb.
I am grateful for the all people and experiences that have tried to shape me, and I am sure many of you are also!
Written by Mike Goodpaster, Senior Vice President of Business Development