The Critic, The Strenuous Life, and My Favorite President

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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. – The Man in The Arena by Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt is my favorite president.  I know he is considered a Progressive, but that word did not mean the same thing then as it does today.  Teddy was an incredibly intelligent person, hard working, determined, and creative.

I am an innovator.  I don’t fit into the box well.  People want me to act like a traditional rescue mission director.  I’m not that guy. Consequently, people criticize me constantly.  Sometimes they do it to my face.  At this moment, I can count on one hand the people who get what I want to accomplish in the Pacific Northwest and who want to work together to transform the region.  Although they may not be my employees, they are my teammates.

We do not admire the man of timid peace. We admire the man who embodies victorious effort; the man who never wrongs his neighbor, who is prompt to help a friend, but who has those virile qualities necessary to win in the stern strife of actual life. It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed. In this life we get nothing save by effort. Freedom from effort in the present merely means that there has been stored up effort in the past. A man can be freed from the necessity of work only by the fact that he or his fathers before him have worked to good purpose. If the freedom thus purchased is used aright, and the man still does actual work, though of a different kind, whether as a writer or a general, whether in the field of politics or in the field of exploration and adventure, he shows he deserves his good fortune. But if he treats this period of freedom from the need of actual labor as a period, not of preparation, but of mere enjoyment, even though perhaps not of vicious enjoyment, he shows that he is simply a cumberer of the earth’s surface, and he surely unfits himself to hold his own with his fellows if the need to do so should again arise. A mere life of ease is not in the end a very satisfactory life, and, above all, it is a life which ultimately unfits those who follow it for serious work in the world. – The Strenuous Life by Theodore Roosevelt.

I never feel like I work hard enough.  I force myself to relax, read a book, and take time off.  Inside, though, I’m always thinking.  My mind never stops.  Transformation – whether personal, organizational, or regional – takes incredible effort.  The effort increases exponentially when you want to do something no one in the area has done before and no one really understands.

photo by The Boston Public Library