posted in: In the Arena

January 18, 2011

It Is Not the Critic Who Counts

The famous Theodore Roosevelt quote about striving valiantly and daring greatly

“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 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 he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

—Theodore Roosevelt
Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910


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15 Responses to “It Is Not the Critic Who Counts”

    • Cynthia Dettner

      Note to Ken Wright-
      I know it has been a couple of years but I just ran across your comments here and was moved to tell you how thoughtful and noble they are and that I would like to share them with my senior high school class. Recognizing those that lean in to serve their fellow man harken no greater calling and should be thanked and recognized. Thank you for your service.
      A grateful high school teacher and military mom

  1. Ken Wright

    When I became a police sergeant, I reviewed this quote regularly. When I became a lieutenant, I committed it to memory and pondered it as I counseled my troops when they made mistakes. I considered that they often had to make split-second decisions, all alone, in the middle of the night, in tense or dangerous situations. When it was clear that he or she had done his or her best, under trying circumstances, I always thanked them for coming to work that day, for being willing to step into the arena, and for being willing to make some decision under pressure even if reproof was ultimately required.

  2. That piece of Roosevelt’s speech at The Sorbonne gives you a precursor of what you’re in for if you decide to step into the arena. It is so true. So, if you’re afraid to make a mistake, get out of the way and let those who aren’t go to work!

  3. Dale Broberg

    I have a dear friend who has wonderful ideas about everything. She also has the type friends who will find a problem in every solution. I asked her to read this.when time allowed. A copy is now on her wall. Get out her way.

  4. Laude Hays

    I’ve heard it said there are two types of people, those on the playing field and those in the grandstands. The grandstanders hold themselves as experts at the same time never having played the game. I think I will stay on the field.

  5. Gerald A Townsend

    Bruce Lee critized “dry land swimmers,” martial artists who never actually engaged in sparring….if you want to to fight you have to spar…a similar concept to this quote….don’t just be a Monday morning quarterback….

  6. Gary P.

    This is my favorite poem. As a retired Connecticut State Police Sgt. remember and kept this particular poem in my cruiser and my office. These words have meaning.

  7. I keep this in my wallet and read it everytime someone doubts me or I doubt myself. NONE of us are getting out of this life alive so give things a go, try win lose fail draw learn from it all and remember to smile and laugh at the victories and defeats in life with equal measure.

  8. In an increasingly bureaucratic world this quote resonates with anyone who has been there and done anything challenging. Great to see the comments from operators who used it to compassionately manage their teams. I’m ex-military and was blown up working for a charity clearing landmines in remote East Africa. Lost two limbs, survived against the odds became ne oof the world’s first amputee runners and when I got back to UK realised the concept of Hindsight Heroes- People who sit on the sidelines and comment on situations where they weren’t present with no knowledge of the facts- they need to read this 😂

  9. This strikes at the heartbeat of every American. Some are willing to step into the arena and some aren’t. Garth Brooks has a song called “Standing Outside the Fire” that says life is not tried, it’s just merely survived if you are standing outside the fire. Both are talking about those who are willing.

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