” The best athletes are the best dancers”.
This was the life-changing advice I received from legendary lacrosse coach, Richie Moran, at the start of my high school lacrosse career.
Now, I’m sure some great lacrosse players have great rhythm on the dance floor, but this wasn’t the lesson that Coach Moran intended to depart. He meant that the best lacrosse players were the ones who weren’t afraid to look goofy on the dance floor. The players that weren’t afraid to ask a girl to dance. The players that approached all opportunities in their lives with confidence. These were the players that he wanted to recruit to his national championship-caliber program–the players that didn’t strive to impress others.
Part of being human is the desire to be liked. I get it. However, the irony is that the most popular people, the people that we admire, don’t care what we think of them. They are too busy creating/living their ideal lives and too independent of the good or bad opinions of others to even think about what we may be thinking of them.
Think about the people you look up to? Are they afraid to look goofy in front of their friends? Are they afraid of rejection? Are they afraid to continue shooting after a missed shot? Do they crumble when their coach yells at them?
This was the wisdom that Coach Moran wanted to share. Quit trying to impress others. Quit trying to be liked. Period. He was urging me to step down from the bleachers and into the ‘Arena’. President Teddy Roosevelt describes this ‘arena’ brilliantly in his “Citizenship in a Republic” speech that became known as “The Man in the Arena” speech:
“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.”
Coach Moran called me to step down from the bleachers and into the ‘Arena’. It was life-changing. And the wisdom was easy to implement in my life. It became clear that I didn’t want to be friends with those who would judge me, criticize me, and laugh at me for being myself.
You all have that same choice. Do you want to be the hero of your life? Or, do you want to be a critic in the bleachers discouraging people who are actually living their dreams?
Look to your left and right. Do you really care if these people laugh at you for stepping outside your comfort zone? Choose to step into the ‘Arena’. NOW. The sooner you do, the happier and more successful you will be (in whatever path you choose).
To emphasize the importance of making this choice, I want to conclude with a quote from Brene Brown’s, “Daring Greatly”, where she writes of her decision to step into the ‘Arena’:
“Going back to Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena” speech, I also learned that the people who love me, the people I really depend on, were never the critics who were pointing at me while I stumbled. They weren’t in the bleachers at all. They were with me in the arena. Fighting for me and with me.
Nothing has transformed my life more than realizing that it’s a waste of time to evaluate my worthiness by weighing the reaction of the people in the stands. The people who love me and will be there regardless of the outcome are within arm’s reach. This realization has changed everything.”
As we begin our journey to greatness there will be critics. They will often come in the form of those who appear to be your friends. But ask yourself, are these friends in the bleachers or in the arena? Choose your company wisely!