The Man in the Arena
by Bill Hudson
In 1910 at the Sorbonne in Paris, France, Theodore Roosevelt gave a 35-page speech titled Citizenship in a Republic. A short passage from that speech is so powerful that it became known by itself as "The Man in the Arena" speech. To me, there are few words more charged with motivation, direction, and courage than "The Man in the Arena". If you want something that will change your attitude, here it is.
"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 and 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 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 fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."
I've given copies of this speech to all eight of my children when they were younger and heavily involved in sports and performing arts. I'm happy knowing that the message rang true with each of them and has now been shared with their children, my grandkids. Several of my kids have had this quote framed and proudly hang it in their office or home. My oldest son Brian, a firefighter, recently gave a framed copy to my niece who just began her college freshman year. My youngest son Will, who like his brothers spent a large part of his life on a baseball diamond and tends to attack problems, also has a short version of this speech that he often tells me when I tend to over-analyze something. "Dad," he says, "You can't steal second base and keep your foot on first." Will's fearless approach has served him well as the founder and owner of Hudson Shuffleboards, Inc. (ref www.HudsonShuffleboards.com).
Whenever we try something of significance, we open ourselves up to errors, failure, and criticism. As visual artists, we put our creations out there to be seen. We, in fact, invite study and criticism by all viewers. For as artists, if we are creating something that we want to sell, it must emotionally connect with someone. It must have enough appeal that someone wants to own it and wants it so strongly that they are willing to pay for it. In an art sense, the critic is anyone and everyone .... And they do count. Said more directly, if the purpose of art is to emotionally appeal to the viewer, then all viewers are qualified critics. Critics do not have to be artists, they simply need to recognize their own response to the art.
This is the part of art that I've learned to appreciate. Something that has boundless appeal to a few can have zero appeal to many, and can actually have negative appeal to others. Should that slow us down as artists? No! Feedback from others can help us produce quality and define our direction and approach. With every painting, our techniques and knowledge improve, and our style and confidence mature. A "standout" painting may only occur once in every ten paintings, but the second group of ten will be better than the previous ten. And as we better ourselves through continued work, we grow in understanding, skill, and art appreciation. To be good at something, you have to do it repeatedly.
The value of Teddy Roosevelt's speech is that it provides confirmation, strength, and determination. For efforts that we've made, even those that resulted in failure, we can still be proud that at least we tried. We didn't take a passive road. Rather, we acted knowing that with any effort there is risk. It gives us determination to take on other challenges knowing that we will make errors, and we may even lose, but at least we get to play the game.
No one likes to hear what they've done wrong. But how we handle criticism is our option. It can motivate us; it can serve us; it can be debilitate us; it can inspire us. It is our personal decision how to let it affect us.
Recent Paintings by Bill Hudson
|Goff Island View|
|Bailey Island Buoys|
|Pacific City Doryman|
Upcoming Events (for Bill Hudson)
January 2015 Demonstration and Workshop, Fallbrook Art Association
Fallbrook School of the Arts, 310 Alvarado St., Fallbrook, CA 92028
Demonstration - 6:30 - 8:00pm, Thursday Jan 8th
Workshop - 12:00 - 4:00pm, Sunday Jan 11th
Members $35 Non-members $45
April 24, 2015 "Evening with the Artists" Redlands Community Hospital Foundation,
5:30 - 7:30 pm, Stan and Ellen Weisser Education Pavilion
June 2015 La Jolla Art Show
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