By now even the upcoming generations are familiar with the “Man in the Arena” speech (thanks Brenè Brown). I first heard it early in my career when it was sent to me on a particularly bad day. Like many, President Roosevelt’s famous speech has carried me through some dark times.
Every day we see new reports highlighting our nation’s low unemployment rate and hear about companies closing early because they don’t have enough workers. This explains why it’s a shock to managers and senior leaders when they realize it’s going to take months for them to make a job change. Why? Because the stakes are higher, there are fewer open positions at these levels, and leadership changes require more deliberation. A career transition, voluntary or otherwise, is gut-wrenching and forces us into self-reflection. We must examine what we’ve accomplished, package it in a way that appeals to future employers and be willing to face our failures in an honest and accountable manner. These changes are personal and impact not only our lives but the lives of those who count on us. This is one of the most impactful and personal decisions we will ever make.
So how do we stay positive in the wake of an ego busting, face marring, dusty, bloody battle that leaves us coming up short again and again? It starts with embodying these words:
“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,” President Theodore Roosevelt
There will be lots of critics during your career search. In fact, the loudest critic often comes from within so it’s critical that we ask ourselves “What’s reality? What do I know for sure?” You may feel that you’re failing in your search, and perhaps right now you are, but the truth is you’re daring greatly every single time you put yourself out there. Every time you go to a networking event, call an old colleague to share that you’re looking or go on an interview that makes your palms sweat you’re silencing even your inner critic.
My favorite line of this great speech is, “There is no effort without error and shortcoming”. You’re going to come up short, but error and shortcoming are the way we learn. Getting back up, each and every day is how we survive. Count each day as a win if you can look in the mirror and see someone “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”.
The right position will come, and things will work out. It’s not cliché, it’s the truth. Keep going, get up, stay in the arena, keep fighting. Tomorrow is a new day.