“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.”
And these words have much to say about a productive life.
Here are 7 lessons that I personally pull from this passage:
• Action is the important thing. No one blatantly says that he wants to waste his life. All of us desire to be productive with the few, short years we have.
But there’s a vast difference between one who wants to be productive and one who is. That difference can be summed up in the word “action.” Doing one thing is far more productive than talking about doing a hundred.
Dream big. Make plans. And then do them.
• Error is inevitable. Unfortunately, error usually accompanies action. Learn to accept that fact and act anyway.
Itzhak Perlman occasionally misses a note, Usain Bolt occasionally stumbles, and Tony Robbins occasionally mispronounces a word. But that doesn’t stop them from being world-class at what they do.
Error comes with every human action. But it’s not a reason not to act…it’s merely a reason to improve.
• Criticism is inevitable. Just like error, criticism is part and parcel of action. Because so few people take action, action stands out. As a result, critics abound.
When you take action and make a mistake, people will criticize.
When you take action and people disagree with you, they will criticize.
When you take action, people will feel ashamed of their own laziness…and they will criticize.
But criticism is not a reason not to take action…it’s motivation to re-evaluate your action, make necessary changes, and press on.
• You get banged up when you take action. To avoid wear and tear and pain and fatigue, take no action.
Bumps and bruises will happen. Battle wounds will be inflicted…and many will turn into battle scars.
But, with bumps and bruises comes proof of experience, and with proof of experience comes credibility.
Even if no credibility comes, though, your bumps and bruises will help you tweak your approach to similar ventures in the future.
• Not just any cause will do…it must be a worthy cause. Part of being productive is being consistent with your values and principles. And part of being consistent with those values and principles is having solid values and principles to begin with.
Occasional error, criticism, and bumps and bruises can only be justified and overcome if the end-goal is worthy to begin with.
Aiming for unworthy goals is not unproductive, it’s anti-productive.
• Devotion is critical. Half-hearted attempts at productive lives end in sad defeat. Because error and criticism and bumps and bruises are inevitable, only those who are wholeheartedly set on a productive life will withstand the setbacks along the way.
Distraction comes standard in life. To overcome it’s pull and develop a productive life requires more than a fascination with productivity…it requires a commitment to productivity.
• Knowing both victory and defeat is far superior to knowing neither. Yes, failure happens. Just like error. But error is not fatal until you give up…until you throw in the towel.
Failure is only a stepping stone to eventual success. And knowing a success that’s mingled with failure along the way is much sweeter than knowing neither because of inaction.
Don’t refuse to act because you might fail. Refuse to quit because you have failed.