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 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. – President Theodore Roosevelt, “The Man in the Arena”
The quote above is one of my favorites. In fact, it hangs on my office wall in the Assistant Dean’s Office at WVJC Morgantown as a constant reminder of the challenges we all face each day. When approached to do a blog post about student development, I was immediately transported back in time to these famous words. This is a mantra by which I live my life, and I believe one that carries significant benefit to those who abide by it.
“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.”
Oftentimes in life and as students, we are our own worst critics. Many of us face internal challenges like imposter syndrome and feeling like we are not good enough. Unfortunately, many students may also face external forces telling them they are not good enough, are wasting their time, or are just going to fail. These negative voices can sometimes cause a difficult cacophony to drown out. That’s where the first line comes in. It is not the critic who counts. Neither the internal voice of self-doubt nor should the external voice of shame and belittling win out in the end. You are here for a reason. You want to achieve your goals, and our mission is to help you reach them. Here at the WVJC family of schools, our goal each and every day is to “empower change by creating opportunity.” I’ve often told students in my courses if you are having a bad day and need some encouragement, just give me a call. We believe in you and are here for you, so don’t let doubt slip in!
“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena . . . 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 . . .”
When reading these words, you are forgiven if your thoughts drift to Rocky Balboa. While I’ve no clue if Sylvester Stallone had Teddy Roosevelt in mind when writing the script to Rocky, he certainly struck the same note of divine inspiration when he said, “The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”
We all face challenges each and every day. Some challenges are huge life-altering events that can be seemingly impossible to overcome, while others are small inconveniences like McDonald’s perpetually broken ice cream machine (for real, why is it always broken!?). Regardless, the credit goes to the person who takes those hits and just keeps trucking. As a student, you will deal with life’s struggles in addition to an occasional academic woe. It is often not the “big” things in life that cause us to fail. As human beings, we are shockingly good at processing major life events. We go astray when a major negative life event occurs, AND then a small inconvenience (like the submit button not working on Canvas) happens. That little extra inconvenience often pushes our psyche over the edge like a Spartan kick into oblivion. For us to succeed and overcome, we must continue to get back up and strive for our goals. It can be tough; we might cry (I’ve spent many hours of my life in deep discussion, tears in my eyes with students going through struggles I could never imagine), but we will pull through together. You are stronger than you think you are, and if you encounter such a difficulty, my office door is always open, and my phone is always on. We are here to help you through it. We are here to celebrate your wins, comfort you in times of distress, and walk this path with you as you achieve your goals.
You have chosen to step into the arena. Now, it’s time to triumph over the obstacles and attain that degree that will unlock your next great adventure!
By: Dustin S. Blankenship, JD MPA – Assistant Academic Dean