The Man In The Arena

A few friends and I had a great adventure this weekend. We tried to climb a mountain.

We drove for too many hours, slept far too few, got lost and exhausted and more than a little beaten up for our efforts. We started before the sun came up, and finished long after it set.

Ultimately, none of us made it to the summit.

I was disappointed as the realization set in that we wouldn’t reach our goal. I don’t like failing, even though I know it’s a part of life and growth, and is a crucial step to learning anything.

I was bummed we didn’t make it to the top. But it helps to be in an incredibly beautiful place, because my disappointment turned to gratitude as I had some time to sit by this lake and reflect on my experience. Honestly, look at this place–it doesn’t even look real.

Split Mountain

I always learn something about myself on a climb. These vertical playgrounds have been my school of self and life. This one reminded me how lucky we are to even play this game and spend time with friends and family, of the value of failure, and most of all how important it is to be the man in the arena…

“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.” – Theodore Roosevelt

It’s been a long time since I published something here. There are a lot of reasons for that, though none of them is particularly interesting or good. Truthfully, I’ve missed it. I’ve missed this community. I’ve missed talking to all of you and hearing about your experiments and goals, and I miss sharing mine with you too.

I’ve been out of the arena lately. I recently had a conversation with someone close to me who called me out about sabotaging myself by not taking enough risks. It stung to hear that, but only because it’s true.

I was holding back, and suffering because of it. So, I’m committing to getting back in the arena and not holding back.

Even publishing a blog post is a little kind of a risk. What if no one likes it? I don’t know. Is that a good reason not to do it? No.

What if we try to climb a mountain and fail? Turns out, it’s pretty great.

What if the question “what if?” didn’t feel like a risk, but felt like an opportunity instead? I’ve been thinking about that a lot.

There is only one way to answer the “what ifs” in your life. I once found that answer on the top of a mountain, and I’ve never regretted doing it.

So, here we go.

Special thanks to my brother Jeremy, to the incredibly energetic and fast-hiking Zach Cole, Karl the Fog, Christian, Gabe, and “Babycakes,” for being a part of this adventure. I had so much fun. And to Split Mountain, we’ll be back.

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  1. Hey there
    Glad to see you’re back out there.

    Probably wouldn’t hear from that old mountain-y guy.
    But he is probably happy to see/feel/hear/know people are still thinking of him.

    keep up the good stuff

    with every best wish for big happiness

  2. What if we all bend in the wind? Be in the moment. Sounds like you found the moment. Enjoy.

  3. “What if X, W, Z didn’t feel like a risk but opportunity instead?” I love it and will keep it in mind.

    I’m glad you had an amazing weekend. Looking forward to see you back in the arena again 🙂

  4. “What if” you made it?….. My mind goes into a spiral of dreams.

    Love that your back!

  5. Hey John! Good to see you back!

    “What if we try to climb a mountain and fail? Turns out, it’s pretty great.”

    Thanks for reminding me that NOT taking risks is worse than never trying! I have a number of pain issues, and especially climbing inclines (staircases, hills, MOUNTAINS, etc.) so in order to avoid “unnecessary” pain, I’d rather just sit back and take in the view…last year we were visiting our son who lives in southern Colorado, and we were site seeing at a volcano in northern NM…my son suggested we hike up to the rim…I thought he was crazy..even though I had to stop countless times until my back and hips could push on, the view from the top was magnificent, and even more so because it took a LONG time to get there and it was very painful…I hope I never forget that feeling! I would have missed out if I chose to remain at the bottom!

  6. Hey John! I watched you as part of the student audience during the taping of Ann Rea’s ‘Fulfill Your Creative Purpose’ on Creative Live. Glad to see you are back! I won’t be climbing any mountains soon but it’s a superb metaphor. Carry on!

  7. John, great to see you back and great to hear you’re attacking obstacles again! I love that quote from Teddy Roosevelt – it reminds us that a life on the sidelines is a life wasted. Better to fail spectacularly than regret not trying. Welcome back!

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