Who are your people? Those in the arena, the basement, the balcony, or those not even caring what’s happening in the arena?
Whenever I have thought and wrote about the Theodore Roosevelt ‘The Man in the Arena’ quote, I’ve pictured us each in our own arenas by ourselves. Pete and Jen in their Long and Short podcast helped me realise we might not be alone and add into the discussion the idea of basement and balcony people.
For a reminder, here’s the Roosevelt quote:
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
The Arena is messy, dirty, and full of action. When we are getting beat up, wrestling to bring our ideas or projects to life, it is easy to think we are alone in the arena. It can be helpful to look around and realise there are other people in the arena with us, striving for similar things, covered in dirt and dust just like us. Who is in the arena with you?
Basement people are the nay-sayers, the non-believers, those trying to trip you up. They look for the flaws in your idea or plan. They are trying to drag us down from the arena into the basement. Sometimes they can be helpful as they point out potential places we may trip, but generally speaking it is best, as Seth says, to ‘shun the non-believers’. Who are your basement people that you need to stop paying so much attention to?
The Balcony people are those cheering us on, our champions, those who feed our soul and help us get up one more time.
And well I guess there is a 4th group, the largest group in fact. The people who are not in the arena and are simply not interested in what is going on inside.
Often, we pay too much attention to the basement people trying to convert them into balcony people, when they never will be. Or we spend all our effort trying to get people from the street into the arena, when they just are not interested. And then there are times when we, ourselves, can be our own basement people.
So who are your people? Maybe it’s time to shun the basement people and pay more attention to those in the arena with you and those in the balcony cheering you on.