The arena people
The only ones who matter
We need to start with this quote from Theodore Roosevelt:
“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.”
As it turns out, the only opinions of you that matter are
a) your own and
b) those of people who are your people, in the arena with you, either succeeding the way you want to succeed or fighting it out beside you, giving blood sweat and tears, going after what you’re going after, maybe failing sometimes but learning lessons along the way. Lessons that matter to you. Lessons that are relevant to you.
Because it’s not about whether advice from others—outside the arena—is valid or good or worthy or not. Some of it is probably great. Some of it is on point. Super helpful. But if they’re not going after what you’re going after, their advice is not for you.
Maybe they’re in AN arena, but it’s not YOUR arena.
The people you want to listen to are the people who are in the same arena with you, because they’re fighting for the same thing, they’re facing the same struggles, and their wisdom is relevant to your life.
Those are the people we want to listen to. And we do want to listen. Listening can save us pain, time, trouble, a world of hurt. Or it may just help us realize that the hurt is normal, the failure is not that big of a deal, and we can keep going.
Know whose feedback matters. Know it clearly. Spend time thinking about it. Define the qualities of those people, or figure out some other way to know who they are.
Know Your People, and Listen To Them.
And, pretty much, ignore everybody else.
Here are a few qualities to look out for, when defining your people:
1. Your people will not flatter you. They are not here to make you feel good. They want you to feel good: they want it so much that they will say the honest difficult thing you need to hear so you can grow into the place where you do, genuinely, feel good about yourself and your life.
2. Your people might make you uncomfortable. They might push you to the edges of where you like to be. They’ll be okay with you pushing back, but they won’t be okay with you hiding out in your comfort zone all the time, because they want the best for you and you rarely find what you want when you’re hiding out where you’re comfortable.
3. Your people will call you on bullshit. But they won’t do so to make you feel bad. They’ll be honest because they care. They’ll be honest even when they’re scared. They’ll be honest when they know it might get them rejected, it might cause hurt feelings, it might even cause conflict. Your people are going to care more about the quality of the relationship—more about you—than about looking like the good guy all the time. That also means that they’ll say No when they need to, they’ll say Not Okay when they need to, and they’ll risk your displeasure to be clear about and honor their own boundaries.
4. Your people will accept you unconditionally. They don’t need you to look a certain way or talk a certain way. They care about what’s inside of you. They can roll with changes on the outside. They care about longevity. They can roll with the short-term ups and down. They see something in you that matters, and they’re in it for the long-haul.
5. Your people will assume the best about you. They might not always get you. You might confuse the hell out of them sometimes. Maybe they confuse the hell out of you. You’ll have frustrations and miscommunications and misses. And all of those are okay, because when you assume the best about each other, that’s what you tend to find.
GO FIND YOUR PEOPLE.
IF YOU’VE ALREADY FOUND ‘EM… WELL, MAYBE GIVE THEM A HUG OR SOMETHING.
Never mind, it’s quarantine. NO HUGGING.
Um….. send flowers? A song? A meaningful emoji, maybe? Pickles? Cheese? A book? I don’t know, you have to figure that bit out for yourself.