I dare you to enter 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. »

I just opened the front cover of Brené Brown’s latest book, «Daring Greatly» and this is what my eyes drank in. I haven’t had time to read even the first chapter yet unfortunately, but those words of  Teddy’s, straight from a speech he made at the Sorbonne in 1910, both struck a chord and pretty well summed up my Saturday afternoon too. I’d say that’s Fortuitous Serendipity at its best !

You might have noticed that I’m on a bit of a roll with American presidents at the moment, first Abraham Lincoln, now Monsieur Roosevelt. So here’s a riddle for you : What do Theordore Roosevelt’s speech, ‘The Man in the Arena’ and an ice scating rink in south west France have in common ?

Seeing you’re a clever possum and the word ‘rink’ is a relatively passable synonym for ‘arena’ I’m betting you’re close to the mark.

Let me fill you in on the rest of the details. I haven’t ice skated in years even though I love it. Have you?

Missed my chance this time too, dismissing the idea of skating in favour of thinking (delusionally) that I was actually going to be efficient, perch myself up in the bleachers and write this blog post, only pausing every now and again to wave enthusiastically at the 5 messmonsters as they sped gaily past.

Things never quite work out the way we expect them to now, do they. Note to self: drop the expectations and prepare to be surprised!

Curiously, it wasn’t just the disco atmosphere, non existent  low lighting (squint lines !!) and Gangnam Style music that changed my mind.

« The credit belongs to the man (or woman) who is actually in the arena, whose face is  marred by cold, sweat and blood erm, ice; who strives valiantly, who errs… » You can see where I’m going with this, can’t you ?

It was fascinating! Can you imagine standing beside an arena sized petrie dish of human culture, positively bubbling over with triumph and defeat, persistance and daring, fear and excitement.

Children’s legs were flying in all directions in a chilly version of the chicken dance, punctuated intermittently with a few graceful swans gliding in and out, which only served to make the whole scene more endearingly comical.

Uncertain faces started out as taught as the bodies that carried them, etched with worried frowns which eventually relaxed into delight, then tentatively spread into shaky, but confident grins. Oh the delight ! Mine as much as theirs. I love delight!! Even the word is delightful! Really. It was glorious to watch :)


One of the most beautiful examples (literally and figuratively) was an exquisitely dressed, tall swan of a Moroccan woman who casually mentioned she was in Toulouse for two weeks holiday.

Seriously ? She gets my vote ! It’s brave enough coming to France in winter when most people here are fleeing to the Maroccan sun… let alone hitting the ice skating rink.

Clutching the barrier, she chirped nervously over the music that she’d never skated at all. Not even on roller skates. Not even as a child. Never. Smiling shyly she added that it had looked so fun on t.v. that she’d decided to give her only son the experience, as Dad watched on proudly from his wheelchair…

I observed the two of them valliantly scrape their way around the rink for more than an hour, joined from time to time by my own son who was also on his first discovery mission. Ahh the joy of being 8 and abandoned by your sisters !

She came back and we had another brief conversation about relaxing and fear of falling. ‘I fell,’ she said. ‘It hurt. But we are coming back to practice. We have a whole two weeks !’ Talk about dedication and commitment: overcoming fear of hurting herself, shame of looking like an ass in public, extra internal pirate attacks and cold all at once! *OMG. Sparkle points and Admiration (with a capital A) in bucket loads !!!*

It’s amazing what you observe when you play mad scientist next to a petrie dish of human culture. There’s enough evidence to prove that Essential Human Values are definitely alive and thriving at the local skating rink at least : Older kids helping younger ones, strangers helping other strangers, experts of all ages helping absolute beginners of all ages. Warm smiles. Encouragement, Tolerance, Faith, Joy, Glee, Solidarity, Celebration, Confidence and Exhilaration. Sigh! It was much more fun than writing my blog!

The whole ‘everyday’ scene brought home just how easy it is to see bravery and daring in other people, outside of ourselves yet not in our own acts. Or to pick holes in both our own and other people’s efforts to grow, change and move forward rather than to value the small steps we make along the way, each one a moment of victory in itself.

Our pirates have a tendency to minimise or overlook the real courage it takes to accomplish every day acts like trying a new sport, starting a new business, speaking your truth or changing jobs, let alone rowing across the Pacific Ocean solo !

I have Brené’s (click on her name to go to her inspiring, thought provoking TED talk) book to read, and then there’s the book my dad gave me back when I was 12 called, ‘I Dare You!’ Think I’m going to dust it off, have another read through it and next time…

… next time 42 year old me is hiring a pair of skates ! Hang the damage this might do to my relationship with my 13 year old : I want to be part of the exhilaration ! ;-)

And you ? What have you dared to do recently that kindled a spark? Something you haven’t done in ages. Something you have been secretly wanting to do but holding yourself back from because of all sorts of internal pirate excuses…

Do let me know in the comments below! Or if not – promise me you’ll make a little private list of your own daring feats that you can go back to when you’re personally under pirate attack. It’ll be great ammunition ;-)

Yours swashbucklingly…


P.S. It’s nearly newsletter time and I’ll be sending out a personalised, introductory gift to those of you who have signed up. If you would like a hand made piece of positive just add your email under NEWZLETTER on the side bar on your right! (Sorry, I can’t put in a direct link for some mind boggling reason) before January 31st. That’s in 3 days… Do you dare ?

7 thoughts on “I dare you to enter the arena!

  1. Inspiring words for here, a cold day in Atlanta. And I just bought one of Dr. Brown’s books myself. Thanks for the jolt to my psyche. Love your writing style.
    Betty McLellen

    • Let me know what book you’re reading Betty. I haven’t read any of them yet, but find her so inspiring that I’ve bought a few and they’re by my bed waiting for me to start them :)

      • I just downloaded to my Kindle “Daring Greatly,” “I Thought It Was Just Me, But It’s Not,” and, accidentally, “The Gifts of Imperfection,” although I don’t believe in accidents. I just love her writing and her obvious vulnerability. I watch her TedTalks over and over on YouTube. I was raised in a very “religious” family where shame and guilt were heavily dispensed as control agents. Let me know what you think of Brene once you read her.

          • Yay! Can’t wait. Also, am just now reading a little about you from your blog. Very interesting.

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