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Brené Brown begins her book, Daring Greatly, with a quote from Teddy 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,” Roosevelt begins.

“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 found myself thinking about the “influencers” (mostly the bad ones) in our time, as well as the media pundits on cable “news” outlets loudly voicing their opinion and enflaming their viewership.

It seems fair to say that most of those who are lobbing verbal grenades at men and women in the “arena” have never been in the arena themselves.

Some have chosen to replace courage with a microphone and with opinion not grounded in facts, science, real current events or anything daring or noteworthy from their history.

For example, Fox News does not help by lumping Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity under the news umbrella, which would surprise a lot of people who can distinguish news from opinion.

In the world today, we have opinionists who point out how the people in the arena stumble or how the doers of deeds could have done them better.

Then, we have men and women in the arena. Not always doing perfectly, failing but always getting back up, striving for themselves and others, and in striving daring greatly.

We must be clear about opinionists and those who step into the arena. We must be clear about the contributions, or lack of contributions, of each and all.

I have met both.

The opinionist without a microphone who knew everything about everything but had little to show for their efforts or their knowledge. Their stock in trade was, “I’ll tell you what you need to do.”

Then, I have met those daring greatly. I have benefited immeasurably from their lives, their contributions and the magnanimity of their spirit and wisdom.

Some were soldiers whose lives would be forever altered by their stepping into the arena of service to their nation. They didn’t make, and haven’t made, a big deal of their service; they just did it.

Some have been educators who hunkered down and obtained the education and pedagogy to pass on vital knowledge to students, some of whom were more open to learning than others.

There have been, and continue to be, doctors, nurses and other health professionals whose education and sacrifice have blessed immeasurably those who have become their patients in the best of times and the worst of times.

There are the professors who accepted the hard challenge of pointing men and women to paths of knowledge and service who would ultimately earn far more than the professor who helped stir up the passion that propelled the student into the arena.

There are first responders – EMTs, firefighters and law enforcement – who are also forever changed by daring to step into the arena.

Daring greatly, they have shown us again and again the poverty of the opinionists who venture nothing, who offer up nothing worthy of critique, whose efforts are pointed to enriching one’s brand and one’s fame and, at the end of the day, have left their world a more fractured, mean, lost, paranoid and disillusioned place.

Perhaps one of the greatest life lessons we can learn is to distinguish between the yelling opinionists who stand in the stands telling the ones in the arena how to do what they are doing.

More than that, to cheer and be inspired by the men and women in the arena.

Even more than that, to be coaxed into the arena ourselves by the compelling lives we are seeing before us and, in doing so, to turn away from the noise of those opinionists who actually contribute nothing of value or significance to moving the world forward in hope.

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