Are you afraid to fail? I often ask myself that, and I often ask others. The answer can reveal a lot about ourselves and those around us. Life is full of opportunities, and often, some of our greatest challenges also present some of our greatest opportunities. If we are afraid to fail, we will not likely accept the risk and reach for the opportunities we have before us.
As Soldiers our profession is challenging by nature. We cannot be timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat. We must be prepared, trained and ready to fight at all times.
In 1910, President Theodore Roosevelt gave a speech in Paris France entitled “Citizenship in a Republic.” It has become known as “The Man in the Arena.” In it, Roosevelt states, “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 Soldiers our profession is challenging by nature. We cannot be timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat. We must be prepared, trained and ready to fight at all times. What exactly does that look like in the Army Reserve? It must start with readiness. Leaders must prioritize requirements so units are focused on those tasks that enable us to deploy and win. Leaders at all levels must understand their unit, their Soldiers and their capabilities and weaknesses and then use this knowledge to structure approaches to maximize readiness. Critical thinking plays a vital role in positioning the unit to win.
Soldiers also own a significant portion of readiness. Our American culture has shifted away from personal accountability. However, as Soldiers, we are accountable for our own readiness. PHA, dental, and security clearances are just a few of many key readiness metrics that each of us must take personal responsibility for. Training is critical for each of us as individuals, and as units, for us to fight and win. Each of us needs to attend training, both for us and our team. The unit cannot train as a team if members aren’t there. We need to complete Professional Military Education as early as possible. This training is intended to give each of us the knowledge and skills to perform at our current rank. When we are ready and trained to do our work, it gives us confidence to face challenges, to face our fears.
We should never be afraid to fail. Growth comes from facing adversity, testing our skills and identifying weakness so we can improve, making ourselves and our units stronger. If we are to fear, let it be a fear of not trying, of not experiencing victory or defeat. Our Nation needs each of us to be the very best. Americans sleep at night knowing that each of us is the One in the Arena.