Armchair Ironman – Everyone’s a Critic

Every week at my Thursday networking meeting (Hi NBXers!) we have a “press conference”.  One of the members tells us a bit about themselves and then we get to ask them questions.  This particular member is a triathlete and a triathalon coach.  Someone  asked him “Have you ever run an Ironman and what was your time?”

He responded back “Yes I have.  Have you run an Ironman?


“Ok, well the deal is that if you haven’t run an Ironman, you don’t get to ask someone who did about their time, because for you it doesn’t matter.”

He said it very respectfully and I thought – Damn skippy!  Why should someone who hasn’t put themselves out there and tried, get to judge the results of someone who has?  Way to set a boundary dude.

How often do people sit on their comfy couches drinking beer and yelling at athletes?  Or trash the talents of actors and singers – or their outfits?

A professional singer has been rejected hundreds or thousands of times.  An actor has endured people laughing at his dream, telling him it’s impossible, rejections, horrible jobs as an extra, work in cheesy commercials, and who knows what else to live his dream.  A Left Tackle overcame unbelievable odds (22,000 to 1 odds by the most conservative estimates I could find), and has been through a level of physical conditioning and injury hell that we can’t even imagine, only to find himself enduring being yelled at by some half-drunk fan to move his feet and for pete’s sake HIT SOMEBODY.

Everyone who has ever pursued a dream that put them front and center has known these people.  Sometimes they are people who choose to make a team or a star part of their own identify; and now they need that team or star to win so that they can feel like they won something – their emotions rising and falling with someone else’s achievements and failures.  Some are people who think that they could have made it if they tried, so they feel justified in trashing someone who did try and succeeded.  Some are people who just want to put someone else down to feel better about themselves.

All of these behaviors are perfectly within people’s rights and I’m not trying to tell anyone what to do.  I’m just suggesting that what they told us in elementary school is true – criticism only hurts the criticizer.

I happen to think that P!nk is an artist doing some very cool things.  Even if I didn’t think that, P!nk is rich, famous, and living her dream so she probably doesn’t care if I or anyone else thinks that she’s a hack (I certainly hope she doesn’t).   But every time we criticize someone who has put themselves out there we are reminded of what can, and almost certainly will, happen to us if we find the courage to step up and go after our dream.  So maybe we don’t. Maybe we shy away from doing something because we’re afraid that people will treat us the way that we treat those who have succeeded. Maybe we let our fear of criticism (grown from the seed of our own criticism of others) reduce us to a mass of excuses, rationalizations and victim mentality.

Maybe we should think more like an Ironman – if you haven’t put yourself out there like I have, then I don’t know who you think you are to judge me, and more to the point,  I don’t care.

It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by Theodore Roosevelt (c’mon you knew that was coming), I’ve copied it in its entirety below but it begins “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong many stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood…”

So I guess we can sit around and trash people who are living their dream if we want, or we could find the guts to step up and go for our own dreams and boost others up in the process.  We can be the ones in the arena, risk having our faces marred by dust, and sweat, and blood.  Stare our critics in the face and say “Come and get me.  Say something.  I dare you.”.  I think you’ll find that Teddy was right – it is not the critic who counts.

“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 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 and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, 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 he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” –Theodore Roosevelt

8 thoughts on “Armchair Ironman – Everyone’s a Critic

  1. One of my favorite quotes in this area is from Michael Jordan: “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

    [And I don’t know if it was just my RSS reader not picking up your updates or what, but there were eight or nine new posts when I checked today, dating back to 9/2. Glad it caught up at last.]

    1. Thanks for reminding me of that one – it’s one of my favorites as well (I assume you’ve seen the commercial that goes with it?) Sorry about the RSS thing! ~Ragen

  2. Hey there,

    I picked up on your blog via Jezebel and have come back every so often to read when I have some downtime and want to read something good. And I have to say that this post really gave me a pick-up I needed this week.

    I work in a field where this kind of behavior (trashing other people’s work) is part of what we do — I’m an academic philosopher. My entire life revolves around evaluating theories, critiquing them, proposing new ones, and being critiqued in turn.

    You know, I’ve always struggled a bit. I love what I do (philosophy) but don’t necessary love the culture and norms of the institution (American academic philosophy). I struggle because as a minority and a woman there are a lot of assumptions about what I can and can’t do as a philosopher (this should give you some idea of what I mean

    But this post really gave me pause. I’ve been having a rough week, feeling like crap, like I’m in the wrong line of work, doing the wrong thing. I don’t always feel like it, but it happens every now and again. And what you’ve said here has helped me recover my strength to go back in the field. Thanks for that.


    1. Hi Bri, I’m so glad that you liked the post! Except for a three hour freshmen class, I’ve not had many dealings with the world of academic Philosophy and I had no idea what women and minorities in the profession face. Thank you so much for the link, it was fascinating and I hope that her recommendations are implemented. I’m certainly glad that there are women and minorities who keep slugging away at the environment and kicking ass. Your comment totally made my and you are my new philosopher hero!


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