How To Leave A Legacy The Man In The Arena

These words were made famous by 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.  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 he 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…” 

Will it be said of us that we are that “man in the arena.” Will it be said that we will leave a legacy that counts? For that to happen, there will be moments of choice, days when we step forward and walk through a door knowing there is no going back. There will be days when we will exchange the known for unknown, and trade the secure for the insecure, but will we chose step into that arena? I want to tell you about three times I faced that moment of choice, three times, I decided to step into the arena.

I was born in1960 (I’m 52 to save the maths) my earliest memories are of excited birthday parties where my mom would make blancmange rabbits surrounded by bright green Rowntrees jelly grass. When I was 13 I went to the local co-op butchers to buy some sausages and a delivery had just arrived. I offered to help unload it and in moment secured my first job. When I was 14 my dad died. I was a catastrophic event in my life.  It’s been a scar, an internal limp I have carried for nearly forty years. I went to school just enough to leave at 15 with no qualifications and I started an apprenticeship as a butcher. During that time I met Noreen, who would become my wife when I was 21 and she was 18. We moved into a small house that was falling apart, we were broke. It was then I saw an advert in the local paper that said, “Would £180 month pay your mortgage?” I opened a door where there was no going back. It was a moment of choice. I exchanged all that was known for the unknown, traded all that was secure, for what was insecure and became a commission only sales consultant with Sun Alliance.

The 13 years or so that I spent at Sun Alliance were accomplished years, the benefit of time dulls the early months when sales didn’t come, but I progressed. I learned my craft by cold calling street by street and what I lacked in ability, I made up in persistence. I later enrolled in the management straming courses and after a few years was promoted through to Senior Branch Manager Midlands region. Many would look at me and see an efficacious manager, but I was really sitting on the side-lines. I wondered if I had the ability to gain academic qualifications, could I get a degree? I opened a door where there was no going back. It was a moment of choice. I exchanged all that was known for the unknown, traded all that was secure for what was insecure and became a mature student at Birmingham University.

I am not sure if a First Class Honours Degree counts for much in the currency of the real world, but the following 10 years were an immense and captivating adventure as my wife and I decided to start a church in Bromsgrove. Faith, I know, is a personal choice. The Church called NewSong Community Church was and still is an energetic community committed to feeding those who were hungry, finding homes and furniture for those who were homeless. After 10 years (and 1 week) I opened a door where there was no going back. It was a moment of choice. I exchanged all that was known for the unknown, traded all that was secure, for what was insecure. I walked through that door and got on a plane and headed for Kiev, Ukraine.

  • Three moments.
  • Three choices.
  • Three life-altering decisions.

One day someone will stand at our funeral and be called to say a few words about our lives. To sum up a life well lived. What will our legacy be? I want my legacy to be someone who strived to be “That man in the arena.” What about you? What will be the legacy you leave? In the moment of decision, when that door opens, when you are called to exchange the known for the unknown, the secure for the insecure, what will you chose?

Will it be said of us, “that at the best we knew in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst,  if we failed, at least failed while daring greatly…”

This speech was prepared for and given on 2nd October for my CC Project 1 at Toastmasters International Heart of England Club  For this speech I was awarded “Best Speaker” for the evening.

Source: Man In The Arena Image – http://blog.leelzebub.com/

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Posted on by Peter Billingham in Leadership, Legacy, Public Speaking

About Peter Billingham

Leader, Learner, Speechwriter, Storyteller, Author. a.k.a. 'The Artful Speaker' Enjoy working on social action projects, Toastmasters, films & adventure travel.

One Response to How To Leave A Legacy The Man In The Arena

  1. Anonymous

    I’m still learning from you, while I’m trying to reach my goals. I definitely love reading everything that is posted on your site.Keep the stories coming. I loved it!

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