I'm not really an inspiring-quotes kind of guy. We don't have those cheesy "teamwork" posters hanging in our office. I don't read motivational books. But there is one quote I absolutely love because I think it celebrates the life of an entrepreneur better than any other. It inspires me to keep pushing every time I read it.
The best part is, the quote's author is not Steve Jobs or Elon Musk. It's from a guy who died almost a hundred years ago:
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. --Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States
Roosevelt was not specifically talking about entrepreneurship when he uttered those words at the Sorbonne in Paris in 1910, but his quote is the ultimate rallying cry for anyone with the courage to choose business-building as a career.
There are many worthwhile ways to spend your working years, but starting and building a business is unique in its challenges. The early years are fraught with danger and failure.
Most of us just thrash around for years--maybe decades--trying to find something that works. I think the fashionable word these days is "pivoting" but back in Roosevelt's day it would have been called fighting for survival. Doing whatever it takes to keep the lights on for one more day.
But at least you are--to use Roosevelt's words--"in the arena." You are trying. Fighting. Surviving. And if, when all is said and done, you fail, well at least you know you had the courage to act on your convictions rather than criticizing from the sidelines.
You act while others talk.
Everybody thinks they have a great idea for a business but it is a rare few who actually do more than talk about it. You are among the minority who actually put your mind and muscle where your mouth is and start doing rather than just dreaming.
And of the handful who do start something, most fold up their tent at the first sign of adversity. They second-guess themselves and retreat back to a day job--but not you. You are an entrepreneur and you know with every failure you are one step closer to something that works.
Some days you get beaten down by employees who want more money for less work, by governments that want an ever larger slice of your profit, and by customers who seem to want more for less at every turn. You are tired and broken, yet somehow you rise again with the sun. Yesterday is forgotten, today is a brand-new day and you go about your startup with all the enthusiasm of the day you launched your business.
Not everybody has that kind of energy--that ability to bounce back from defeat.
But you do. You are an entrepreneur.
Roosevelt would have been proud.