Teddy Tells Us: Stop Trying To Be Extraordinary, Just Do What Others Won’t

This post was originally published on Young Men’s Nation.


Theodore_Roosevelt_laughingI love Teddy Roosevelt. You should too. He was a skinny, asthmatic weakling as a kid but believed that he could overcome this through mental focus and hard work. And he did, to become the 26th President of the United States. He came from a wealthy background but was always sure to avoid falling into laziness and snobbery, something he noticed many of his well-off peers doing.

I get that he probably went overboard with his rhetoric about what it means to be a man, and feminist writers were right to criticize some of his ideas, but it’s hard to argue against this statement:

“I want to see you game, boys, I want to see you brave and manly, and I also want to see you gentle and tender.”

We wholeheartedly agree with him at YMN, as you all know. There has to be a balance of strong and soft. It’s the only way forward for any man.

I came across a speech he gave at The Groton School back in 1904 that really made me think about our celebrity-obsessed culture, and how we put up on pedestals the sports stars and celebrities who skyrocket to fame while overlooking all the other people who find success in much less flashy ways.

Check this quotation out, from the final bit of his speech (my emphasis added):

“There are two kinds of success to be won. In the first place, there is success in doing the thing that can only be done by the exceptional man. Therefore most of us can not achieve this kind of success. It comes only to the man who has very exceptional qualities.

“The other kind, a very, very high kind, is the ordinary kind of success, the success that comes to the man who does the things which most men could do, but which they do not do; which comes to the man who develops or possesses to a higher degree the qualities that all of us have to a greater or less extent.

In the history of the world some of the men who stand high who stand in all but the very highest places are those who have not possessed any wonderful genius… but who have developed within themselves, by long, patient effort, resolutely maintained in spite of repeated failure, the ordinary, everyday, humdrum qualities of courage, of resolution, of proper appreciation of the relative importance of things; of honesty, of truth, of good sense, of unyielding perseverance. We can each one of us develop to a very high degree these qualities; and if we do so develop them, each one of us is sure of a measure of success…”

So what kind of person do you want to be, gents? Do you want to waste more countless hours obsessively envying Dan Bilzerian and his supposedly glorious life of guns, tanks, parties and naked women? I suppose you could. (I just found myself sucked in for the last 10 minutes after just going over there to get the link to his Instagram feed… such is the lizard brain at work).

But every minute you do that is another minute you’re NOT just doing the quiet, careful, steady work of doing all the things your peers don’t want to because they’re hard, like:

  • Persisting with unpleasant things;
  • Getting exceptional at real skills (not just “content creation” and “viral marketing”);
  • Practicing the hard work of standing up for what you believe in despite ridicule.

Put your head down, do these things and others found in The YMN Code, and then pick your head up in five years and look around. You’ll be amazed how far behind your peers are, and how dissatisfied they are with their life circumstances.

And how about one more quotation from Teddy, to give you hope if you find yourself being made fun of by people:

“Ridicule is one of the favorite weapons of wickedness, and it is sometimes incomprehensible how good and brave boys will be influenced for evil by the jeers of associates who have no one quality that calls for respect, but who affect to laugh at the very traits which ought to be peculiarly the cause for pride.”

In other words, if your peers make fun of you for working hard, persisting with school work and making sure it’s done well, standing up for those who are weak or unable to defend themselves, choosing not to be on your phone every five seconds, then they’re making fun of the exact things that will gain you an immense amount of respect later on down the line.

Stay true, have faith, and speak up with us if you find yourself stumbling.

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