“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. Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars and keep your feet on the ground. Courage, hard work, self-mastery, and intelligent effort are all essential to successful life. Character, in the long run, is the decisive factor in the life of an individual and of nations alike.” – Theodore Roosevelt
I count the opportunity to raise my boys, to encourage them into manhood, as one of my greatest privileges in life. We have succeeded as parents, and as a generation, if we hand over a world which has increased because of our stewardship. Conversely, we have failed if the world is diminished as a result of our presence and influence.
Roosevelt’s notion of the “strenuous life” is one which appeals to me immensely. Nowadays we might say “live hard and play hard,” but so saying draws an unhelpful distinction between work and play. Life is one thing. To live it strenuously, you must be willing to accept the challenge that life brings in every area of your living.
By this I do not mean that you have to try harder to overcome lethargy, bad habits or areas of personal weakness, in fact, I think we have the problems we have as individuals and as a nation because of all this trying, which is simply a manifestation of working harder and not smarter.
Life is inherently intelligent, coordinated and forever burgeoning. The key to building character rapidly, efficiently and sustainably is found in learning to let the stuff of life flow more freely through you in a particular area of function. In other words, you need to learn to let better and while giving up the arduous and often painful attempt to try harder.
We as a species have grown to be distrustful of life, despite its constant efforts to keep us in business. Life will come through if you yield to it, if you turn your back once and for all on the desperate attempts to control it. Life is trustworthy. Character flaws are nothing more than restrictions in the normal flow of life. Once the flow is restored, so too is the quality of character which naturally clothes that phase of life expression.