3 Steps to Jump Into the Arena

| Mary Shores

In 2006, I was served with lawsuit papers.

At the time, my business was only nine years old, and I was terrified. Anxious thoughts swarmed through my head. Would I lose my business? Would the last nine years of work be for nothing?

As I sat at my desk, I got sick to my stomach, and I knew I had to go home. When I pulled into my driveway, my then-husband was standing outside, so I started sharing my anxious thoughts with him, hoping for some reasoning or consolation. His response? “That’s just great. Now I won’t be able to go to school.”

That was the moment I knew my marriage was over.

In crisis mode, my thoughts raced to the worst possible outcome: I was going to lose everything. At the time, I was overwhelmed and devastated. Now? I realize it was a fantastic turning point for me. I learned some great lessons, built rock-solid resilience, and gained some spectacular wisdom.

How do we turn these rock-bottom moments into much-needed life lessons though? How did I ditch the anxious thoughts and turn them into a life experience that would improve my everyday circumstances?

In 1910, Teddy Roosevelt delivered a speech that perfectly captures my mindset shift since 2006. He said:

“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.”

I had to be in the arena to find the security and success I craved.

I followed three steps to jump into the arena and fight for the change I wanted to see in my life and business.

Let’s get started so you can jump into the arena too.

1) Choose courage — Success only comes through showing up. I completely understand that showing up is scary. After all, your brain always thinks about the worst possible outcomes at first.

Back in 2006, I had two choices: give up or show up. In the heat of the overwhelm, I could have easily decided that owning a business and the challenges that came with it weren’t for me. I could have settled for something less that wouldn’t have presented nearly as many obstacles rather than waking up every day to the potential of failure.

Instead, I grounded myself in the reality that while challenges and failures were always potential outcomes as a business owner, I still wanted to pursue what would energize me each day, which was running my business. I wasn’t ok with settling for less.

Remember: While failure is inevitable at times, success is nearly impossible without showing up.

Choosing courage every time will help you to show up even when it’s way out of your comfort zone. When you go for those daunting decisions, you’ll see your success increase faster than you thought was possible.

2) Be vulnerable — Vulnerability is a huge part of courage. It’s the courage to show up, even when you can’t predict the results.

When I was struggling with my overwhelm back in 2006, it would have been easy to act tough and unbothered by my problems. I could have stayed at work that day and pretended nothing was wrong. I could have kept all my feelings to myself and put on a brave face to my team, friends, and family. Where would that have gotten me though?

The truth is, I was struggling, and vulnerability allowed me to problem-solve and find solutions rather than ignore what was weighing me down each day. I learned that being open and honest to others and laying my struggles out on the table was one of the keys to success. I had to face challenges head-on, which forced me to continue, despite how scared I may have been.

When you’re scared of showing your fears and emotions, remind yourself that vulnerability is a necessity in a successful business. Also remind yourself that you’re not alone, and being vulnerable allows you to find other people who have the same fears as you.

3) Ignore criticism from the “cheap seats” Professional wrestlers might hear judgments and insults from the audience hurled their way as they’re fighting their opponents. If they thought too much about what they were hearing, they might falter and lose their strategy. Think about it though: The audience didn’t muster up the courage to get in the ring themselves, so what weight does their judgement really hold?

In 2006, I could have listened to people who were disappointed in me for losing money. I could have taken their words to heart and beat myself up over the lawsuit. The people saying those things didn’t have my best interest in mind, though. After all, they weren’t the ones going out every day, running a business, and jumping over each obstacle that came their way; they were simply judging me just to judge me. I knew that letting their words sink in may have made me step out of the arena and away from the successes I was achieving and away from my dreams.

As you’re standing in the arena, marred and bloody, you’re ultimately working toward an end goal. People who are, quite literally, sitting there watching without making their own power moves don’t have opinions that will benefit you. Ignore their hurtful words and keep going.

Lecturer and author Brene Brown explores this concept some more in a speech for 99U.

Final Thoughts

If I had given up in 2006 when I thought my life was falling apart, where would I be now? Probably not writing advice about jumping into the arena. Choosing courage, being vulnerable, and ignoring criticism from the “cheap seats” has been vastly important as I’ve developed my business.

While it hasn’t been easy to stay in the arena, it has definitely been worth it.

To learn more about creating happier customers and teams, one word at a time, book a call with me today.

To see this blog post as it was originally written, visit

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