Theodore Roosevelt- 1904In 1899, Theodore Roosevelt gave a speech entitled “The Strenuous Life” in which he urged that a life devoted to overcoming obstacles was the best way to success.  He said:

“I wish to preach, not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of the strenuous life, the life of toil and effort, of labor and strife; to preach that highest form of success which comes, not to the man who desires mere easy peace, but to the man who does not shrink from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil, and who out of these wins the splendid ultimate triumph.”

Roosevelt was a great president and an exceptional individual for a variety of reasons.  At a young age, he was sickly and often confined indoors.  His doctors recommended that, because of his heart problems, he should take a desk job, and not engage in any sort of strenuous activities.  He took their advice by taking up boxing and weightlifting while at Harvard, and in fact continued to box as Governor of New York.  The rest, as they say, is history: the Rough Riders, Vice President, President (including getting shot), a safari in Africa (in which he almost died), and another run for President in 1912 against Taft and Wilson.

For a skinny guy with a bad heart, not bad at all.

I’m writing this article about Roosevelt because I believe he is a true inspiration (and someone who lived the philosophies I have written in this blog).  By Learning from others’ success, we can know what is possible (and jettison fear and uncertainty), and help develop our own mindset and course of action towards success.

I really like Roosevelt because he is an unwavering reminder that we are probably capable of much more than we usually try to accomplish.  I believe that his concept of living The Strenuous Life is absolutely correct, and in fact is the exact lifestyle we need to live if we truly want to accomplish our goals and achieve greater success in life.  The truth is, there are already tons of people living The Strenuous Life, even if not as glamorously as Roosevelt did: single mothers working multiple jobs in order to pay for their children’s upbringing is an example that comes readily to mind.  If these people are forced to live The Strenuous Life every day, don’t you think you might be able to as well?

What are some of the key points we learn from Roosevelt’s speech?  I think they are the same things that made Roosevelt a great president and amazing human being:

  • Live The Strenuous Life by choice, rather than by force.

I wouldn’t necessarily advocate taking up boxing like Roosevelt (and being blinded by a punch to the eye, as he was).  But the point here is that everything Roosevelt did, he did by choice.  By adopting an attitude of a disposition towards hard work, he amassed unprecedented successes.

The same goes for us: if we are truly serious about our endeavors, then we must seek to undertake unusual and exciting ventures in our daily lives, and we work relentlessly towards their accomplishment.  Then, we can be successful as Roosevelt was.

  • Seek education.

Roosevelt said that those who were not required to work to make a living had a duty to work in furtherance of the arts and sciences, rather than live a leisurely life.  In today’s society with the increased equality in educational opportunities, Roosevelt’s teaching is more meaningful to more people.  Education not only gives more opportunities to achieve success (and a wider vantage point from which to understand the world), it contributes to the soundness and structure of society.

  • Seek greatness.

Roosevelt was inspired by a quest for greatness for himself and for the nation.  Though we are accustomed to not using such direct emotions or predispositions as impetus towards motivating ourselves for success, maybe he has a point.  Whether or not the quest for “greatness” be accomplishing a magnanimous national goal or simply achieving the level of success we have always wanted in our lives, the thought behind his point stays the same.

Learn more about Theodore Roosevelt.

Read the whole text of Roosevelt’s speech here.

Photo is public domain from the Library of Congress.