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Learning from the Greats: Theodore Roosevelt

I want to share some lessons that I did not have the opportunity to learn in my childhood. History can teach us what lessons to pass on.


We all want to be better; to be more than what we are. This is so we can be better for ourselves and for those near and dear to us. While most have pondered what must be done to become better, we could look at the great figures from history.

Theodore Roosevelt was one of the greatest presidents we’ve ever had, a patron saint of greatness, and one of my personal heroes. TR, as he likes to be called, achieved much physically, academically, militarily, and politically. I have been emulating some of his lessons in my own life And want to share what they are And how they can help. Look at the words of TR to see how we can be great like him.

"The dreams of golden glory in the future will not come true unless, high of heart and strong of hand, by our own mighty deeds we make them come true."

— Theodore Roosevelt

Variations of this quote have been said by several great people, which is not a coincidence. TR was constantly doing things and dedicated himself to being great at the things he did. He loved being a writer and became one of the great American writers. He lost his family fortune and earned another fortune through his works. He had pre-diagnosed medical issues, but went on to lead a charge as a colonel. He got into politics and became one of the greatest presidents our nation has ever had.

I have been taking classes again, trying to teach myself computer programming languages and I have been documenting the things that I learn to share with others (like this). It has been helping me bring light to the things I learn.

"Complaining about a problem without proposing a solution is called whining."

— Theodore Roosevelt

TR never let any obstacle stop him from achieving what he wanted. As a child, he was diagnosed with an extreme case of asthma. His doctors told his father that he would not live a healthy life and even die soon. His father, in response, told a young TR that only he could help himself by getting in shape. He told his son that he needed to "make his body". TR responded, "I will make my body". He would go on to be renowned for his athleticism.

I have been taking my own fitness more seriously and have been sticking to a workout routine. It consists of calisthenics and running around my apartment complex. The lack of a gym membership or weights won’t stop me from get in shape.

"Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty..."

— Theodore Roosevelt

TR was a man that was constantly doing things to better himself. He knew that nothing great would ever happen for him unless he put in the effort to make it happen. We all do not like the discomfort of work, but what we should remember when doing it is what it will lead for us when we accomplish what we need to. TR had to get fit to save his own life. After he lost his family fortune on a ranch that was destroyed in a dust bowl he authored books and wrote article just to feed his family. The sales from his best-selling book, The Rough Riders, brought his family back to fortune.

To be honest, I would love to just be able to watch TV, play video games, and indulge in other hobbies all day long. However, I accepted that I need to make the things that I need to make happen first so that maybe one day I can do these things. I began taking classes again to work towards a masters degree, I started learning other programs to increase my responsibilities at work, I'm logging everything I learn to look back on and even share with others.

"Courage is not having the strength to go on; it is going on when you don't have the strength."

— Theodore Roosevelt

In what is one of his most famous moments, TR ran against his former Vice President William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson in 1912. While Wilson ended up winning the presidency, TR gave a speech after having survived an assassination attempt on his his life. As TR was up on stage losing blood, he told the crowd that he had been shot and proceeded to speak for over 90 minutes. This guy didn't even let a bullet stop him!

While I'm unable to brag about giving a speech after being shot, I myself have had to show courage to press on in life. For my engineering degree I had to take calculus. Calculus, for me at least, was broken up into 3 courses (MATH 1, MATH 2, and MATH 3) and I had a particularly difficult time with MATH 2. I ended up having to take the course multiple times. This wasn't the only class I would have to repeat. It was very embarrassing watching my friends go on to with more advanced courses while I was having to repeat courses. I felt trapped by my failure and didn't know what to do. Through some needed encouragement from my amazing girlfriend (now wife) I was able to find it in myself to keep going and not to let the fear have control over me. I eventually passed the classes I needed and am now proudly working in engineering.

"Let us rather run the risk of wearing out than rusting out."

— Theodore Roosevelt

TR was always doing things. He ran for office, wrote books, raised a family, and traveled the world. He chronicled the events of his life, some of which ended up becoming famous books. TR shows us to, of course, work hard and do what we need to do, but to also go and live life. These experiences are important. As a child he was always fascinated by nature and loved the outdoors. This would lead him to establishing the national parks and allow us today to enjoy these heirlooms of America. So get your work done and then go out and enjoy the world!

I have learned to never stop doing things. This is what keeps my own productivity going. Not only at work, but also in my personal life, constantly finding things to do allows me the chance to build something that will then help build me up later. Again, I'm taking classes again and doing much better now. I also took up the habit of writing down the ideas that I have in my head. It sucks to think of something great only to forget about it later. To go along with this, journaling was something that helped me grow as a person. It allows me to write down what worked out and what didn't and allows me to look back on it later.

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"If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn't sit for a month."

— Theodore Roosevelt

Remember that we can't just wait for life to bring us what we want. We need to go forth and get it for ourselves. When we wonder why our car isn't as cool as our friend's, why we aren't as fit as that buff neighbor, or why we aren't moving up at work we need to remember that it's because we haven't made those things happen. Ask what you need to do to get what you want and then do it.

I myself have plenty of things I regret not doing, but rather than keep complaining I decided to try and do something about it. I took up education again, making sure I exercise, eat better, and make things happen for myself.

"Speak softly and carry a big stick."

— Theodore Roosevelt

One of the quotes TR is most well known for, he was always a gentleman but was always ready for action. This went for if he was dealing with people, businessmen, politicians, and other countries. He carried himself and the nation this way. TR was someone who was never bullied. I try to always be respectable to everyone I talk to, but try to be careful to not be taken advantage of or be bullied into things. My big stick is being able to say "no" to the things that I don't want to do. So always carry yourself well and be respectable, but be prepared and don't be afraid to take action. This goes for physical attacks as well as having hard conversations with people. Speaking softly and carrying a big stick will carry you far in life.

"Do what you can with what you have, where you are."

— Theodore Roosevelt

Never let the lack of anything keep you from doing the things you need to do. TR lost his family's fortune on the ranch in the dustbowl. He didn't have a lot after this, but with a pen, typewriter, and paper he wrote articles and books to put food on the table and eventually make his family wealthy again. Inspired by this, I myself took up writing. I have a great deal of things that I want to share with others to try and help with their own problems. I keep a small notebook handy to write down my thoughts before typing them out. It's something anyone can get their hands on and easy to keep on their person for when they need it. I have made notebooks from scratch paper from the library and they helped a lot. Never let the lack of fancy equipment deter you from doing the things you would like to do.

"A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad."

— Theodore Roosevelt

TR had a great education and even went to Harvard. He did not only rely on this however. He voraciously read books. He was constantly reading things. He also journaled his own research on things from birds to the US Navy. This man knew the value of knowledge and was always looking for some. This is also, no doubt, what led him to exploring places like Africa and South America. A healthy and well read mind gets people far in life. It is no coincidence that so many great people, as well as TR, read all the time. So go read some books!

"The only man who makes no mistakes is the man who never does anything."

— Theodore Roosevelt

You need to take risks in life. TR constantly took risks because he knew it was the only way to get anything worth having. He had to put himself out there and risk looking a fool. He had to keep his wits about him, but it got him very far. Arguably the largest risk he took was entering the Spanish American War with the Rough Riders. It is war after all, there's no guarantee you'll make it back. Not only did he return a great big hero, but his book about the Rough Riders became his ticket back to wealth. It's scary taking risks, but the rewards they can bring us can be worth it and something we never regret doing. I am taking a risk by writing this. People may not like it and I may look like a fool, but I decided to write it anyway because I wanted to share what I had learned.

"NO. I'm not a good shot, but I shoot often."

— Theodore Roosevelt

Along with taking risks we should always try to better ourselves in new ways. Maybe you want to start writing or vlogging on the side, but it seems scary, maybe you want to learn coding online, or maybe you want to get in shape. Whatever it is you want to do just start doing it because nothing will ever happen for you unless you start the process. Try out some things because this is how we all grow. If you fail at something, don't worry, just try again or try something new.

"The most practical kind of politics is the politics of decency."

— Theodore Roosevelt

Be a good person. Nobody is saying that you need to literally hold the door open for every person in the world, but please be a good person. Being decent can go a long way because it makes it easier for people t open up to you and trust you. This is something that can be difficult to talk about because of the fact that a lot of people nowadays making money on screen for all of us to see are doing it by being obnoxious. Good for them, but for everyone who doesn't do that; you don't need to do that to be like that to get ahead in life. Being nice can go a long way.

"Big jobs usually go to the men who prove their ability to outgrow small ones."

— Theodore Roosevelt

This should make sense. This is getting that promotion at work, being promoted in the military, or getting your next belt in the martial art you practice. You have to prove that you can do the basics perfectly on your own before you can have a chance at the tasks that usually go to the people above. Ensure you can do the basics of whatever you want to do and you will get ahead. Be sure to always practice the basics even when you feel that you've passed them. If you don't, then you will lose your touch and someone else will surpass you. At work, before I start a new project I always go back over the basics I learned from my first week. This is usually where the mistakes occur and any mistake can set you back.

"With great victory comes great sacrifice."

— Theodore Roosevelt

We can become anything we want and become as amazing as we want, but it will take a great deal of hard work. TR never did anything not to his fullest ability. Anything he did, he wanted to be amazing at it. Committing so much of his time to journaling and reading turned him into an amazing author. Working out and keeping up with his exercise helped his health and be renowned for his athleticism. Keeping to his morals and doing what would be best for the people no matter what business or politician tried to stop him led to the labor laws, health laws, and national parks that he is remembered for. It wasn't easy, but he did it because it wasn't easy. Taking classes again while working is very difficult and takes away time that I could be spending with my wife. However, I always tell myself, "If I make this sacrifice now, how much more time will I get to spend with my wife later on?". Sacrifice is difficult, but those who go through it find the well-earned victory to be well worth it. Be like TR and you will be great like him.

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