As men, we long to be powerful and strong.

But one of my greatest fears? I have nothing to offer, and in a moment of need, I will fail.

So often, I remain silent — instead of stepping up, I shrink back.  I know there is strength hard-wired deep inside of me that must — and will — in times of need come out. It’s in all of us as men. I am needed in my family, community, and job. And yet, I can often struggle to bring that.

Some personal things unfolded the other day, and I realized I am just as afraid of succeeding as I have been of failing. It’s a weird thing to say, but I am afraid of good attention, just as much as the bad. So, in some weird way, mediocrity, staying in the middle, keeps all of that from coming up.

It’s playing it safe.  

Where am I going with all of this? Hang with me.

My wife and I every Friday night watch Shark Tank on ABC. We see determined men and women risk their dreams. They’re laughed at, tested, prodded and praised when the deal goes through. I enjoy the entertainment of it all. And as a dreamer with a business, I often live through them, but I’m also removed from them. I am not the one doing the deal. I sit in the comfort of my home. It’s safe.  

Same goes with March Madness, brave men and women take years of practice and test it under a spotlight. They insert themselves into that clutch moment, to be called on for a great performance as millions watch.

We live and breathe with them through a television screen. In those shining moments, we feel something swell in us. We’re part of their moment. We cry and cheer. But in some ways, maybe there’s no real risk there for us. We are watching it all unfold.  In the comforts of our home.

Sometimes I wonder if that is why we love reality television. Maybe it’s why some of us watch more sports than participate in them — to experience failures and success with no risk. We can laugh, celebrate or critique from the comfort of our chairs. They stand on a stage. We stand removed. 

But what if you or I were chosen for Shark Tank, to stand alone with only our dream? What if you were placed on the court with one second left, your shot needed to win the game?  The couch can no longer protect us. Something in our heart must change. It’s dangerous.

As Theodore Roosevelt says, they are the ones "in the arena.”

I need to be asking the question: How do I find the courage to risk?

To fail with all on the line, even if it looks really bad? Or to give all that I have and be willing to shine, despite what that might bring with it?

How do I find courage to rise or fall, even when I’m afraid?  

I’ve found that the people I admire and respect are able to overcome those fears. They can preach truth in the face of Sunday morning pews and doubters. They can lead and make tough choices, despite pundits and talking heads critiquing every move. They can risk their life’s dream in a Shark Tank. They can take the game-ending shot, losing control of the outcome when the ball leaves their fingertips.

My conclusion? We need to risk more. Shine more. Fail more. And somehow, in that, we will find the truth of who we are, and what we were made to do. Inside of us are many failures and successes. That’s dangerous. But forcing them to play out is good for us.

Ultimately, we are less defined by the outcomes, but rather by our courage to overcome the fear and step into the spotlight.

Xan Hood

Founder of Buffalo Jackson Trading Co.

“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; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” 

― Theodore Roosevelt