Theodore Roosevelt was not only one of our greatest presidents, he was also one of the greatest American men who ever lived. He embodied all the manly virtues and lived life with vigor and enthusiasm. In everything he did, he not only talked the talk, but walked the walk.
This is the first in a series of posts that will highlight the exemplary manliness of TR. We shall begin with his childhood.
The Childhood of Theodore Roosevelt
Teddy’s life began rather inauspiciously. He was a sickly child, asthmatic (a condition that at the time was sometimes fatal), near-sighted, and home-schooled. His father, who desired a rugged son, was completely disappointed in him. He would not let Teddy languish in his frailties. One day he took Teddy aside and said:
“Theodore you have the mind but you have not the body, and without the help of the body the mind cannot go as far as it should. I am giving you the tools, but it is up to you to make your body.”
Teddy did not hesitate before responding:
“I will make my body!”
From this moment on, Roosevelt become a tireless champion of what he called the “strenuous life.” His goal was to live each day with vigor and conviction. He put fearlessness as a constant goal before him.
Teddy immediately went to work. He and his father built a gym in the house where he would box and lift weights. He found hiking particularly vitalizing and would climb mountains in all sorts of weather.
He became a strapping and hearty young man, taking up competitive boxing and rowing as a student at Harvard. Even so, after he graduated his doctor advised him that due to serious heart problems, he should find a desk job and avoid strenuous activity. Roosevelt decided to climb the Matterhorn instead. Because Roosevelt had thrown off his sickliness through willpower and discipline, for the rest of his life he had no sympathy for pansies. Of his sons he said:
I would rather have one of them die then to have them grow up weaklings.
As we shall see, TR brought this uncompromising zeal into everything he did.
Lessons From TR
1. Set goals to overcome weaknesses. Don’t let your weaknesses hold you back from success. Sit down today and make a list of the weaknesses that you have. It could be procrastination, a bad habit, or shyness. Make it a goal to overcome that weakness and set out an attack plan to overcome it. If shyness is your weakness, make it a goal to introduce yourself to 3 strangers everyday. After a month of doing this, your weakness will have become a strength.
2. Work hard. TR showed us that setting goals isn’t enough to overcome your weaknesses. You must work at. Work hard daily on conquering your weakness. Focus all your energy on improving yourself daily.
Listen to this podcast episode about the early life of TR: