What I’ve Learnt From 3 Years in The Arena

In August this year, it’ll be 3 years since we started The Arena. I thought of waiting until then to write this as an anniversary commemoration post but I’m feeling the urge to write and post it immediately.

Working on something you love is difficult. A labour of love soon morphs into something laborious. There was a time I really disliked being asked about The Arena. I would brush it off and say, “it’s just this thing I’m working on“. I was confused about what we were doing and I didn’t want any questions because I didn’t have answers to give. It was messy. Everything was under construction (everything is still under construction). And it scared me that we were out here for the world to watch but things were not quite in place.

The Arena is about not being afraid. It’s about taking your imperfections out in the open because that’s where they become productive and lead you towards your purpose. So in worrying and panicking, I was contradicting myself- teaching one thing, practising another. 

I’m learning to change that slowly. And in honour of this, I’d like to share some of the important lessons I’ve learnt so far, courtesy of The Arena.

  • Treat your work seriously- It’s a job like any other. If you’re a student, it can be difficult to balance your time but allocate a few hours each week to working on it. Protect the energy within the organisation. Build a culture in the way you work that’s unique to you. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have an office or revenue streams yet- work as if you do.
  • Be consistent with your work– This isn’t necessarily about being consistent on your public platforms. I think it’s more important to be consistent behind the scenes. I’ve found that sometimes there’s a pressure to keep up with the image people expect of you and you end up rushing just to be seen to be doing something. It’ll drive you crazy and it’s not worth it. Focus your energy on being consistent with your vision. Don’t worry about keeping up with expectations- stay committed to your vision.
  • End working relationships with people who don’t take your work seriously– Everyone wants to be part of something that looks glossy, light and fun to do. But the truth is that before you get to the glossy, light and fun part, there are a lot of difficult hurdles to jump over. Not everyone can handle that. Very few people are willing to stick it out through to the end. And that’s okay. But you should never compromise your work to keep people comfortable. If you allow sloppy work at the early stages of your business, that’s the work culture you build for your organisation. Only work with people willing to work as hard as you do. Quality over quantity.
  • Be professional- Package your work well enough to circulate. It makes it easier to get support when you have something for people to share. Here’s a website that makes it super easy for you to make your own promo material.
  • Let go, go with the flow– Allow ideas to change. Sometimes you lose more by holding on. Relax, it’ll be fine.

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When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision; then it becomes less & less important whether I am afraid” (Audre Lorde) | Loch Katrine, Scotland

Your work will change over time and that’s an inevitable part of the journey. Just remember to hold on to the vision. Remind yourself why you started, often. It’s what will carry you through the most difficult days. Stay in love with your work.


© Tessy Maritim

p.s. This is the quote that inspires the name ‘The Arena’:

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, 1910  

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