"No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable."When I heard this the first time, I couldn't believe that Socrates would ever have said such a thing. On further investigation, it turns out I was, probably, right. The quote, from the translation on the Perseus Project, is this:
"It is a disgrace to grow old through sheer carelessness before seeing what manner of man you may become by developing your bodily strength and beauty to their highest limit. But you cannot see that, if you are careless; for it will not come of its own accord."The popular quote as it is today, is actually paraphrased from the original. And it turns out, the original isn't even the original. Instead it is Xenophon reporting what Socrates said. Moreover, it is a translation of what Xenophon wrote that Socrates said. So, we can't know for certain that Socrates even said that. And that's the case with most things Socrates may or may not have said since Socrates didn't write things down.
So, what's the big deal? There isn't one, really, except that people are attributing a weak statement to a great philosopher. And my biggest complaint is that it puts a restriction on our rights, which is really what made me think that Socrates never said this. Everybody has the right to be an amateur. In fact, in most things, most people will always be amateurs. But taking a wider view this quote really seems to be saying that we should strive in all areas to reach our highest limit, otherwise we will never realize our full potential. It isn't enough to say "That's the best I can do," or "I'm not very good at that." Those kinds of thinking are simply careless in themselves, and thinking those things will result in never knowing what your true potential is. And that is a disgrace.