History and Culture

Never Cold, Never Timid

As he transitions from Team Rubicon’s CEO to Executive Chairman of the Board, Jake Wood reflects on 11-plus years in the TRibe and the comfort of being in the arena.

Those who know me know that it’s rare that I’m left without words, but this moment has left me struggling to verbalize the past eleven and a half years. And so, for perhaps the first (and last) time in my tenure as CEO, I will keep this brief.  

There is a sacred quote in Team Rubicon. At 3 p.m. on April 23rd, 1910 in Paris, former U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt delivered a speech in which he delivered his now famous line: 

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.” 

Exactly 4,185 days. That’s how long I have been in the arena with Team Rubicon. Every single one of those days brought a challenge. Some of those challenges were welcome. Some were forced upon me. There were bad days, bad weeks, and bad months. To be honest, there were bad years. But I would not trade a single day, because none of those days were endured alone, and none of them were endured without purpose.  

Across those 4,185 days my face has been marred by dust and sweat and blood—sometimes literally, always figuratively. I hope that my colleagues would say I have strived valiantly. I have no doubt some would say I have come up short again and again.  

But I know this: I have tried to do all the good deeds I could; I have known the great enthusiasms that come from serving something larger than myself, and I have felt the great devotion that can be found in the hearts of our tens of thousands of Greyshirts who spend themselves in a worthy cause. And, here at the end of my journey as the CEO of this incredible organization, I am less concerned about the winning and losing and more comforted knowing that I was in the arena—never fearful of becoming cold and timid, because my face was always warmed by Team Rubicon’s legendary campfire.  

So, to all who have kept me company around that comforting blaze: thank you. Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for trusting me. Thank you for challenging me. Thank you for investing in me. Thank you for being patient with me. Thank you for making me better. Most importantly, thank you for giving me the distinction of serving alongside you. I’m better for it.  

Lastly, this organization has never been better poised for continued success. I am confident in our vision, our leadership, and our team. Our culture remains strong and out commitment to serving our communities has not wavered. 

While the world around us becomes more dangerous, we will become more proficient in our mission. When others wring their hands in dismay, Team Rubicon’s Greyshirts will pull on work gloves and dig into the job. And where hope appears to be dimming, Team Rubicon will compassionately blow on the embers of a brighter tomorrow. 

See you in the field.  

Jake Wood mucking a house during Team Rubicon’s response to Hurricane Harvey.
Jake Wood

Jake Wood is cofounder and CEO of Team Rubicon, a veteran-led disaster response organization. Under Wood’s leadership, Team Rubicon has responded to over 400 disasters since the 2010 Haiti earthquake and grown from eight to more than 100,000 members. Team Rubicon has been finished in the top three of the Nonprofit Times’ “Top Nonprofit To Work For in America” lists three years in a row and has received top marks in financial transparency from GuideStar and Charity Navigator. Wood was the recipient of the Pat Tillman Award for Service at the 2018 ESPYS and is a leading veterans’ advocate who has briefed several sitting presidents and testified before the Senate. As a Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps, Wood deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan as a Scout Sniper and earned the Navy-Marine Commendation Medal.