2017-06-01 / Columns

1895 Poem Offers Wisdom for Graduates and Everyone Else

Think Outside, No Box Needed

Because it’s graduation time, I thought that I would hand out some very old advice written by Rudyard Kipling. His poem, “If,” was written in a different time, long before women were given equal rights, however, the message still applies to today, regardless of your gender. Here it is:

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too:

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream - and not make your dreams your master;

If you can think - and not make your thoughts your aim,

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same:

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

And stoop and build ’em with worn out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of the pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings, and never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much:

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And - which is more - you’ll be a Man, my son!

Pretty powerful words, aren’t they? If you just read this poem every Monday morning before you started work, it would help to keep your life in balance. Following the advice found in the first two lines alone would allow you to see and take advantage of opportunities that most people miss. The second subtle point made is that most people want to blame someone else when things go wrong, instead of accepting responsibility for their actions.

The next two lines say, simply, you’ll be better off if you can look at the issue from other points of view. “If you can wait, and not be tired by waiting,” sends two more messages; one is the old clichĂ©, “patience is a virtue,” and the other is “success takes time.” Then the last three lines of the first verse plainly state, “Don’t lie, don’t hate, don’t hang around with people who do, and don’t be arrogant.”

The second verse starts right out with a warning. Your dreams can’t be your master, and your thoughts can’t be your aim. For me, these two lines required me to stop and really think. I think Kipling was telling us to act on both our thoughts and dreams; but you may think he is saying something else. Then he continues with another warning that triumph and disaster only apply to the moment, and they are something that you shouldn’t get caught up in. The cautions continue with this idea: Don’t listen to the lies people make up about your intentions. Then, without saying a word about age, he tells you that you can always start over again with whatever you have.

He starts the third verse by telling you the same thing that he just told you in the last two lines, only with a little different twist. He finishes that verse by reminding us to persevere; almost as if he had been watching the Chicago Cubs last fall, and this year’s Super Bowl.

The most important lines in the last verse, for me, are the first four, with two different messages. The first two lines not only tells us to keep our egos in check, it would be a great message for today’s politicians to follow. Then when I read, “If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you; If all men count with you, but none too much:” I think this is how you achieve balance in your life, and it reminds me to make no useless friends.

During these days of graduation, it’s important for all of us to remember, “Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it.”

Unhappy with the status quo of your business? Call (906) 643- 6643 or e-mail jim@ThinkOutside- NoBoxNeeded.com. Jim is available for speeches and presentations to your company or organization and one-on-one coaching and consulting.

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