No “If” About It: Author’s Messages Still Should Be Heeded

“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:”

–Rudyard Kipling, “IF”

Written in 1895 and first published in 1910, the great writer’s poem still gives me pause today and resonates in a world so very far removed from the great English journalist.

We all think we live in tumultuous times and, of course, we are living in such today. But so was Rudyard Kipling. Yet his admonitions in the famous poem “If” quoted above still–or should—resonate with all of us today in the busy, social media age.

Many of my generation learned “IF”—or least knew of it–in our elementary and junior high studies. I don’t know how well taught it is in today’s classrooms, but I can say that it should be ingrained in every student all around the country and world.

If you are in business, or simply feeling challenged in any possible way, Kipling’s poem provides a Victorian stiff upper lip attitude that should probably be adopted today by more people. Not stoic, not mock-heroic, not foolhardy, “If” provides a counseling befit anyone facing challenges in any era, Victorian or modern day America. That’s why the poem has stood the test of time. Its genuine and universal message reaches to us today across the years as a call to stand firm, be steadfast and remain humble.

I can’t tell you the number of times I have recalled Kipling’s words and used to move forward in times of challenge.

To the master again: “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!”

Forget self-help books, Dr. Phil and the Amazon business best seller list, this type of writing provides real fuel for the soul and energy for the spirit. Call me quaint or old-fashioned, but I’ll take Kipling over Phil or any other TV commercial guru any day of the week.

I encourage those of you so inclined to pick up a copy of Rudyard Kipling’s works and delve into them. Discover a different era, yes, but with messages and treasures contained that still resonate today—maybe even more so—than they did at the original time of their publication.

From the staff of the DBJ, we wish you a Happy New Year! Let’s all make 2019 the greatest year we’ve seen yet.