by Rudyard Kipling
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:
How hard can this first set of conditions go, especially in the world we live in today? How can we take people who blame us all the time for their own mistakes, and they kind of climb on our shoulders as a shortcut to their success and our lingering in the darkness of being accused of what we have never done? Well, let’s ask ourselves if we want to go where they have gone in the first place. Are we even competing for the same spot? Sometimes, our goals transcend the workplace and the neighborhood, and at times, it might seem impossible for us to get out of all that, but think of people who did it who were less powerful and more unfortunate. If they could do it with nothing, you could do it with at least the knowledge you have about the destination you have in mind. In case you still don’t have one, keep looking. It’s never about how soon you can find it, but it is always about being sure it is the one, no matter when that happens.
And how can you face it when nobody believes in you, or cares about what you can or cannot do? Well, let’s face it my friend, to go where nobody else has been to before means to go alone. Once in a while, you will find unexpected people or things along the way that will give you this push you need at your darkest hour, but remember that you will always be there, so counting on yourself is guaranteed all the time, and everything else that comes along the way is a delightful bonus.
How can you not engage in lies and hatred when you are exposed to them on a daily basis? Well, that’s the key decision you made to become your own person and distinguish yourself from the crowd. Go there, and be among the liars and the haters, there’s always plenty of room for everyone there; It’s like a big smelter that would melt all who you are and mold it into pre-fabricated model to become one of those empty-consuming clowns whose too much laughing is never discerned at whom but at themselves. It is easy, but Rudyard’s If is not an idiot’s guide to an easy life, but a true one.
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make 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 up with worn-out tools:
Dream and think but never too much; what the hell is that supposed to mean? It is your resilience that makes you continue the path, and sometimes, have the strength to abandon it completely and start on another one. What if a dream does not turn out the way you want it to be? What if all the time you spent thinking about something was simply a waste of time because obviously you cannot control everything that is happening around you? Would you stop, moan and whine in your old age about what you could have achieved if everything just went well and all your dreams came true? Didn’t you know that trying to make a difference is like traveling in a sea of mist not knowing your heading most of the time? If one direction did not lead you to your destination, try another and remember it was the first false or broken dream that brought you a step close to where your true dream lie, and in most cases, there is no dream lying and waiting for you to come and grab it; you will have to shape it yourself along the way, so man up, stop whining and get on your way.
How about big triumphs and devastating losses, aren’t you a human being with feelings to ever react to them? Indeed, we all are, but what’s the point of lingering on when victories and defeats are but spikes in the histogram of your journey? Most of the way you are in the middle point of a graph; that’s the place you need to be comfortable. Rejoice your victory, but remember that you can never stand on any peak for too long, and cry for your defeats but know that the way from there is always back up, provided that you do not stand still and never move. Be always on the move and let the sea take you to those uncharted waters; don’t kill the excitement of the mystery part of the journey. For most people, these uncertain times were the best, but younger people don’t usually see that promptly.
Don’t bother to regain your losses or take revenge, but fight new battles every day. With the experience you get, you will soon become invincible, least of all from the inside, where no one and nothing can ever break you.
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of 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!’
We all love our winnings from life, our possessions, especially when each specific piece is linked to a story and a memory, but do not let these possessions define who you are. These can make nice strolls on memory lanes to remember the good old days over a nice hard drink before a fireplace in the middle of a freezing winter night, but in the morning, you know you can leave all that behind and bend life to your will even when life is starting to leave you behind. Nothing in you is stronger than your will; it can be strong or weak at any age, and the body is but a mere vehicle enslaved by our wills to live or to die. For Kipling’s sake, live and give life to all those who still do not know what life is all about. Those people who are still lost in possessions and short-term gains in a life so gainful in every aspect and mostly not in material things. I don’t think Kipling is urging you to become a monk or a nun, though it has always been a lucrative business, take on the world, get what you can, but give a meaning to your winnings apart from the passively foolish consumption of other people’s perishable products. Make something on your own with the worn-out tools you’ve got. When a part of you is imprinted on your product, it will definitely be unique and attractive.
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!
Nobody is your exclusive entourage or clique that you can talk to no one else. Deal with all, but do not try to impress anybody but yourself. Nobody is better than you as you are undoubtedly no better than anybody by definition. It is only what you do that makes you stand out in the crowd and, maybe, lead the way for the blind and the short-sighted. Be your own image, and nothing can hurt that image you have created for yourself.
Remember that time is the only precious thing you have as much as anyone else, so no one is richer or poorer than you are, but a lot of people are wiser or more foolish in the way they spend it. Surround yourself with people and things that can add to your life as much as you can add to them. Do not be the exclusive giver or taker of any group. Grow up alone and with people and share what you have got, for it’s like a fountain, life is, give more, and undoubtedly more will come, but you have only so much to reserve no matter how hard you try to save.
In the end, who is Rudyard Kipling to tell you anything, or who am I to do just that? Nobody can tell you what to do and how to do it except for yourself. You are the only one who knows why a step or a misstep was taken and towards what end. As long as you have the end in mind, there will be plenty of both, but the road will inevitably take you to where you want to go. Enjoy every step and don’t waste your life regretting the mistakes you have made along the way because be sure that these are also steps in the way, and you should never underestimate their importance in getting you to your goals and to who you want to be in this short life. Most of the times, people learn much more from their mistakes, and these are the real cues that put you back on track. Therefore, never hate your mistakes; just try not to do them on purpose because only then, you will be lying to yourself, and there is nothing more important for a person than staying true to himself or herself. Do it and your soul, mine and Kipling’s will all be at peace.
About Rudyard Kipling
Here is a little information about Rudyard Kipling in case you feel like reading more works by him.
Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), English writer and Nobel laureate, who wrote novels, poems, and short stories, mostly set in India and Burma (now known as Myanmar) during the time of British rule.
Kipling was born December 30, 1865, in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, and at age six, was sent to be educated in England. From 1882 to 1889 he edited and wrote short stories for the Civil and Military Gazette of Lahore, India. He then published Departmental Ditties (1886), satirical verse dealing with civil and military barracks life in British colonial India, and a collection of his magazine stories called Plain Tales from the Hills (1887). Kipling’s literary reputation was established by six stories of English life in India, published in India between 1888 and 1889, that revealed his profound identification with, and appreciation for, the land and people of India. After that, he traveled extensively in Asia and the United States, married Caroline Balestier, an American, in 1892, lived briefly in Vermont, and finally settled in England in 1903. He was a prolific writer; most of his work attained wide popularity. He received the 1907 Nobel Prize in literature, the first English author to be so honored. Kipling died January 18, 1936, in London.
Kipling is regarded as one of the greatest English short-story writers. As a poet, he is remarkable for rhymed verse written in the slang used by the ordinary British soldier. His writings consistently project three ideas: intense patriotism, the duty of the English to lead lives of strenuous activity, and England’s destiny to become a great empire. His insistent imperialism was an echo of the Victorian past of England.
Among Kipling’s important short fictional works are Many Inventions (1893), The Jungle Book (1894), and The Second Jungle Book (1895), collections of animal stories, which many consider his finest writing; Just So Stories for Little Children (1902); and Puck of Pook’s Hill (1906). The highly popular novels or long narratives include The Light That Failed (1891), about a blind artist; Captains Courageous (1897), a sea story; Stalky & Co. (1899), based on his boyhood experiences at the United Services College; and Kim (1901), a picaresque tale of Indian life that is generally regarded as his best long narrative. Among his collections of verse are Barrack-Room Ballads (1892), which contains the popular poems “Danny Deever,” ”Mandalay,” and “Gunga Din”; and The Five Nations (1903), with the well-known poem “Recessional.” Something of Myself, published posthumously (1937), is an unfinished account of his unhappy childhood in an English foster home and at school.