Starting the year with “If”

I can think of no better way to kick off 2021 with one of my favorite poems. There is so much substance. So much to think about. So much to unravel. And just because Kipling uses “son” or makes it sound like it was written for a “man” please don’t be fooled. You have to have perspective. This was intended for all men and women. The challenging part, and may take you some time, is actually understanding what everything in this poem actually means.

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 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:

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!’

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!

What are you waiting for? Just think about the day ahead. Nothing is guaranteed my friends, so don’t lament on what you haven’t done or what you could do…be PRESENT now and remember that what you are doing in this moment is what truly matters.

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