Rudyard Kipling's Poem 'If'


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! 

I've yet to read a lot of poetry to my kids, but when I do, this will be one of the first.  I feel we are currently living in a culture of entitlement that causes us to forget about what's important and focus on the immediate.  We are always checking to see if people are on Facebook or Twitter or all other services, yet we forget we can check in with people next door, and actually have a real conversation.  When confronted with challenging issues, we tend to feel exposed and anxious.  This poem helps to center me and remind me of what's important.  You grow by experiencing challenge and adversity.  You can only become better from it.  I keep this as a reminder to focus on the journey and not the destination.

Reveille: Inspire Action

IV. Reveille

by A. E. Housman (from ‘A Shropshire Lad’)

Wake: the silver dusk returning
Up the beach of darkness brims,
And the ship of sunrise burning
Strands upon the eastern rims.

Wake: the vaulted shadow shatters,
Trampled to the floor it spanned,
And the tent of night in tatters
Straws the sky-pavilioned land.

Up, lad, up, ‘tis late for lying:
Hear the drums of morning play;
Hark, the empty highways crying
‘Who’ll beyond the hills away?’

Towns and countries woo together,
Forelands beacon, belfries call;
Never lad that trod on leather
Lived to feast his heart with all.

Up, lad: thews that lie and cumber
Sunlit pallets never thrive;
Morns abed and daylight slumber
Were not meant for man alive.

Clay lies still, but blood’s a rover;
Breath’s a ware that will not keep.
Up, lad: when the journey’s over
There’ll be time enough to sleep.

I’d first discovered this poem from a post on a site called ‘The Art of Manliness’, which I’d highly recommend for both men and women. I found it at a time when I was feeling unmotivated and needed a boost.  The last stanza in particular always gets me moving.

Think about all the things you’d like to accomplish.  What’s stopping you?  What’s the first step you could take to get it moving forward?  That’s the most challenging part. What consequences do you think your action will have?  Will it cause you to lose weight? Get in better shape? Become more involved in your community?

I know one thing it will do: inspire others.  This is the impact we don’t see and we don’t think about.  Doing something to improve ourselves or help others inspires other people to act.  It may not be every one you know, but there will be someone who will act because of your move forward.  You are helping more than yourself become better.