The audio version of this as a podcast is available here.
Rudyard Kipling published the poem ‘If…’ in 1895, a world away from the one we now live in, but the message it conveys is as true as it ever was . For me it’s about personal growth, whoever you are and however you see your place in the world, so forgive my minor edits to reflect this. No apology, however, for leaving this as a message from father to son.
Growth /grəʊθ/ isn’t just about becoming ‘bigger’ in size or in number, or even about becoming an adult; it’s about developing new qualities, characteristics or skills, physically, mentally, emotionally.
Ultimately it’s about owning who you are, owning what you do, and your place in the world. What you do with that growth is up to you, but at least it’s something to aim for, accepting that none of us is perfect.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when people 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 truths you’ve spoken
Twisted by those 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 walk 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 will have grown my son!