If – A Blueprint for Personal Integrity and Self Development

“If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same”

These famous words by the Briton Rudyard Kipling grace the entry way above the players’ entrance to Wimbledon’s Centre Court. They are from his famous poem “if,” which is featured in the following promotional video to the 2008 Gentlemen’s final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Mr. Kipling’s (1865-1936) poem first appeared in his collection ‘Rewards and Fairies’ in 1909. It is a blueprint for personal integrity and self development, explaining that becoming a man (or better person) doesn’t take place through a single event, but through acquiring attributes over a lifetime of events. As Alan Chapman notes, “It is perhaps even more relevant today than when Kipling wrote it, as an ethos and a personal philosophy.”

The poem’s full text is below:

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 imposters 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 wornout 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!

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