Words matter greatly. They change life. They change the course of history.

My mother is a poet. She is a psychologist and that is what she would answer if asked, but truly, in her soul, she is an artist. She explains life in prose. All of her children are writers, too. My sister wrote a wonderful book. My brother has drafted words to explain the intricacies of the systems of aircraft and electronics. I have hammered out technical discussion on methods and means of construction.

When I was a small boy, above my crib, my brother and my bunk beds, and now over my desk, hangs a poem. It is not one of mothers great poems, it is a very simple poem written by Rudyard Kipling. Wikipedia describes it thus:

“If—” is a poem by British Nobel laureate Rudyard Kipling, written in 1895 and first published in Rewards and Fairies, 1910. It is a tribute to Leander Starr Jameson…….Rudyard Kipling wrote the poem If  with Leander Starr Jameson in mind as an inspiration for the characteristics he recommended young people to live by (notably Kipling’s son, to whom the poem is addressed in the last lines)

It is stoic in its nature. It compels one to strength of character and  self reliance. It is a worthy piece of literature for a young man to refer to as age takes a grip on him. I have read it many times through life and have looked up at it in times of trouble. The simple words of this piece contain all of the strength that is necessary for a man to excel in political endeavors, in business, and in life.


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.

If you are moved by these words, clip this out and hang it on the wall above your desk and, in trying times, read it.

Scott Cahill

Author: Scott Cahill

Political blogger, construction expert, writer, public speaker, expert witness, sailor, and pilot

One thought on “If”

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