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Why Rudyard Kipling’s “If” hangs in my office and what it can teach us about facing adversity.

Sometimes individuals with whom we think we have the least in common become our greatest teachers and dearest friends.

My last year in college, the gentleman who maintained my apartment building was an imposing man named Harold Stewart. Tall, strong and quick to share his opinion. Broken outlets, jammed doors, and leaking sinks were quickly resolved with one call to Harold.

The following year when I started a construction company, the first contractor I hired to help was a man I knew could do everything. Harold grew within the organization and eventually was responsible for not only his work, but ensuring the work of all other contractors was done well.

As much as he taught me about electricity or plumbing or hanging crown molding, Harold taught me far more about life. He taught me to give and not count the cost; to keep showing up and giving when others were in need; to not take friends for granted and to stay connected with them. Harold taught me to forgive those who offend, to see another person’s perspective and even to be open to liking rap and R&B music!

Recently Harold came out to my office to hang a poem he purchased for me. It was authored more than a century ago by the great English author, Rudyard Kipling.

After amassing profound wealth only to lose it, raising a daughter only to have her pass away of pneumonia, and receiving innumerable other blessings and significant challenges, it was Kipling’s encouragement for his son on what resilience, leadership and ultimately living well required.

My friend Harold shared it with me. I now pass it along to you. Please read it slowly and heed the advice.


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 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!

— Rudyard Kipling

My friends, hold on. Because the best this is yet to come.

This is your day. Live Inspired.

7 replies on “How to Live Well”

This poem and Desiderata are two of the most “common sense in a way that MAKES sense” poems ever written.
I have much of both memorized and use their text to put things in perspective.
Thanks for sharing John.

Thank you so much for this. I needed it today 🙂

My mom was one of your techs when you were in the burn unit at St John’s Hospital. She would bring you fresh bandages etc and just loved you and your family:))

I work at Roeslein and loved your talk a couple weeks ago. Thank you

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