Saturday, April 28, 2012

A List of Traits That Lead to Success Every Time

Rudyard Kipling

I haven’t written in some time because of getting caught by various due dates that seemed to come one upon the other (I think if for no one but myself, I shall have to write a post on the psychological benefits of time management skills).  

There is much I could write about, however, I know once begun I shall continue long past dusk and with another deadline looming I can’t risk placing my attention elsewhere for too long -  I would most certainly ail Kipling’s last condition: If you can fill the unforgiving minute, With sixty seconds' worth of distance run”.  My distance run can meander with many stops along the way to appreciate what I’ve passed, as I assure myself there’s still plenty of time to complete the task at hand until there no longer is.

For some reason today this poem spoke to me and I hope some part of it will speak to you as well.  The world can be harsh at times and where I speak of coping skills, I think Kipling expects much more of us – he doesn’t seem to be providing techniques but instead absolutes for achieving what he seems to intimate is maturity.  

However,  upon reading each stanza and realizing he’s assuming achievement of each condition, I’m thinking he was more in line with suggesting having reached his own version of the top of Maslow’s pyramid:  Self Actualization (another topic for a later post).  Yet for Kipling, it seems all those character traits he mentions are necessary if one is to reach a state of maturity.  I must admit I find that quite off putting when assessing my own progress based on his list of fundamental characteristics.

If any readers out there have managed to fulfill the specifications of adulthood described by Kipling – or even just one or two please let me know.  I seem to struggle with each, at times feeling I have this one or that one down pat only to find a short while later from my emotional response to something that has occurred that perhaps I erred in that initial belief.

Read through once just for beauty of Kipling’s verse, then go through once more, slowly this time, and think about where you fall in regard to each stanza.  Any psychologist who has discovered how to help others reach the end having been successful at each step should win a Nobel Peace Prize.  But then again, any psychologist who can discover how they themselves can successfully reach the end may finally be worthy of the trust clients place in us when asking for our help.

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! 
─ Rudyard Kipling (30 December 1865 – 18 January 1936)


  1. The first two lines are the most memorable for me. Thanks for posting this, Natalie.

    1. I agree though depending on the mood I'm in and what's happening in my life at times others seem more applicable.

  2. When I was in ninth grade, our English teacher made us memorize the whole poem. I'm rereading this again for the first time. Much of it is familiar, and I too remember the first two lines the best, but also the last two. I remember thinking in ninth grade - is this just for boys?

    I know I fall far short of the goals. I think of all the "unforgiving minutes" that I have wasted! Thanks for the memory!

  3. A great poem and it truly would be a great person who could achieve all of this. Leading on from what Marge said, I wonder if Kipling would have written the same poem for a daughter.

  4. I guess I just always assumed it was for both genders like when you say postman it could be a woman- I haven't really heard anyone use post woman. But now I'm wondering while we'd say in this day and age it applies clearly to both whether that wasn't the case in Kipling's era. Perhaps women weren't expected to or perhaps deemed capable of managing all he mentions. Thanks to both of you for mentioning it.