If You Seek Success, Study Rudyard Kipling

The last couple of weeks, on Saturday I riffed off of Rudyard Kipling’s monumental poem, “If.” It was in the context of pushing through tough times, muddling through because that’s sometimes all you can do. I posted the entire poem here, and as I was doing so, I gave it a good, slow reread.

As I did so I realized that everything in that poem can be broken out into a post on the topic of success. Don’t believe me? Let’s give it a try.

First, understand the structure of this poem is in couplets, each pair of lines provides one distinct thought. So, here’s the first couplet:

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

Are you in business for yourself? Ever had a customer screaming in your face about his problem, and how it’s all your fault? Every had a supplier royally screw the pooch, and yet somehow he saw it as your fault?

You have a job? Ever have a boss who knew just how to get in front of success, but when failure appeared somehow was nowhere to be found, and you were left holding the bag?

Are you the boss? Your people have a deadline approaching and there’s no chance they’ll complete the task. Everyone is panicking, looking for a scapegoat and doing no work, pointing fingers and accepting no responsibility, and all eyes, both above and below, are looking right at you.

Navigating these types of crises is the very definition of success, and what is the key question?

Can you keep it together, focus on the problem and come up with a solution, the only thing anyone else is doing is running around in CYA mode?

If the answer to that question is “Yes,” then, man or not, what you are is a success.

Or, just for fun, let’s bring it a little closer to home.

What if you’re on a four month streak. Suppose you’ve written and published something every day for four straight months, developing your skills:

  • Coming up with ideas
  • Writing them quickly and efficiently
  • Editing them quickly and efficiently
  • Creating a posting regimen
  • Just showing up and doing it

Then suppose that you’re 100 miles from home, on the way to the family cottage for a weekend with the kids, when you realize, you’ve forgotten your laptop with all your…well, everything. Seriously, without that bag of computer bits and pieces you literally Can Not Post.

Do you panic? No.

Do you beat yourself up for breaking the streak? No.

Do you get down on yourself and let the thin edge of failure creep into your work? Oh, Hell no.

Instead, you accept that, while you cannot post on Saturday, you can certainly dictate your column idea into your iPhone, to be transcribed when you get back on Sunday night.

In other words, be a man about it, keep your head, and find a solution that, while it violates the letter of the law in keeping the streak, allows you to maintain the spirit of it. You didn’t post, but you created, and the posting will come the next day.

That, my friends is the story of how I double posted today, because I literally could not post my normal Saturday essay.

That is success.