7 things working professionals can learn from Kipling’s poem, If

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We live in a time where it takes a lot to stay driven when situations start bearing down on us. This happens to be a real issue in work environments. Quoting a study by the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations, the Business Standard stated in an article, “India’s rapid economic expansion has boosted corporate profits and employee incomes, but has also sparked a surge in workplace stress and lifestyle diseases that few Indian companies have addressed.” It is important that we find ways to overcome our preconceptions and stay driven to remain productive as working professionals.

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In 1895, the Nobel Laureate and author of the famous children’s book, The Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling, wrote a phenomenal poem called If. Kipling wrote it out of his life experiences, which were filled with its fair share of tragedies and misfortune.

The poem, claimed to be written to his son, explodes with positivity for personal growth in tough times. In fact, the motivation that emanates from the poem is based on the British ‘stiff upper lip’ approach to life. Even after more than a century, Kipling’s message is relevant to anyone dealing with a lack of motivation in life. Here’s a list of things to keep you driven based on insights from Kipling’s poem If.

Keep your head

“If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you”

The one thing we usually forget to do is calm ourselves when we’re in difficult situations. By “keeping your head”, as Kipling puts it, you can resolve a situation with more clarity and ability despite your panic. Remember, you can always learn from difficult situations.

Trust yourself

“If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too”

Something that most people suffer from is trusting in their own abilities. Self-confidence doesn’t come easily to everyone; it is therefore a matter of learning to trust yourself. At the same time, make room for improvement, take criticism constructively, and learn from your mistakes. Always find ways to explore your abilities despite your inhibitions. This attitude can help you turn yourself inside out and figure out ways to contribute.


“Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:”

It would be naive to not expect loss or failure in the course of your endeavours. A common saying thrown around these days is that if you hit rock bottom, the only way out is up, and this holds true. Kipling advises you to build from what has been broken without losing hope. The key is to persevere and never give up.


“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;”

Most times, following your dreams involves venturing out into unchartered territory. It would mean dealing with things that don’t show you a determined outcome unless you give it a try. These things could bode well for you, and for all you know, the odds might be in your favour. It requires practising a fair level of positivity to take risks. Subsequently, you will learn from your experiences and find better ways to work around these risks.

Keep your virtue

“If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,”

Be honest to yourself and in what you do. Without integrity and character, we can never achieve our true potential. Kipling also advises us to stay humble in all that we do and “never breathe a word about your loss.” He also mentions that it is best not to deal in lies and give way to hate. You can always be motivated when you give importance to your virtues. Finally, Kipling mentions that you hold true to your virtues if you maintain them in all situations and with all people.


“If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;”

A great piece of advice anyone can give you is to follow your dreams. But few realise that this is a huge responsibility. It involves starting from scratch, making sacrifices and working diligently towards achieving your goals. So, set your goals and relentlessly find ways to materialise them. But sometimes, we can lose ourselves in them. Kipling, staying a step ahead of this common piece of wisdom, also warns us that there are consequences if we don’t know where to draw the line in such a pursuit.

Hold on

“And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

Never give up or give in. Kipling urges us to push ourselves with all that we’ve got, not sparing anything, in everything we do. Sometimes, we’re cornered and left without a choice, but it’s best to stay patient and continue working towards our goals. Always remember to be patient and wait out the storm before making drastic decisions.

Has this poem influenced your life in any way? Do let us know in the comments below!


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