How Do You Treat Triumph and Disaster?

With the start of Wimbledon yesterday, I wanted to share the poem, If, by Rudyard Kipling. I found out about this poem a few years ago while watching tennis.  The commentator mentioned that a portion of the poem is written on the wall of the players’ entrance to the Centre Court at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, where the Wimbledon Championships are held.

Thinking that maybe the poem would make me a better tennis player, I immediately looked up the full text.  What I read did much more than help my serve.  I found that this poem written over 100 years ago can still very much apply to our lives today.  I think this poem is very inspirational and a great way to look at life.  I hope you enjoy it.

If . . .

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!

by Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

I would like to point out the portion that is featured at Wimbledon, “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster / and treat those two impostors just the same.”  These lines help keep the match in perspective and remind the players that in the end, it is just a game.

Trying to keep a level head when times are great as well as when times are tough is a wonderful motto but it is not easy in real life.  I don’t know about you, but I have a very difficult time treating triumph and disaster the same. The joy that I feel in succeeding couldn’t be further from the pain I feel when failing.

Despite the difficulty to stay humble in victory and positive in adversity, it is something we should all strive for.  Keeping in mind Rudyard Kipling’s If may not make us better tennis players, but it can help make us better people.

For all you tennis fans, I have included a video below of Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal reading If.  Pretty good for two guys whose first language is not English!