“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same…” is a line inscribed above the entrance to Wimbledon’s Centre Court, for players see before they battle of the most coveted and prestigious tennis cup.
Indian Born Author and poet Rudyard Kipling, best known for his Novel “ The Jungle Book” is a part of every literature enthusiasts book self. I first came across his poem “ IF” in my first year of college. Like every young person who is on his first sojourns of philosophy and path of understanding the world and the people in it, I was much inspirited. I walked around with in my wallet and wrote a few lines from it on every gift gifted at the time.
It was only much later that I learnt the Interesting story and Inspiration behind the poem.
Kipling had been friends with Dr Leander Starr Jameson who led five-hundred of his countrymen in an unsuccessful raid against the Boers, in southern Africa. The failed ‘Jameson Raid’ was later considered a major factor in starting the Boer War (1899-1902).
Dr Jameson was a brave leader who had to withstand several challenges including betrayal from his peers and biting failure. He had been commissioned by Cecil Rhodes, then Prime Minister of the Cape Colony, to run the raid. This plan to start an uprising as a consequence of the raid, had been encouraged by British Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain, father of future Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain.
However when Chamberlain heard the raid was to be launched, he was unsure of its merits, panicked and changed his mind. He rallied up the high powers in London against the Raid. Chamberlain ordered the Governor General of the Cape Colony to condemn the ‘Jameson Raid’ and Rhodes for planning it. As a direct consequence of this, Jameson and his troops were attacked and captured even before they could enter Johannesburg. He lost several men of his men in this brutal attack and surrendered.
Jameson, although he had the blessings of the British Government to begin the raid, became the fall guy in the power play between Cape Town and British Government. He faced a brutal trial, yet kept his integrity and silence and never squealed on the extent of support he had from the British Government for the Raid. He was sentenced to 15 months in prison. Typical of his spirit, Jameson was not broken by his imprisonment. He decided to return to South Africa after his release and rose to become Prime Minister of the Cape Colony in 1904.
He was an inspirational leader with many qualities of integrity, fortitude and focus and determination Rudyard Kipling wrote the Poem as a tribute to the leader and from its 8 verses we can learn several qualities of a good leader.
“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same…” is inscribed above the entrance to Wimbledon’s Centre Court, which players see before the battle of the most prestigious tennis accolade. There is no such thing as “too many times” to read this poem. I suggest you read it and see how many of these attributes you possess and how many we can work on developing. For then one day you’ll be a man – my son!
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 a 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!