It seems the year is off to a big start, with a lot happening across the planet—economically, geopolitically, socially—across the board it seems change is happening fast. If you're feeling the (metaphorical) heat, you're not alone.
Some I know are choosing to focus and put their eyes on what's in front of them, while others are busy trying to track what's happening and understand the turn of events that we're going through collectively.
Neither option (nor something in between) is better than the other. Be where you need to be.
Personally, this week I've been navigating a strange mix of ramping up from the holidays as well as hibernating, given the fierce cold snap we've been having here in Amsterdam. When I was reflecting on what felt important to write about this week, I was inspired to dig out some older more traditional wisdom.
The question I'll start with is this: could it be that a poem written in 1895 offers us a remedy to many of the challenges faced in 2024?
Perhaps best known for his brilliant and much loved children's story The Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling's poem If— was published in a 1910 collection of short stories and poems called Rewards and Fairies.
It smells a little of the dusty Victorian era, exudes vibes of stoicism and is reflective of the 'stiff upper lip' still characterising English culture today, especially when venturing beyond the cities. But, at least from where I stand, that doesn't mean it has lost its relevance. I read this work as a lesson in morality, touching on themes of personal responsibility, humility, resilience, self-discipline, and integrity.
Do those ever go out of fashion?
I invite you to read this a couple of times over, and take a moment to reflect:
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!
So, what do you think? Does If— offer a useful code to a good life in 2024, almost 130 years after it was written? If so, why?
And what, if anything, does it tell us about what we may have forgotten in the last century?
I have quite some ideas of my own. But this week, I am handing the analysis over to you.
Maybe there is just one line which jumps out for you, one idea to take forward into your week.
Whatever your personal interpretation, may you also read this as a reminder of the importance of cultivating a mindset that supports you in maximising both your personal power and faith, irrespective of the specific life circumstances surrounding you. And perhaps a little less obvious, that sometimes staying true to yourself means taking yourself a little less seriously...!
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