The Power of “IF”

Posted In: Work/Life Balance
Posted On: 2/26/2018

I have been struggling recently with a concept I can only call the Drug of Success.  Whether it is college students I teach or entrepreneurs I counsel or peers I commiserate with or just me reflecting on me, it seems that the strong pull to be successful is all-encompassing and addictive.  And we are all focused on it.

I believe the allure of this drug is stronger than ever because we can easily see how successful everyone else is in our universe!  We immediately know who secured that great job, who sold their company for some amazing multiple, who won some award, who just got back from the to-die-for holiday.  And with all this easily recognized success of seemingly everyone else, many of us find ourselves to be lacking such accomplishments. The result is often to be in deep withdrawal and in need of a success fix!

Is there an antidote for this drug?

When I was a girl, my grandfather passed along a poem to me that I have found to be my antidote.  Written in 1895 by Rudyard Kipling, it is my “go to” for when I feel I am comparing myself too much to the success of others and am focusing too much on what that means for my success, or lack thereof. 

I had a chance to discuss this poem recently with a group of Watson University scholars and although there are a few dated references in the poem, the conversation that followed was so insightful that I do believe “If” stands the test of time.  And perhaps “If” will help you, as it helps me, overcome the desire to be overly focused on success.


by Rudyard Kipling

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!