Rudyard Kipling is one of the most prolific authors for men in the last 100 years. He is seen as controversial in many aspects, but the man can write. In 1910, he published my favorite poetic work, “If–“. In this poem, Kipling touches on several ways in which one may become a man. He writes as if he is addressing a young man, making it relatable to young men of his time. What makes it a classic is that it still resonates with young men today. Although Kipling provides several manly qualities, there are a few that seem to carry more weight in today’s world. So, what are a few steps to take that we can use to improve ourselves?
1. Confide In Confidence
Kipling spends the first stanza of the poem providing examples of a confident man. “If you can keep your head about you when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you”, “If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you”, “…being hated, not give way to hating…”. All of these are examples of a man who is sure of himself. Confidence is not something that people are born with, but something that is ascertained by repeated failure that leads to experience. Men who are placed into a situation in which they are not familiar are typically not confident. That’s just the fact of the matter. That’s why experience matters. Nobody wants to jump out of an airplane without having been trained on how to use a parachute. Anyone who would want to do that merges from confidence to morbid stupidity. A confident man goes places in life that an insecure man does not. Confident men instill trust in others. If a man cannot trust in himself, then why should anyone else? A man confides in his confidence.
2. Build A Wealth Of Character, Not A Character Of Wealth
“If you can make one heap of all your winnings, and risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss, and lose, and start again at your beginnings, and never breathe a word about your loss.” It’s pretty clear here what Kipling is saying. Sure, success is great, but could you stand to both risk it and lose it and come out of the situation unphased? That seems a radical opinion. Wealth comes in many forms. What if all of this wealth was suddenly removed? I think the less subtle message here is to not lean on what you have built up for yourself in such a way that it becomes the sole crutch that keeps you standing. Build yourself from your character up, and you will be wealthy no matter the circumstance.
3. Be Humble, Or Be Humbled
Kipling offers up examples of humility in every stanza. This leads me to believe that he values humility in a man, and I am in agreement. But what about confidence? Doesn’t confidence insinuate a lack of humility? No. The two are not mutually exclusive. A man can be both humble and confident. In a lot of ways, they can be both at the same time. When confronted, sometimes a man can be both confident and humble in remaining quiet and not responding. Humility and confidence are equal. They are both characteristics of highly influential men. When I say highly influential, I mean the right kind of highly influential. I don’t mean Hitler. I mean Jesus. Regardless of your religious beliefs, Jesus was an excellent example of a humble and confident man. Humble men appeal to the masses in that they are sensitive to the feelings of others. People like to make things about themselves, and when a man obliges that he appears more favorable. When conversing, focusing the conversation confidently back to yourself will portray you as self-centered. But I used confidence? You used it in the wrong way. Learning to humble yourself and be genuinely interested in what another person is saying about themselves is a delightful thing. Not only that, but it makes you appear delightful and respected. People want to feel important, and humility makes them feel just that.
Rudyard Kipling, being the successful man he was, gave an unsurpassed gift in the writing of this poem. He has given his ideas on what makes a man. In a world where men are left without much guidance, Kipling provides a work that points a young boy in the direction of becoming a young man. Of course, there are other ways in which a man can become successful and grow himself, but I only touched on three. Kipling has listed many more in his poem, “If–“. If you have yet to read it, I would encourage you to read it. I will provide a link. Read it and then read it again. You will constantly gain something new for each time you read. Remember, “Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, and–which is more–you’ll be a man my son!”