The Poem That Most Inspires Me

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For college graduation, my parents sent me the following poem by Rudyard Kipling.  I loved it then and have gone back to it often for inspiration.  I think most entrepreneurs will relate to the poem.


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!

Rudyard Kipling
Is there a better line anywhere than “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same”?  Love to read what has inspired you similarly!
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  • Yusuf

    Read this after a while. Thanks for sharing.

    Here’s one that keeps me going –
    Disclaimer: I wrote it, so.

  • Marina Martin

    I just tweeted a couple days ago that once bionic contact lenses are invented, I want “If” to project randomly on walls and ceilings. Great poem.

  • Jose Lugo Jr

    Since I was a young child and first learned to read; The following poem has been on my mother’s refrigerator. 33 years later it is still there and I refer to it often.

    When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
    When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
    When the funds are low and the debts are high,
    And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
    When care is pressing you down a bit,
    Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.

    Life is queer with its twists and turns,
    As every one of us sometimes learns,
    And many a failure turns about,
    When he might have won had he stuck it out;
    Don’t give up though the pace seems slow–
    You may succeed with another blow.

    Often the goal is nearer than,
    It seems to a faint and faltering man,
    Often the struggler has given up,
    When he might have captured the victor’s cup,
    And he learned too late when the night slipped down,
    How close he was to the golden crown.

    Success is failure turned inside out–
    The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
    And you never can tell how close you are,
    It may be near when it seems so far,
    So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit–
    It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

    - Author unknown

    • greggottesman

      Really like this one as well. Reminds me of “If” in a lot of ways.

  • Brier Champagne’s cheap news

    Great delivery. Outstanding arguments. Keep up the amazing work.

  • Judd Rosenblatt

    Similarly inspiring:

    A Psalm of Life by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

    TELL me not, in mournful numbers,
    Life is but an empty dream!—
    For the soul is dead that slumbers,
    And things are not what they seem.

    Life is real! Life is earnest! 5
    And the grave is not its goal;
    Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
    Was not spoken of the soul.

    Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
    Is our destined end or way; 10
    But to act, that each to-morrow
    Find us farther than to-day.

    Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
    And our hearts, though stout and brave,
    Still, like muffled drums, are beating 15
    Funeral marches to the grave.

    In the world’s broad field of battle,
    In the bivouac of Life,
    Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
    Be a hero in the strife! 20

    Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
    Let the dead Past bury its dead!
    Act,—act in the living Present!
    Heart within, and God o’erhead!

    Lives of great men all remind us 25
    We can make our lives sublime,
    And, departing, leave behind us
    Footprints on the sands of time;

    Footprints, that perhaps another,
    Sailing o’er life’s solemn main, 30
    A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
    Seeing, shall take heart again.

    Let us, then, be up and doing,
    With a heart for any fate;
    Still achieving, still pursuing, 35
    Learn to labor and to wait

  • Rachel Maxwell

    An old fashioned one that inspires our team:

    It Couldn’t Be Done
    By Edgar A. Guest

    Somebody said that it couldn’t be done,
    But he with a chuckle replied
    That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one
    Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.
    So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
    On his face. If he worried he hid it.
    He started to sing as he tackled the thing
    That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

    Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that;
    At least no one ever has done it”;
    But he took off his coat and he took off his hat,
    And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.
    With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
    Without any doubting or quiddit,
    He started to sing as he tackled the thing
    That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

    There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
    There are thousands to prophesy failure;
    There are thousands to point out to you, one by one,
    The dangers that wait to assail you.
    But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
    Just take off your coat and go to it;
    Just start to sing as you tackle the thing
    That “cannot be done,” and you’ll do it.

  • Umesh Dhond

    A very good one. Was introduced to it by my high school English teacher – and I’d kept it posted through my graduate school years. Helped me finish my dissertation.