Today is December 30 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you treat triumph and disaster the same?” People who navigate the chaos often spend a good deal of time working on their self-awareness. English Nobel laureate journalist, short-story writer, poet, and novelist Joseph Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem entitled “If” that highlights the defining characteristics of someone who maintains a high level of self-awareness.
Kipling wrote "If—" as a tribute to Leander Starr Jameson, a Scottish colonial politician, who was best known for his involvement in the ill-fated Jameson Raid. According to Kipling, "If—" was written in celebration of Jameson's personal qualities at overcoming the difficulties of the Raid, for which he largely took the blame. The poem is a literary example of Victorian-era stoicism. The poem, first published in Rewards and Fairies (1910), ch. 'Brother Square-Toes,' is written in the form of paternal advice to the poet's son, John.
“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.”
Kipling’s poem offers several paradoxes for us to consider in today’s reflection. Here are a few:
Can you remain calm while everyone around you panics?
Can you trust yourself when no one else does?
Can you dream yet not make dreams your master?
Can you think yet not make thoughts your aim?
Can you walk with Kings yet not lose the common touch?
These paradoxes help us understand the nuanced approach involved with navigating the chaos. As so often discussed in this series, those who navigate the chaos and translate one dream after another into reality understand the value, function, and place of nuance. If you can, for example, treat triumph and disaster the same, then your victories will never be too high and your losses too low.
Such a perspective allows you the opportunity to rethink how you navigate the chaos. Treating triumph and disaster the same provides you the ability to focus on the process as opposed to the outcome, the unfolding of life as opposed to some pre-determined held belief; and the ability to go from one dream to another without any loss of enthusiasm. Treating triumph and disaster the same teaches you the power of self-determination. As with any stimuli in life, the response is within your power.
Your ability to navigate the chaos over a lifetime is related to your ability to maintain forward progress regardless of a win or a loss. If you achieve one goal you start to translate the next one into reality. If you experience a setback you figure out a way forward. Either way, through victory or loss, success, or failure, you treat triumph and disaster the same and move forward.
How often do you treat triumph and disaster the same?