Today’s short post is simply a poem: If… by Rudyard Kipling.

This poem sits framed on my desk at work. It was given to me by someone I respect upon receiving the rank of Eagle Scout. I find it encouraging – it paints a wonderful vision of what I aim to be in life: virtuous, determined, fair, kind, loving.

How does this apply to FIRE? Well, I think it just applies to life. We will all encounter difficulties throughout life – how we deal with them defines who we are. Will I accept failure gracefully rather than dwelling on my mistakes? Will I accept success humbly rather than gloating? Will I treat all people fairly? I hope so.

Financial independence and early retirement, while simple in execution, requires determination, planning, and focus. Not everything will go the way you want it to, but don’t let that sway you from your path.

The title itself says so much, too. You can be everything you want and respect in the world, “if” you can master a few simple habits. You can reach FIRE, “if” you limit your spending, invest, and change your focus from things to experiences.

While it is written as if speaking to a man, none of the qualities described are limited to men. I prefer to read it from the perspective that “man” refers to the antiquated term for “human” or “mankind.” Please feel free to replace “man” and “son” with the term or gender of your choice!

If… 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 imposters 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!

3 thoughts on “If.

  • September 22, 2017 at 11:12 am

    Hey Dylan, congrats on reaching Eagle Scout! I know that’s no easy fete. I never got past Cub Scouts, and I think my path might’ve been easier had I stuck with it. You learn a lot about “being prepared” and then some.
    The poem is a nice touch. We need more poetry in this personal finance space dominated by calculations and figures.

    • September 22, 2017 at 1:23 pm

      Thanks Cubert! It helped to have all my best friends (7 of us) there with me. We have been friends since 1st or 2nd grade, and we still are today. It also instilled in me a love for the outdoors. I feel like this poem sums up what I learned from it pretty well. The organization has its downsides, but the people you’re with makes all the difference.

  • September 24, 2017 at 4:24 pm

    Thanks for sharing. I had not seen this before, and it makes you think and puts things in perspective.


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