The If Project: Week Eight

The If Project takes the text of Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If” and breaks it down into digestible chunks of wisdom. Each week, we’ll take a few lines of the poem and focus on the life lessons and behaviors Kipling puts forth as empowering.

This is a mindfulness practice, which will help you consciously build better behavioral habits pertaining to interpersonal interactions and other areas of your life.

For reference, the entire poem is included at the bottom of this post.


The lines for week eight are:

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.”

Today, we need the heroic mindset more than ever! In an age of digital groupthink, where we find echo chambers in which to dwell (and with social media showing us only what we seek by eliminating opposing ideas from our feeds), we need to be able to bridge the artificial divides that are growing ever wider between us and our fellow human beings.

The heroic mindset can help shield you from being drawn into divisive ideologies that depend on seeing others as less than you. An everyday hero is someone who rises above the petty squabbles that arise from crowd mentalities, cutting through the noise to remember our shared human experience, and giving people the mutual respect they deserve. You can lead by example and show others how to escape the trap of intolerance rhetoric (i.e. talk with crowds and keep an open mind about the origins of their ideas, but in the process maintain the virtue of dignity for all).

The heroic mindset can also help avoid falling under the spell of power, allowing us to speak with “kings” and not lose sight of the common humanity shared with people from all social and economic circles. We can also use it to remember the dangers of becoming demagogues, where we seek to coerce people to follow us blindly. An everyday hero encourages people to flex their free will and cultivate a healthy dose of doubt.

Also, the heroic mindset can provide us with a strong sense of self that isn’t egotistical. We can be confident in ourselves and our abilities, and emotionally self-sufficient with an open perspective on how life can make even our friends hurt us unintentionally from time to time. If we accept that life is complex and can lead to misadventures, we can give others the benefit of the doubt, while being simultaneously strong enough to rise above those who seek to harm us (intentionally or not).

In all, an open-minded, tolerant life is not an easy path to follow, but luckily we have timeless tales of heroism to remind us that such a life is the most fulfilling and rewarding in the long-term.


Please be sure to leave comments to share your experiences during this “applied humanities” project, and tell others about this series! Remember: this series is part of my effort to spread the word about applied humanities, which involves the active use of literature and other art forms to practically and positively influence everyday behavior. Ultimately, the humanities can be consumed passively or actively, but either way they can remind us what it means to be human, as well as everyday heroes.

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 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!


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Author: Anthony Simeone

I'm a writer, speaker, and an advocate for everyday heroism. I have over two decades of experience in the practical application of literature, philosophy, psychology, and other disciplines. The culmination of my work is the Live the Hero program, a life philosophy that promotes personal development combined with service to others. Live the Hero combines the wisdom found in the arts and humanities with the latest discoveries related to research in heroism science and positive psychology. You can learn more at

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