How to Think Big for your Life and Career – 5 lessons from Rudyard Kipling

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As I’ve turned my attention to Thinking Big for the next decade, I’ve encountered some interesting challenges.  Getting excited about the possibilities that lie ahead has seen me encounter some of my old friends – fear, anxiety and reality.  I’ve heard the little voices in my head popping up to try and persuade me “you can’t do that”, “don’t be ridiculous” or “that’s impossible”.  The fear of failure and the embarrassment that comes with it nearly stopped the Big Thinking in its tracks.  Luckily, I was drawn to the wise words of Rudyard Kipling in his poem, If.  Here are some key lessons:

1 If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubting too.

Kipling’s first lesson is to believe in yourself.  If you believe in your ability and your vision wholeheartedly, you’ll increase your chances of success.  It will help you to remain focused in your actions and to deal with the skepticism of others.  Starting with the mindset that everything is possible is a very powerful assumption for Thinking Big.  Kipling adds that it is understandable that others might doubt you, and not to dismiss them for that – however it is vital to trust yourself.   Building up our self-belief by taking action helps to lower our fear of failure.

2. If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, And treat those two impostors just the same;

Kipling’s famous line rings true for Thinking Big.  The path to realizing your goals may not always be smooth.  We all face kinks in the road, and days when everything seems to go wrong.  Kipling advises remaining calm and focused at these times.  The genius of this advice is to take the same approach when amazing triumphs occur.  Getting off the emotional rollercoaster ride is a key to staying focused and that helps us to achieve our goals.  We can only control our actions, not the results of how we act and this maxim reminds of us this.  If we give 100% and accept the results, fear of failure can start to fade away.

3. If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,?’ Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch;

Kipling reminds us to stay humble regardless of our trajectory and surroundings.  Thinking Big may lead to huge changes in our life as the journey progresses.  Kipling suggests staying true to ourselves and being authentic in our relationships to others.  His advice is not to keep our virtue and humility intact as we progress on life’s journey.  This reminder has helped me to manage my anxiety over Thinking Big.

4. If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;

Kipling hits on one of the keys to Thinking Big – the ability to dream without letting the dream take over.  A dream or vision can provide huge motivation and focus, yet life has a sense of humour and the unexpected is never far away.  A fixed dream can become a rod for our backs, or even worse blind us to the possibilities in a situation.  Kipling teaches us that we have to be focused, yet flexible in our approach to life.

5. Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

Kipling reminds us again that if we follow our dreams and retain our composure, then anything and everything is possible.  Thinking Big isn’t easy but If we can stay focused, act with humility, believe in ourselves and manage our expectations then amazing success is possible.

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Related posts:

  1. Thinking Big – The Story of the Orchard
  2. The Season of Thinking Big
  3. 4 Lessons from Innocent Smoothies
  4. Thinking Big? – Start Acting Big
  5. Sir Ranulph Fiennes – 6 lessons from an Extraordinary Adventurer


  1. Paulo Alves da Silva
    October 24, 2009 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    Phil, I really appreciate the message posted here (5 lesson). Do not stop being pro!!!

  2. March 22, 2010 at 12:20 am | Permalink

    Hello and thank you,
    I’ve just discovered your blog and as I prepare to start living my dream, this is just what I need.

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