Over the players entrance to Wimbledon’s Centre Court is a line from Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If.” Before champions and challengers walk onto the most famous tennis court in the world they are met with these words. “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same.”
Who would have thought that one year ago Rafael Nadal would be the champion of this year’s tournament at the all England Club? But yesterday he completed the improbable comeback from a year of disaster.
Injury and the divorce of his parents had threatened to derail his promising career, but the Spanish phenom refused to allow that to happen. Through relentless perseverance he showed integrity in stewarding his giftedness as a tennis player.
Kipling’s words helped him along the way. They reminded Rafael that victory is never as good as it seems and defeat is never as bad. Both victory and disaster are impostors. What matters most is being true to who you are.
Nadal is back on top. It will not last though. Someday soon his fame will fade. In that moment the questions that will be most important to him will be, “Was I true to who I am? Did I live with integrity regardless of my circumstances?”
Those are the biggest questions for all leaders. For they are the ones that determine our level of influence.
If things are going great for you right now, may your triumphs remind you to be humble. And if things are rocky, even disastrous, may you stay hopeful.
Triumph and disaster are impostors. Truth is not. Win the battle of “if” and you will win the war for your life.
by Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)
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 all on one turn of pitch-and-toss, and lose, and start again at your beginnings and never breath 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!