Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Kipling's desk and a throwback lesson for facing the public

Squint toward the bottom right of this desk, next to the globe on the floor. You'll see a wastebasket loaded with papers, representing the crumpled up and discarded first drafts of Rudyard Kipling's writings. This is his desk and study at Batemans, his home in Sussex, England. If you think your writing is crap, so did this master storyteller...he wrote, tossed out entire drafts, and wrote again, all by hand.

Here, he wrote many classics, including the poem If. I'm pretty sure you've read it at a much earlier age and perhaps dismiss it as sentimently. Yet this poem can be a touchstone for communications pros, so often with their feet to the fire and questioning themselves. The poem also is good advice to give your public-facing spokesperson or principal. Kipling as early media trainer or speaker coach? The poem calls on you to be non-anxious, humble, non-reactive--advice needed even today. Read it again with that in mind:
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!
My friend and fellow speaker coach Peter Botting surprised me with a visit to Batemans on my last trip to England, perfect for two people who work with storytellers and media interview subjects. We left wishing we could occupy this cozy office, lined with books and treasures from Kipling's travels and with an enviable view of the English countryside, perfect for the occasional daydream. I'm so glad to have added it to my collection of visits to authors' homes, and to have the extra inspiration for my next media training.

(Creative Commons licensed photo of Kipling's writing desk at Batemans by Steve James)

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