Today poetry is not a culturally prevalent or popular art form utilized to convey deep thought or the meaning of ideas. To be sure, there are contemporary poets, published works of poetry are available and the United States still recognizes a living “poet laureate”. However, for vast swaths of modern populations, poetry seems so prim, almost Victorian.

So what can the words of a bygone poet, or poem, offer modern product marketers, inventors, entrepreneurs and designers that would inspire and motivate their efforts? Plenty, if the poet was Rudyard Kipling and the poem is the still fresh and vividly crafted “If”.

When interviewing potential clients for my product development, and consumer product marketing consulting firm, I always gift them with a framed copy of the classic poem “If”. Whether they become clients of the firm or not, the lyrical verses of Kipling’s beautifully constructed poem provides aspiring entrepreneurs a wonderful map to follow as they struggle against great odds to achieve their goals. “If” is inspirational in its elegant simplicity and conveyance of a message of determination, reality and courage.

Rudyard Kipling and his prolific literary work were synonymous with the British Empire of the late 19th century and first third of the 20th century. Kipling was born in the Raj, British governed India in 1865. After a modest education in England, he returned to India as a teenager and commenced a life of travel, adventure, social commentary and writing. Working as a journalist, poet, short story writer and novelist, Kipling penned some of the most memorable, influential works of the time. He became the most widely read writer of his age and enjoyed great critical and commercial success.

Among the classics that Rudyard Kipling wrote, and which still enjoy popularity in contemporary culture were Gunga Din, Kim, The Jungle Book, Captains Courageous, and The Second Jungle Book. In 1907 Kipling became the first English speaking writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. He published “If” in 1896.

“If” was considered a British parable extolling the courage, stoicism and “stiff upper lip” that even to this day we associate with English virtue. Over the decades since its publication the poem has evolved to mean many different things to different audiences. For instance, the most famous tennis venue in the world, Wimbledon, displays a sign at the player’s entrance to center court proclaiming the following words from “If”: “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same”. In 1995 the BBC commissioned a British public opinion poll that decisively concluded that “If” was the most important British poll ever written.

For modern marketers, product designers, entrepreneurs, inventors, aspiring athletes and artists, and all those seeking to make a mark in any of life’s myriad endeavors, “If” bristles with elegantly simple, motivation, practical guidance and encouragement.

“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

Competitive people are risk takers. They know that success is not guaranteed and failure has a real chance of confronting them as they pursue their goals. But they are willing to take the risk, plunge ahead, and if failure occurs, they start again, and stoically continue their drive to overcome failure and life’s hurdles.

Each verse of “If” is written as if Kipling is speaking to us as individuals, trying to assure that though there will be bumps along the way, but “If” we keep our wits, have courage and passion, we can find our own personal path to our particular mountaintop. “If” is a poetic tutorial that can be a wonderful motivational tool for every person to include in their positive thought locker. Keep a copy handy and refer to it often.

Author's Bio: 

Geoff Ficke has been a serial entrepreneur for almost 50 years. As a small boy, earning his spending money doing odd jobs in the neighborhood, he learned the value of selling himself, offering service and value for money.

After putting himself through the University of Kentucky (B.A. Broadcast Journalism, 1969) and serving in the United States Marine Corp, Mr. Ficke commenced a career in the cosmetic industry. After rising to National Sales Manager for Vidal Sassoon Hair Care at age 28, he then launched a number of ventures, including Rubigo Cosmetics, Parfums Pierre Wulff Paris, Le Bain Couture and Fashion Fragrance.

Geoff Ficke and his consulting firm, Duquesa Marketing, Inc. ( has assisted businesses large and small, domestic and international, entrepreneurs, inventors and students in new product development, capital formation, licensing, marketing, sales and business plans and successful implementation of his customized strategies. He is a Senior Fellow at the Page Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, Business School, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.