We talked before about Kipling’s poem “If,” which was written as advice for Kipling’s son, John. It’s a beautiful poem about toughness and virtue, honor and duty. But there is one line that doesn’t get as much attention, maybe because it’s a bit confusing:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run
What does that mean? Perhaps Kipling is talking about the importance of giving your all to something, physical or otherwise. There is an expression in sports about “playing through the whistle.” In boxing and martial arts, you punch through the opponent. In baseball, you swing through the ball. In running, they talk about running through the finish line as opposed to just running to it. It’s about completing the action. Going all the way. You know, giving a hundred percent…or maybe more.
This is an important lesson to teach our kids. We don’t stop at the finish line. We have to be able to fill the unforgiving minute. They have to be able to give their all to something.
Life is about bursts of courage and activity. Whether it’s at the track meet or studying for finals or struggling to get that couch up the stairs. These things require all of one’s effort, concentrated on a single task until it’s done or until the clock runs out.
And you can’t just talk to them about how this is important. You have to show them, too.