The Winners (Rudyard Kipling)

This Monday morning, as the world heads back to work or study, I would like to share another of my favourite poems.

 

Collaboration, cooperation and teamwork are terms which we encounter many times each day, especially in the workplace. They all refer to the same thing, the sharing of knowledge and experiences with others in order to achieve shared goals and objectives. It does work, and the ability to work closely with others effectively is a valuable skill.

Kipling, however, raises in this poem the question as to whether collaboration is always necessary, or indeed the best option. He explains that whenever someone wants to accomplish something important, they have to decide whether it would be better to tackle the task with the aid of another, or to just trust in your own abilities and judgment. In warning that “He travels the fastest who travels alone” the poet explains that there is a potential downside to collaboration, as others can distract or impede progress to the point where the goal may never be achieved.

Simply put, the message is that if you have a goal which you believe you can reach alone, don’t wait for someone else, but go after it and reap the rewards of doing your best on your own terms.

 

What the moral? Who rides may read.
When the night is thick and the tracks are blind
A friend at a pinch is a friend, indeed,
But a fool to wait for the laggard behind.
Down to Gehenna or up to the Throne,
He travels the fastest who travels alone.

White hands cling to the tightened rein,
Slipping the spur from the booted heel,
Tenderest voices cry ” Turn again!”
Red lips tarnish the scabbarded steel,
High hopes faint on a warm hearth-stone–
He travels the fastest who travels alone.

One may fall but he falls by himself–
Falls by himself with himself to blame.
One may attain and to him is pelf–
Loot of the city in Gold or Fame.
Plunder of earth shall be all his own
Who travels the fastest and travels alone.

Wherefore the more ye be helpen-.en and stayed,
Stayed by a friend in the hour of toil,
Sing the heretical song I have made–
His be the labour and yours be the spoil.
Win by his aid and the aid disown–
He travels the fastest who travels alone!

 

I love this poem because it is different. Kipling depicts the other side to working closely with others, and highlights the uncomfortable truth that sometimes collaboration can impede progress. Instead, the poet suggests that we muster up the courage to take a leap of faith anyway, go it alone and work on our own terms.

Published in 1888 but still relevant today, the poet implores the reader that, if they want to accomplish something important, they have to carefully consider if they have the ability to complete it on their own, and whether it really is necessary to ask someone else for help?

Are you brave enough to go it alone?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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