I remember several occasions where my dad showed me how to keep a calm head despite the chaos. As a young teenager, I foolishly played football not long after recovering from a broken arm. After a tackle on the wet grass, I fell and smashed my arm up terribly. It was so much pain that I could hardly manage a tear.
I asked for my dad, rather than mom, to come to pick me up from the school. He arrived swiftly and very calmly transported me to the car. He asked no questions, made no fuss, but just uttered a few words of reassurance. Exactly what I needed.
Going back to another memory, one in which we were on holiday as a family. One afternoon, we were all hanging out in the clubhouse of the resort. My dad and I were playing pool. Of course, he would let me sink a couple balls, and have those temporary rushes of excitement, before winning the game himself.
Not far from a table a group of young men, probably on a summer vacation from college, challenged my dad to a game.
Being a good sport, he humbly accepted. Very little about his composure or attitude changed in the game, as he played with the same friendliness and enjoyment he had with me. It didn’t take very long for him to bet the boys and deflect any sort of ego rush they were hoping for. Thereafter, he went back to playing with me, without having any sort of boastfulness or bother in his step.
To see a man, especially one you value with your entire being, be able to overcome something even as trivial as a game of pool in that manner, is motivation to do the same one day.
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!
– Rudyard Kipling
A poem best swallowed with a strong sip of coffee early on a Monday morning to remind you what it means to be a man. It’s a firm reminder of not to lean too much to either side of each extreme as you try to keep your balance whilst going through life as a man.