If Rudyard Kipling Was a Startup CEO: A Poem Rewritten

Rudyard Kipling’s “If” is one of my favorite poems about what it takes to be a realized human being. So naturally, I’m going to be the one to parody it (lovingly) by imagining how it might read if dear old Rudyard was a startup CEO.
I think it works.
If you can keep your mission when all about you
    Pivot from theirs and blame it on the users,
If you can raise brand awareness when the media doesn’t cover you,
    But make allowance for their coverage too;
If you can design for customers and not be tired by ignorance,
    Or facing complaints, not deal in excuses,
Or being trolled, not give way to trolling,
    And yet not look too square, nor use too many business school platitudes:
If you can raise—and not make VCs your master;
    If you can sell —and not make short-term profits your aim;
If you can meet with hiring and layoffs
    And treat those two disasters just the same;
If you can bear to see the products you’ve made
    Redesigned to create a questionably better user experience,
Or watch the things you gave your years to broken,
    And then under-sold or over-marketed:
If you can operate two years with all your runway
    And risk it on one potential product-market fit
And fail, and start again at your beginnings
    And never write a Medium.com post about your failure;
If you can get your will and mind and creativity
    To serve your turn long after the Red Bull is gone,
And so ship code when there is no code in you
    Except the Muse which says to you: ‘Just freaking ship it!’
If you can talk with users and keep your independence,
    Or work with CEOs—nor lose the user’s mindset,
If neither competitors nor customers can hurt you,
    If employees count on you, but none too much;
If you can face the product launch
    And give some long days-worth of meetings held,
Yours is the business world and everything that’s in it,
    And—which is more—you’ll be a CEO, my son!

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James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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