If— Questions and Answers
by Rudyard Kipling

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What is Kipling's final advice to his listener in "If—"?

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"If" is a poem that is a summative list of ways that the speaker's son can achieve manhood. The poem is full of sound advice for anyone looking for ways to grow and become a stronger person. The final bit of advice is not the singular path to manhood (or living one's best life); rather, the poem must be taken in its totality. For example, the speaker provides advice such as the following:

  • Trust yourself even when others don't—but do consider why they doubt you.
  • Don't hate people just because they hate you.
  • Don't lie about people just because they lie about you.
  • Dream, but don't become a slave to your dreams.
  • When life doesn't turn out the way you planned, work hard with your "worn out tools" to create a new path.
  • When you find yourself at a height of popularity, remember your virtue.

The final bit of advice is this:

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run
The speaker encourages his listener to squeeze every last second out of each minute; give each minute your best effort. Again, this final bit of advice isn't the ultimate key to manhood but should be taken within the context of the entire poem as the final piece of achieving a better self.

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