The newer isn’t always better

I’m prone to googling subjects I have little clue about or when I am, just in general, confused. During one of these instances, I stumbled upon a great piece of poetry by Rudyard Kipling from 1910 which instantly reminded me of a more classical piece by the King Stephen, the first king of Hungary, the ‘Admonitions to Emeric‘, from 1027.

Kipling’s ‘If—‘ is an accurate example of the British “stiff upper lip” way of living, something very common to the people of the Victorian era. A way that has recently been criticised by the Prince of Wales due to its effect on mental health. I share these views, but if we discount this as cultural influence, we find gems between the lines. Similarly, I would discount the catholic influence from Stephen’s Admonitions however significant it is from his perspective, being a first Catholic king to his country. Both of these pieces address a male offspring from a first person point of view, either at the beginning or the end. I urge you to disregard this gender bias as well, as I assume both authors would be more inclusive and less sexist in a modern cultural environment.

Although the Admonitions are guidelines drafted to establish the Catholic church and to secure its future, it continues with listing the virtues of the future leader, to a prince that never became king. These virtues are moderation, patience, humility, tolerance to foreigners, heeding good advice, and mercyWe can also identify the traits that are unwanted: idleness, indolence, neglect, immoderation.

King Stephen’s signature on the establishing charter of Tihany Abbey – © Róbert Fodor, 2017

In a very different era, some of Kipling’s advice translated to a corporate environment are:

  • to keep your calm (If you can keep your head when all about you \ Are losing theirs and blaming it on you)
  • to trust yourself (If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you)
  • to hear others out (But make allowance for their doubting too)
  • to be patient (If you can wait and not be tired by waiting)
  • to tolerate being misinterpreted (If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken \ Twisted…)
  • to stand up after a lost fight  (Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, \ And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:)
  • to be resilient (verse 3, lines 5-8)
  • to stay humble as a leader (Or walk with Kings–nor lose the common touch)
  • to be there for others but, again, in moderation (If all men count with you, but none too much)

Yet with every piece of literature, there are things that can be highly arguable, depending on the reader: there are some lines that do not resonate with me. But I’m not here to write about those.

It must be noted that these two are randomly selected texts born 900 years apart. What is common in both, is that they talk about values when passing on advise to the next generation. This cross-generational knowledge sharing in these texts aren’t very explicit. They don’t share some explicit techniques you can find in a Forbes article, they focus on the bigger picture. Things that may serve you well in life, not only at work. Something like a universal recipe.

So here comes my point: you have an internet full of tips, tricks and techniques. Some good, some bad, cheap, and useful. There is contemporary literature on business and management, on self-help in bookstores. Yet sometimes the catharsis might just elude you. Sometimes, maybe what you need is a bit of old literature about values. You can disregard old-fashioned cultural influences that are not acceptable or relevant at this age. You can identify elements that are timeless: to listen to advice, to be patient, and moderate.

So in the future besides reading current bestsellers on self-help and management, I will just open up an old classic in the hope to find some gems, some timeless learnings.


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