Recently, I noticed a Tweet from someone asking for good advice for a 17 year-old. It made me think of a poem that I first heard when I was about 17.
The CEO of a large company was speaking to a group that I was associated with and ended with the poem. I nudged my way to the stage after his talk and told him how much it resonated with me. He asked for my address and, about a week later, a framed copy arrived at my home. I still have it prominently displayed in my house.
Man in the Glass
– Peter Dale Wimbrow:
When you get what you want in your struggle for self
And the world makes you king for a day
Just go to the mirror and look at yourself
And see what that man has to say.
For it isn’t your father, or mother, or wife
Whose judgment upon you must pass
The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the one staring back from the glass.
He’s the fellow to please – never mind all the rest
For he’s with you, clear to the end
And you’ve passed your most difficult, dangerous test
If the man in the glass is your friend.
You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years
And get pats on the back as you pass
But your final reward will be heartache and tears
If you’ve cheated the man in the glass.
To me, it is a powerful reminder that, regardless of what the rules say or social norms might suggest, inside we know what’s right and fair.
We should not stand by.
We should instead constantly ask this question:
Are we proud of ourselves when we look in the mirror?
My original post on this ran on IRIS in 2016. To see the full post, which includes a powerful, and I think related, Nobel Prize acceptance speech, click here.