Triumph and disaster – nothing lasts for long


I walked down a road called Grand Drive in Morden today and stopped outside a tennis academy, which had a quote from Rudyard Kipling’s If printed on a large, Wimbledon branded, hoarding:

“If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same.”

Rudyard Kipling

I’ve read If before and like the bit about not losing your head when all around you are losing theirs (and blaming it on you.) Dad quotes that to me occasionally. Working in a Higher Education setting, it’s good advice. But the bit about triumph and disaster hadn’t caught my attention.

It’s interesting that the All England Club Community Sports Ground chose to put this quote in a prominent place (visible from the entrance of the ground). I caught the attention of a security guard in a hut by walking up to the gate so I could take a picture of it.)

“It’s ok!” I reassured the guard, “I’m not coming in, I just want to take a picture of that quote.” He smiled at me in a slightly pitying way and went back to his paper.

But the quote made me think. Often, I hear giddy sports journalists bouncing up to cricketers and trying to get them to display a bit of emotion after a particularly spectacular win, or defeat (mostly win these days, amazingly.) “How did that feel?” they implore, hoping the triumphant captain will drop the veil of grace and humility and admit that they enjoyed smashing all hell out of New Zealand just a little bit.

They absolutely refuse to comply. Presumably, media training these days recommends that an astonishing victory or defeat should not lead to a change in behaviour. Why? Because of the knock on effect on team mates and our own confidence. Melancholy, or complacency, sets in, and performance is negatively affected. Much better then to treat the latest result as a fleeting occurrence, and to get back to the nets.

Tennis stars are much the same. Andy Murray used to come in for a drubbing by the satirical Radio 4 show, Dead Ringers, which used to poke fun at his monotonous responses to any and all questions from journalists. But whatever you think about Andy Murray as a person or a player, the approach is spot on. Whether we win or lose, we should disengage from the result, and get back to practice.

The I Ching agrees. When we look at hexagrams such as 63: After Completion, it counsels to avoid any kind of unbalancing thoughts that might disturb our dignity or independence (Anthony, 1988). The I Ching may be a bit ‘woo’ for many Walk the Pod readers, but my position on things like tarot or tao is that if the guidance is sound, and written by a wise person whose values I agree with, then it doesn’t matter whether cards, tea leaves or the shape of an ink blot was the origin.

I don’t believe that anything supernatural is going on, but I like to believe that in a world where we can occasionally see all of science overturned by a new theory, it’s possible that human intuition taps into something more profound and scientific that we don’t yet understand.

The ancient Persian saying, ‘this too shall pass’ is popular for just the same reason. The good, as well as the bad, shall pass, and this phrase reminds us to take it one day (one hour, or one minute) at a time when things are bad, and to enjoy every moment when things are good. Because nothing lasts for long.


Anthony, C.K., (1988) A Guide to the I Ching. 3rd edn. Massachusetts: Anthony Publishing Co.

Counting our blessings


“Do not dream of possession of what you do not have: rather reflect on the greatest blessings in what you do have, and on their account remind yourself how much they would have been missed if they were not there.

“But at the same time you must be careful not to let your pleasure in them habituate you to dependency, to avoid distress if they are sometimes absent.”

– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 7, Chapter 27

In this passage, Marcus Aurelius, the renowned Stoic philosopher, Roman emperor, and star of What Would Marcus Do, a much loved segment of Walk the Pod episodes of the past, highlights the importance of acknowledging and appreciating the abundance present in our lives.

It’s all too easy to become fixated on what we lack, and to believe that our happiness and fulfilment depends on obtaining these things. The reality is that once we get to our chosen rainbow uplands, we spot another rainbow upland! Just over the horizon with an extra unicorn!

And immediately, we adjust our happiness downwards to accommodate the JOY we will feel when we reach this new and shiny destination.

But Marcus reminds us that by taking stock of the blessings we already have and cultivating gratitude for them, we can come to appreciate the richness of our lives and find contentment in the present moment.

Perhaps we should scan the horizon only for genuine threat rather than opportunities, and instead pay attention to what’s directly in front of us.

This idea of inner independence is a central tenet in Taoist philosophy, as exemplified in the ancient Chinese text, the I Ching.

I Ching says that true fulfillment comes from within, and encourages detachment from the frustrations of life, alongside the cultivation of inner independence in order to find peace and contentment regardless of external circumstances.

As I explained in today’s episode, I don’t mind if my daily reminders of how to be a happy human in the world are based on a system that taps into the supernatural, IF the advice behind the tarot card, hexagram or tea leaves is sound.

I see these systems, rituals or games more like a trusted friend whose advice I can take or leave. An alternative way of looking at it is as a way to randomise snippets of good advice on subjects that I need reminding of regularly. Such as, for example, not to try to get too much out of a situation, to detach and remember not to strive too much for success.

Simply choose a sound direction, then keep turning up, doing the good work, fighting the good fight and be prepared to seize the moment when those fleeting opportunities come along. And crucially, be prepared to change course when needed, no matter the upheaval required to do so.

Both Stoicism and Taoism advocate for embracing abundance as a means of cultivating inner independence. This is not to say that we should ignore or downplay our struggles, but rather that we should recognise and be grateful for the myriad blessings in our lives, rather than fixating on what we lack.

By following this approach, we can learn to find fulfillment and contentment in the present moment, regardless of external circumstances.

So, how do we go about counting our blessings and cultivating gratitude? Here are a few ideas:

– Take part in GratiTuesday: Take some time once a week to write down a few things you’re grateful for, or voicenote a friend with your GratiTuesday thoughts. These can be as simple as noticing a beautiful sunset, a warm meal, or a good, tipsy laugh with a friend at the end of a long week. Reflecting on these things can help shift the focus to everything that’s provided a little light.

“No matter how vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.”

– Stanley Kubrick

– Practice mindfulness: Pay attention to the present moment and all the good things that are happening. Take a few minutes each day to simply be present and notice the beauty and blessings in your life. Ignore, just for a moment, the cereal strewn around the place or the clothes that have been piling up all week. When the news is bad, look for the helpers, and try to help them.

– Show gratitude: Expressing gratitude to others can not only make them feel good, but it can also help us appreciate the good things in life. Take the time to write a thank-you note, say thank you in person or rugby tackle them to the ground to cover their upturned face with a thousand kisses, if you have consent to do that kind of thing.

– Give back: Helping others can also help us appreciate what we have. Consider volunteering or donating to charity. This series, I’m encouraging everyone to download trundl, the walking app that converts your kms into donations for charities including Dogs for Autism and the Trussell Trust. We hope it will be available outside of the UK before too long.

We have one week to go until the end of Series 33, dear Poddies, and I look forward to completing our topic of abundance.

Of course, I will need regular reminders to flip myself out of scarcity mode, so I dare say we’ll come back to this regularly.

You are warmly invited to join me next Friday evening at 6pm for our end of series wrap party, from 6-7 GMT. Find me in the Discord voice channel, for which you’ll need to join the Walk the Pod lunch time walk club, via


Aurelius, M. (180 AD) Meditations. (Gregory Hays, Trans.) Penguin Classics. (2006)

Phillips, G. D. (2007). Stanley Kubrick: Interviews. University Press of Mississippi.