Invictus: A Calling For Critical Doers

A Critical Doer Controls What Is Theirs To Control

Invictus…Latin for “unconquerable”…is a powerful poem written by a critical doer for critical doers.  The words of the poem are powerful enough on their own merit.  In case you’ve never read this poem, take a look before we proceed.


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.


William Ernest Henley is author of Invictus.  He was a British poet that penned these words circa 1875 at age 26.  Henley was a lifelong sufferer of bone tuberculosis, had a leg amputated because of the disease at age 12, and never enjoyed good health.  Despite his health, he had a family and gained notoriety as a writer and publisher.  Invictus was his personal declaration that regardless of the circumstances he would live life rather than let life live him.

What is it that causes a person faced with significant obstacles to move forward anyway and achieve great things, while others choose the anesthetics of excuses and cynicism to numb their senses to the emptiness of mediocrity?

It’s an age old question…Frederick Douglass, who escaped slavery to become a fabled educator and statesman, once delivered a powerful lecture entitled “Self-Made Men” where he extolled the virtue of those with courage to rise above the circumstances of their beginning to accomplish great deeds.  His words about humanity being “a thousand arrows shot from the same spot at the same target that become separated in flight” are a powerful expression of how we propel ourselves to act out of expectations of ourselves.  In his lecture, he also fretted that this quality was waning in contemporary society…the year was 1872.

Fast forward nearly 60 years and look at this excerpt from a Foreign Affairs article in 1931 where Eric Koch-Weser, Minister of Justice of the German Republic said:  “The number of people who feel confident that they can get on by their own abilities is steadily declining. You will recall the saying that Napoleon’s soldiers were inspired by the belief that each of them carried a marshal’s baton in his knapsack. Perhaps this was not really the case. But certainly it is one of the secrets of success of any efficient régime not to allow the feelings of self-reliance and self-help which exist in a nation to go to waste. America has managed things better in this respect than have the nations of the old world. In Germany, the self-made man is no longer the ideal of the people.”

In 1982, country singer Merle Haggard’s retrospective song “Are the Good Times Really Over” painted a bleak picture of our nation’s future and spoke of our nation’s greatness as a relic that could not be duplicated going forward.  As you can see, every generation believes their time is the end of time with little hope the next generation can build upon their accomplishments.

Here’s why they’re wrong and I don’t worry…the environment changes as time marches on, but people are still the same.  At the heart of it, the human spirit as a product of individual choice remains unconquerable just as Henley suggested.  In general, we still thrive upon challenge and feel compelled to rise above tough circumstances to find fulfillment.  We become unconquerable by making a choice to control what is ours to control.

A critical doer puts this philosophy into action through choices on the following points:  (1) make your own future…it’s the only one you’ll ever have (2) don’t ask others to do for you what you can do for yourself (3) no matter the situation, there is something you can do (4) educate yourself…your capacity for critical thought will not exceed your willingness to grow that capacity (5) think and act based upon the righteousness of your objectives rather than the complexity of the circumstances (6) you are entitled to what you earn…nothing more, nothing less.

We all have it in us to be self-made, unconquerable doers that defy the pundits and make a bright future.  I encourage you to feed your spirit with inspirational thoughts so you can believe enough for yourself and everyone around you if necessary to make the leap from thinking to doing.  It’s what a critical doer would…do!

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Updated: February 28, 2015 — 1:45 am