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Row, row, row your boat

Written by Brad Jobe, Retired Leadership Development Consultant.  

'The unexamined life is not worth living', said Socrates.

Now I wouldn’t be impertinent enough to challenge nor affirm this piece of Socratic wisdom, though thanks to a Christmas present gifted to me by my eldest Daughter Melinda and her family, I am (during 2021) enjoying the opportunity to discover the voracity or otherwise of what Socrates offered. At the time of writing I am 8 months into a 12-month examination. The gift I received was a ‘subscription’ to StoryWorth.

In essence I receive an email in the early hours of every Monday morning. The email contains a question, which my daughter or one of her siblings has selected for me to answer. Some of the questions come from a database of questions supplied by StoryWorth, whilst others come from one or other of my 5 children.

To provide you with an insight into the range of questions I’ve received, here’s a small sample. 'What was your Mum like when you were a child?, 'What personal expectations do you hold yourself to?', 'What have been some of your life’s greatest surprises?', 'What has been the most difficult experience you’ve ever had?', and the most recent question I’ve responded to, 'What are your favourite memories of each of your children growing up?'.

To date I’ve written 34 stories. At the end of the year StoryWorth will compile my stories into a book and what I’ll have is something akin to an autobiography. Along the way my children will have had the opportunity to ask me questions, the answers to which will provide them with insights into their family heritage, they would not normally discover. I’m sure I’m not the only person who wishes he had asked his Father some of these questions before he passed away. It’s too late now and that part of my family history and heritage is lost to us forever. So, what am I discovering through the process of reflecting, trawling my memory banks, asking my Mother questions to fill in blanks, then finally ‘putting pen to paper’ to create a record for my family?

1. It’s been well lived.

Well, the first thing I’ve discovered, at the risk of sounding conceited, is that as I’ve been examining my life in relation to each question, I’m satisfied that at least from my perspective, it’s already been a life worth living. Whatever comes next I’ll consider a bonus. I haven’t achieved any grand purpose, but in relation to my partner, my children and their children, my immediate family and friends and as an average citizen engaging with others, I’m satisfied that I’ve done enough for these people to say, “He lived a life worth living”. 

2. Love makes a big difference.

I’ve come to appreciate just how lucky I was to be born at all. Then there’s that second piece of luck, being born to parents who truly loved me from the moment I arrived, and most likely even before that, and who were going to do everything in their power to provide what was necessary for me to live a better life than they themselves had. Something I believe I’ve been able to achieve.

3. Understand your values.

I grew up surrounded by a community that would reinforce a core set of values, which I’ve carried and passed onto my own children. Values based on being a tight and loving family unit. Also values around being hospitable to all. The home I grew up in opened it’s doors to any in need, and it’s consistent with the home in which my children have grown up.

4. Seek Common ground.

I have been blessed to have two partners, both of whom loved me unconditionally and supported me in instilling these values into our children. Not because I insisted, but because they shared the same values. I didn’t know it at the time, but I know now that one of the secrets to a long, loving and respectful partnership is to share common values. In case you’re wondering my first partner succumbed to melanoma when she was only 32 years old.

5. Save a little.

Advice I received early in my life, which fortunately I heeded was to save a portion of every wage packet, to avoid excessive debt and over time to create assets for the future. At 67 years of age I find myself in a comfortable position without having done anything particularly smart, but always playing within the rules so I could sleep easily and never have to worry about an unwelcome knock on the door.

6. Flow with life.

I’ve come to realise that very little about my life has been based on a plan. I’m not suggesting that this is good advice, nor am I recommending it for others, but it’s what worked for me. Life happened and I responded to the things that happened. Fortunately for me, my responses seemed to work out for the best. I think I was always guided by a children’s ditty, which many of you would know even if you’ve never considered the wisdom contained within it. The ditty is, “Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream”. I wonder if you found yourself singing it. This ditty encourages each of us to flow with life’s currents, not fighting, not resisting, and going along merrily because in the end life is short and will fly past like a dream.



Retire on Purpose offers educational learning journeys which create the time and space for you to stop and reflect on your current life stage. Our two programs can help you hand down your legacy to a successor prior to leaving your work, and then transition into retirement with fresh purpose.   


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