A friend sent this message to us and asked that we share it anonymously. Super powerful stuff, I can’t stop reading it.
“The shell on the water is a challenge to the man. You don’t go up the river if you don’t pull the oars”
If you were to die today, what would your last words be? What wisdom would you impart on those you leave behind? The words at the top of this page were written by my father as a senior for his High School year book. They are the words he left for me inadvertently.
My father was killed when I was eight years old. He left for work one day and never came home. He was the victim of a violent robbery that resulted in his murder. He was robbed of a whole lot more than just his belongings.
So many experiences and opportunities were taken from him. And from my mother and me. I have now lived almost three times as long without my dad as I did with him. It’s hard to miss someone who you barely knew, so what I miss most is what could have been.
I lived most of my life as a victim of his death. I felt sorry for myself that I was not able to share milestones with my dad. But most of all, I missed the opportunity to ask for his guidance. This became even more significant as I entered fatherhood myself. All the while, I had the wisdom I needed in the words written by him as a high school senior.
What my father had found in rowing was more than just a beautiful sport, it was a metaphor for life. Rowing is like anything else, you’re either moving up the river or down it. You’re either making progress or drifting aimlessly. The only way up is by pulling the oars, by doing the work.
Nothing comes to us easily in life, especially not progress. Whether that is spiritual, emotional, physical, or financial, progress requires effort. It requires us to chart a destination and to start pulling on the oars.
I had read these words many, many times in my life. I even understood what they meant. But I had never applied them to my own life until recently. As Confucius is quoted, “knowledge without practice is useless.”
What good is having a mantra or guidelines or a mission statement of it is not applied? All the quotes and all the wisdom in the world will not change who we are or what we do. That change needs to come from within. It comes from embracing the work that lies ahead.
If we want to improve our condition, we need to get to work. No program works if we do not put forth the effort. Today I honor my father’s words by working on bettering myself everyday.
So I ask again, what final words will you leave behind on your deathbed? But more importantly, do you truly live by those words? Are you putting that knowledge to practice?
Attack each day as a chance to be the example, to work towards self mastery and improvement. We won’t always get it right all of the time, that’s ok. After all it is not perfection that we seek, but progress.