My Satisfying Retirement : The Secret O' Life


For a certain age group, if I mention the artist, “Sweet Baby James,” there should be instant recognition. As the first artist signed by the Beatles to Apple Records,  Boston-born James Taylor has sold 100 million records, racked up nearly 50 Top 40 hits, and is an American institution. At 74, age is not slowing him down. He continues to tour the U.S. and around the world, in fact, he was in Phoenix this past summer, with tickets selling out within hours of becoming available.

Out of more songs than I can count, one, in particular,  has always resonated with me. The lyrics perfectly capture  how to build a satisfying life that continues to the very end. He tells us how to build a life of significance, joy, and understanding of how everything works together, all with just a touch of irony and tongue-in-cheek.

Released in 1977 on his album, JT, Secret O’ Life was never released as a single. But it has become a staple of his, being performed at most of his concerts, included on other albums, and covered by a dozen other artists.

As I reviewed the lyrics, it was obvious that many of them fit this blog perfectly, our journey through life, and are part of my personal philosophy of life. Hoping that Mr. Taylor doesn’t object, I am picking a few of his lines as a springboard to some comments. The full song is available on the Youtube link at the end of this post.

Here are the first two verses:

The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time
Any fool can do it
There ain’t nothing to it
Nobody knows how we got to the top of the hill
But since we’re on our way down
We might as well enjoy the ride

The secret of love is in opening up your heart
It’s okay to feel afraid
But don’t let that stand in your way
‘Cause anyone knows that love is the only road
And since we’re only here for a while
We might as well show some style

Particularly at this stage of life, we have figured out a few basic facts o’ life: we have more behind us than in front of us. The ride up the hill is likely complete; now, our goal is the enjoy the way down the other side. 

We can’t change the reality of that trip, but we can choose to treat it in one of two ways: as a scary destination that will dominate our thoughts and actions or as much a part of life as the trip up the hill with the same joys and disappointments, the highs and lows, and the uniqueness of our life on this planet. As Mr. Taylor, says, “we might as well show some style.” 

Later, he sings,

Sliding down, I’ll be gliding down.Try not to try too hardIt’s just a lovely ride

His attitude is one that I aspire to live every day. I face challenges just like others. My life is not designed by Disney Imagineers. I ache and struggle to stand up at times. Now and then, I find a nap is better than most other options. 

Betty has had more struggles and hardships for the past 40 years than anyone should face, and no, our marriage isn’t part of the problems!

To dwell on the downside of things solves nothing. I find it amplifies whatever is between me and peace. So, I find James’ Secret of Life to be no secret at all; it is a way to continue “the lovely ride” that started 73 years ago.

Secret o’ Life lyrics © Country Road Music


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