By Alan Jackson
“Self-reliance was an early fact of my life. I was sent away from Northern Ireland to school in England at 11 and would make the journey alone, something you wouldn’t even consider for a child today. Aged 18, I waved goodbye to my parents and siblings as they sailed from Tilbury to a new life in Australia. I wouldn’t recommend it as a strategy, but the experience was good for me. Just a little independence at a young age can be a very positive thing.
“The one thing I find irresistible is to be told that something’s impossible, and I confess I find something attractive about backing my judgment against that of others. That said, almost all of the key decisions in my life were taken not by me but by fate. The fact they all turned to out to be fortunate in shaping my destiny is proof of something. Though not dictating the things that happen to you in life, you can control how you respond to them.
“Don’t fuss if you haven’t settled into your life’s work by the time you reach your mid thirties. Everything you do till then still counts. I was a soldier, a diplomat, was unemployed, became a youth worker and then was unemployed again, all before I reached that age and decided that I wanted to be a politician, in the days when politics was a calling and not a profession. I think our lives suffer enormously for the fact that far too many politicians have never done anything else in their working lives.”
The pearl: “Experiment. Don’t rush into things. Life is a precious commodity. Take your time to discover what skills you can best make use of going through it.”
A Fortunate Life: The Autobiography of Paddy Ashdown is published by Aurum Press
(Photo and article are from The Times UK)