Mission Control

Every serious quest needs a base. You know, a big map on a table in the middle of the room where men with heavy brows inexplicably move chess pieces around to plan their next move. Last week, we built the mission control centre for our biggest quest yet: our big dream.

If you haven’t heard, we are working toward opening our own dive centre and guest house somewhere in southeast Asia. We aren’t sure where yet and we are far from knowing how.  All we know is that it is what we want more than anything, and we’re working hard on making it happen.

This weekend, we sat down and broke the mission into the biggest challenges we’ll have to conquer. For anyone else out there working on a big goal (or even a small one!), this is a really good practice for two reasons:

  • As you go through the list – scary as it might be – you start to see how one goal leads into another. Put more plainly, it makes your next steps very clear!
  • It shows you where your fears lie. And lie they do! As you begin to lay out your challenges, you’ll hear yourself think of a million reasons why you won’t be able to do this, that or the other. Pay close attention because that’s a key moment! This is your fear talking – and we know that, while fear is often the loudest voice in the room, it is not the most clever. Good news though, it’s very easy to calm your dear friend Fear with a simple statement and a question: I know you’re freaking out, but we’re still going to do this anyway. What will make you feel more comfortable with that?  You’ll often find that your fear gave you the solution when it spoke.
    • An example from us: we haven’t worked in the dive industry before so we feel we’re going in a little blindly. FEAR FREAK OUT! But when we asked the fear what would help, the answer was clear – get a little industry experience. It’s as easy as that!
    • a quick word of advice: some things cannot be fixed this way, most notably fear’s worst enemy – risk. All the things that matter most will involve some risk. That’s what makes them worth it. As much as your fear wants the risk to be zero, it is just not possible to make that happen. The only way forward is to tell your fear that you understand it’s scary and you wish it would be otherwise, but that the reward of trying far outweighs the risks, so you’ll have to take the leap together, holding hands if necessary. Your fear won’t be happy, but at least it will feel acknowledged and you can move forward as friends.

So, without further ado, here is what arose from our meeting over the big map. Perhaps seeing how we broke our dream down will help you deconstruct your own goals so they feel more achievable!

  • get Chris to Instructor level – this one is nearly in the bag! In order for us to run a centre with training facilities, one of us will have to be an Instructor. I only started diving this year, so with his nearly 400 dives, Chris is the obvious choice. He’s studying for the course now and will take his exam in June when we go to Bali. Woot!!
  • get some experience in the industry – (aka help our fear out a little!) while I know the hotel side really well and Chris knows the diving side, we have a gap in the dive business knowledge and experience. While business is business the world-wide, every industry has it’s own quirks and needs that we’d be smart to be aware of. Two good bits of news here:
    • This is very tentative and early, but there is a chance I could do some work with a dive centre here. Even a few months there would teach me a lot about doing things right with our own place. Fingers crossed!
    • After his Instructor course, Chris can possibly stay on and do some intern work with the dive centre in Bali. That would help him gather some great information about doing it full-time.
  • find the funding – tricky. scary. intimidating. This is our biggest obstacle and yet the one that feels so silly to be set back by. We are, after all, tiny dots on a small blue dot that is one of countless dots in an ever-expanding universe. That makes those scraps of paper that we move around to get things done seem pretty irrelevant. And yet…they make things happen. So we’re stuck with trying to figure out how to gather enough bits of paper to invest in our dream! There are a few options here:
        • save up – it would take bloody ages, especially as I can’t find a job here! We don’t really want to wait five years for this to happen. I really don’t, that’s for sure! I’m 33, after all, and there are other ideas that are starting to creep into the realm of possibility. I won’t give details, lest my mother is reading this, but I would like to be settled in somewhere in the next couple of years. I’m also very ready to be more in charge of my destiny. It’s been really hard to have so many limitations on what I have been able to do for the last few years. I am a go-getter but there is not a lot to go get here. I want to be working for myself because I will always have something to do!
        • ask for donations – people are surprisingly generous and I’ve already had a couple of friends mention that they want to contribute. That is so incredibly kind and heartwarming. We’d graciously accept any donations people are willing and able to offer. It really means a lot to us. It probably won’t fund the whole thing, but every little counts, eh?
        • borrow money – a few catches with this one as neither of us have an income in our home country. It’s unlikely they’ll lend to us without that. That leaves borrowing from a bank in a foreign country (possible once we have a business plan) or from people we know who have the reserves. My list of millionaires is fairly limited, but perhaps we can cobble together a few different contracts and bridge the gap with other means.
  • go on a research trip – We will have the very unfortunate fate of travelling around to several potential locations to see what might be possible for us. Damn. Life is hard.
  • decide what to buy – we have a few options here:
    • buy a place outright that is already set up – a pretty good option since it comes already tried and tested and the set up is done for us. Some places even add to the contract that the current owners will stay for a set time to help you with the transition. Could be a good option.
    • work as a franchise or branch of another business – another good possibility. A little less freedom to do what we want as we’ll have partners, but partners also means help, and we could probably use some help with this one!!
    • buy a small plot of land and build it all– the hardest option of all and one that I am not totally keen on. I love the idea of making it exactly what I want it to be from the ground up, but man, that is a lot of work. I don’t know if we have the time and energy for it. We’ll see. Maybe it’ll be different on the ground, but for now it looks like the other options are stronger.
  • set sail! – no matter which option we choose, there will be a first day for all of them. A day where we start running the ship on our own. That is a scary and exciting day – possibly more scary than exciting, but all the best things are, right? Right….?

So that’s our current breakdown – subject to change as we figure out what we’re doing! To be totally honest with you, I’d love to think we always look like the Rob Stark at the top of this post, focused and clear and ready to take on the world, but in reality we spend quite a bit of time looking more like this.

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Oh well. Gotta start somewhere, right?

What about you? What are your goals? What are you working toward? Any fears that are holding you back? I’d love to hear about what you’re up to!

Until next time, my friends!

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PS. If you’re interested in donating to the cause, any amount you can spare would be much appreciated! I’ll be sure to let you know what your money bought. For example, $5 could buy us a meal on our research trip. $10 would buy us some snorkeling gear  (that you might use when you come visit!). $20 would help with visa costs.  A little goes a LONG way in Asia!

Riding the Tide

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There’s a great big ocean out there, and I sometimes feel like we’ve been dropped right in the middle of it.

In many ways, that’s exactly what we want. We want a sea-filled life, full of fishy wonders and underwater adventure. But attempting to turn our hobby into a business – and doing it in far-flung corners of the world, no less – can sometimes make me feel lost at sea.

We have so much to do to make our dream a reality. Way back in January, we made a list of all steps we’ll need to take, the decisions we’ll be faced with, and the vision we hope to achieve when it’s all said and done. Then we promptly tucked that list far away because it was completely overwhelming. We need to book courses. We need to plan research trips. We need to learn about our business, gathering all the information we can from those who have gone before us.

Until this week, we were a little paralyzed by the immensity of it all, not sure where to start or which direction to head in. But suddenly our course has started to take shape. This June, we’ll be off to Indonesia for five weeks (five weeks!) for a diving extravaganza. Chris will work on his Dive Instructor certification while I complete my Rescue course, after which we’ll stick around for a couple of weeks to enjoy some fun, non-academic diving in some of the weirdest, most beautiful sites in the world. I cannot wait.

Most exciting of all, we’re slotted to spend some serious interview time with the owners of Blue Corner Dive, our home-base for the trip, learning the in’s and out’s of dive centre management. I’ve got stacks of notebooks at the ready! And better yet, they aren’t the only dive centre letting us pick their brains. I’m also set up to do some internship work with Global Scuba here in Muscat, where they’ll let me ask all the questions I want and fill as many tanks as my little heart desires.

Slowly but surely, we’re starting to drift along in the direction of our dreams. I know there will be unexpected diversions (especially if we pass by a reef that we’re tempted to explore) and scary moments of sheer panic at the scale of it all. But for now, at least, I’m putting my feet up and happily riding the tide.

Know Your Agenda

Last week I realised that I have the power to take on work that aligns with my agenda. What I had a hard time pinning down was exactly what my agenda is.

I’m a creative person so, at any given time, I have about a billion and one ideas about what I could spend my energy on. I’ve got ideas for blog posts, podcasts, videos, books, products, businesses, you name it, rolling around in my head constantly. I never have a hard time filling my time.

What I do have a hard time filling my time with is things that are actually important to my life overall. I’ve gone off the rails a bit recently and started bingeing on junk food projects instead of focusing on the meat and potatoes that will sustain me emotionally, physically, mentally and creatively long term.

The thing about meat and potatoes projects is that they fall into the icky category. Not icky in their purpose but icky in their execution. They matter more, but they take more time. Lots of time, usually. They need to be broken down into smaller chunks and you need to be patient and keep your eye on the prize. I would rather eat a whole tube of Pringles, Cookie Monster-style*, than wait for a pot roast to simmer for seven hours. I’m not a patient person.

If you’ve ever read Wait But Why – particularly his posts on procrastination (links here for 1, 2 and 3) – you might pin me down as an Impostinator. And you’d be totally right. I can find a dozen things that I want to be doing right now because they feel urgent for one reason or another. It often cripples me from doing the actually important things for my life as a whole.

So this week, I sat down and really looked at the important stuff in my life, the big-ticket items that will take some time but that ultimately provide a well-rounded diet for my life.

Here are the Top 3 things I came up with:
  • Opening our dive centre – This is huge for us. Chris and I have talked about it for ages and it is something we both want in a very real way. We’ve started laying out our plans and making decisions that will take us in this direction. It’s scary, it’s complicated, it’s exciting, it’s the biggest, most important thing in our lives right now. I’m crazy excited about it.
  • Enjoying our time in Oman – Things here are slightly unstable, not for us so much as for the country as a whole. While low gas prices are great for many people, for those selling the gas it means a huge financial strain. We know we’ll be here for this year. We don’t know what will happen after that in the job market. That means we want to really explore and enjoy the country for the time we know we have in it. There’s still so much to do!
  • Quality time with my peeps – This one is slightly tricky as most of my peeps live across a really big pond. It is incredibly important for me to nurture my relationships with my friends and family, no matter how far away they are. It means a lot of Skype dates, a lot of texting at inconvenient times, and a lot of navigating through the world of keeping-in-touch apps that never seem to do exactly what I need them to do for everyone I talk to. It’s a pain. But I love them enormously and I can’t do any of the other things in my life that matter without them in it.

Narrowing my agenda down to these three actually important things means that I can now check any opportunities or project ideas I have against this list. If they push these things forward, I’m on it. If they take away from them, no way. It’s a really useful tool for knowing what to say yes to and, much harder for me, knowing what to say no to.

It also lets me see how I can double up on my energy. For example, if I had an opportunity to work at a dive shop in Oman it would benefit both our future dive shop and my enjoyment of Oman. Bonus! If I had a chance to explore Oman with my friends here, it would be a double win. Sweet! And opening our dive centre means having a place where friends and family can come visit on the cheap. Fabulous!

Knowing what my agenda is has made it crystal clear what I need to be working on – and what I don’t. It gives my work a focus and my energy a direction. It cuts through the crap and gets to the heart of my desires and hopes for the future.

It also makes me feel exposed. Seeing what actually matters to me has highlighted how much energy I’ve spent on other things in an attempt to avoid diving into some icky jobs. It’s so much easier to sit on the couch and eat junk food than spend hours in the kitchen slaving away. But I’m finally hungry for some meat and potatoes, no matter how much work it takes to make them happen.

*Cookie Monster knows his agenda.

Our Big Dream

There’s something I’ve wanted to share with you for a long time, a story I want you to be a part of,  involved in, helping to direct. But I’ve been really freaked out that it is not that interesting for you, that it is me just talking about my life and that’s not a very exciting or meaningful thing when you’ve got all kinds of other things going on in yours.

I don’t know why I’ve cared so much, but I have.

Maybe it’s because I really want to include you in the story, make you a part of it, get your ideas and your insights, learn from you, share with you and interact with you along the way. The idea that you might not find it remotely interesting, that you will be bored to tears by it is just too much for me to handle.

I’ve finally decided to tell you anyway.

What I want to share with you is our dream. Chris and I have a dream that we have talked about for years. It’s something that lights us both up in a way that nothing else ever has. When we start talking about it, the vision is so clear, the purpose of it so strong that it feels like it is anchored in my chemical makeup. It feels like the thing I am meant to do with my life. It feels like what I was put here for. But, it is not going to be easy. It’s going to take some time. It’s going to take some dedication, and it’s going to take a lot of pushing when we might feel like we’re out of gas.

What we want is to create a place that makes a positive difference to a community (two communities, actually) and the surrounding environment. We want to create a home away from home for travellers – a place where they can feel completely at ease and where they can reconnect with nature. We also want to create a place that adds value to the surrounding area –  a place that builds up the people who are associated with it and puts that value back into the community and environment.

Our dream is to open a small guest house (maybe 10 rooms or so) and accompanying dive centre somewhere in east Asia (probably). We don’t know where yet, that will depend on timing and funds. We don’t know how yet – we are both totally freaked out but crazy excited at the same time to see how it unfolds.

We do know a few things though. We know we want it to embody some fundamental concepts:

  • It will support the local economy. We will hire locals and use local vendors. We will decorate with local artists. We will support local businesses by teaming up with them. We will tap into the knowledge of the people who have been there forever and give them fair compensation for their time and effort.
  • It will be as eco-friendly, sustainable, etc as possible. We have a lot of ideas about this and we have a lot to learn to make them happen, but we want to eliminate plastic at our hotel, organise clean up dives for the reefs,  and educate locals and visitors alike in the value of respecting nature.
  • We want it to be about people. We will create a welcoming environment that helps people unwind and relax but also helps them meet new people, learn about new places and cultures, and feel at home no matter how far they have come to get there. We will treat our staff well, pay them fairly, give them holidays and sick leave, ask only for reasonable working hours and give them an education that they can build on in the future.

That’s it. That’s our dream. That’s where we’re headed and where we hope to end up. We mostly don’t know what we’re doing, but we know we want to do this. We also know that we’ll need a lot of ideas and support from other people to make it happen.

My big dream in sharing this with you is that you will journey along with us and help us make it the place we envision – help us choose our location, cast your votes for the hotel design, share your ideas for eco-friendly systems we can use to make it even more green, maybe even come and visit us when it’s all said and done.

Who knows. Maybe it’s possible to do it without you, but it would be a whole lot more fun to have you along for the ride.

See you next week,

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