Go Jump In A Lake

In the 1930’s some people in Tennessee made the conscious decision to solve an ongoing problem in their lives -- regular and destructive flooding -- by building a dam to flood a valley, creating 800 miles of shoreline and 52.9 square miles of water surface transforming the Powell River into Norris Lake. Where the river often flooded causing untold damage, the lake remains peaceful and has become a regular source of enjoyment for thousands of visitors and residents. Today, we are sitting near the north end, on a lake house balcony overlooking the emerald green waters, the sounds of cicadas enveloping us, interspersed by the occasional jet ski passing in the distance. We’re here for a week, the entire time rarely leaving the water (writing to you from the balcony is an obvious exception). The circumstances of our being here as not accidental either, for over a decade Sean’s family - 6 cousins and their extended families - have gathered here every other year for a week away from the world and cell phone signals, together with the people most important to them. A conscious decision that isn’t always easy to coordinate or pull off, but always worth the effort to make happen. The bonds and memories forged over these weeks will last a lifetime. Which is kind of the whole point to begin with.

And again, this didn’t just happen - a few people with a shared goal put in a lot of time and effort and money to make it work, to engineer the event they want to attend, to build the life they want to live. When we talk about The Interest Driven Life this is a perfect example. While we’re obviously talking about a larger entire life picture, the only way you get to doing this full time is to understand the process and impact of doing it part time. Years ago one of Sean’s family members thought, “man, wouldn’t it be cool if we could get everyone together for a vacation on this lake?” And now, every other year that’s exactly what happens.

Serendipity doesn’t happen by lying around on the couch all day. Luck comes to the people that do the work to make themselves lucky.

One method to consciously create opportunities for yourself is using visual imagery to simulate future outcomes. This method has been proven to increase your motivation and belief in yourself to achieve your interest-driven goal. If you are swimming in unknown territory, then simulating an experience you have zero exposure to can be difficult to imagine and it’s important to surround yourself with as much information and visuals and people with similar interests as possible. For example, if you are really interested in communities that practice sustainable living, but you don’t have any exposure to that type of lifestyle, then you need to do your research, find photos and videos of these types of environments and reach out to people that have expertise. Once you’ve made your interest known and began sharing your passion for it, then like Tara, you may find yourself somewhere in the Smoky Mountains, sitting on a balcony overlooking an emerald green lake, in the first self-contained town in the US to utilize greenbelt design principles.

Discerning between a “light” interest and a “deep” interest can be difficult, and the temptation to go all in is hard to resist, however, understanding whether your love for jet skiing is at the hobby level versus pro level like Vanilla Ice, can save you time, money and frustration. An important aspect of this self discovery is giving yourself permission to change your mind. It’s too easy to let our brains tell us that if we’ve spent some arbitrary amount of time or money on something then we have to “see it through” - like a parent arguing that their child needs to justify the cash they spent on that guitar they were asking for last summer. But in the same way we’d argue if a book you are reading is not doing it for you anymore, you should drop it and pick up something else - just because something seemed interesting to you yesterday does not require you to be interested in it tomorrow. Shaping your life to allow these shifts and movements is crucial to enjoyment. 

Leading an interest-driven life can be comfortable, but in order to attain that, you are going to have to find the courage to take a leap out of your less interesting life for awhile. As famed vulnerability research Brene Brown said, “you can choose courage or you can choose comfort. You cannot have both.”

Sean Bonner