The Power of Intentionality – Part one

It’s 6:15 am. I’m on my couch after meditating watching the sunrise over the Pacific Ocean. My three kids and wife are still sleeping. I’m heading in to another day doing what I love to do while my wife and fulltime mother, takes care of my kids during their school holidays. Damn life is good.

But it wasn’t always. I am at the end of a 17 year journey of intentionality. The journey prior to that took about 3 days….let me take you back.

It’s 2004. I’m lying on the floor.  It’s cold, but I feel warm because of the ecstasy and alcohol in my system.  It’s a Sunday morning and I’ve been partying with my friends in London all night.  Every time I move I hit a wall, because the floor I’m lying on is the floor of a closet – dimensions are 7 foot by 3 foot. 

I viewed it as the perfect size because I could fit, lying in my sleeping bag, with my backpack above my head and my guitar at my side.  My £2 microwave meal was perfect too.  It was easy and filled me up.  I knew my day would consist of nothingness.  Couch, movie, coffee, talking with friends.  And that was good too.

Sunday came and went.  Monday came and went.  Going through the motions of a 2.5-hour commute to work (Walk, Bus, Train, Train, Bus, Walk) shifting furniture all day and then commuting home for 2.5 hours (Walk, Bus, Train, Train, Bus, Walk).  I listened to Zepplin and Ocean Colour Scene as entertainment.

Then Tuesday hit.  Anyone who has had ecstasy knows the comedown is delayed…and for me it always hit on Tuesday.  A crash.  The awareness of my inadequate situation hit me like a flying brick wall smashing into my face. What, the, fuck, was this life?  I knew I needed to make change.

The next 6 months went by in much the same fashion but with a constant feeling of chronic unease.  I knew nothing was right, knew I had to make change, but was not fully aware of what that change would look like.  I just knew I would make it; I knew I had to if I wanted any shot at life. 

Then the opportunity presented itself.  My best mate makes contact from home (New Zealand).  He’s getting married.  Wants me as Best Man. 

“I can’t” I say.  “I don’t have the money to fly home.” 

“I’ll pay” he says.

Wow.  Here’s the door opening.  Take it! 

I did.  I walked through that open door.

Soon enough I find myself back in New Zealand – I’m home.  Wedding came and went which was fun.  It was summer.  I was reunited with old friends.  Hooked up and started dating one of the bridesmaids. It was good times.  But still, the chronic unease.  I was not where I needed to be.

All I knew was that I wanted to earn more.  I had seen in the success of others that a degree could get me there.  How and what would I study?  I had no idea.  I had left school at 15 and tried to make serious bank as a working man, but hit the ceiling over and over.  I was sick of working 60-70 hour weeks for low wages, being led by less capable people who had the piece of paper proving they were smart. 

I looked at myriad degree options.  IT.  Business. IT/Business conjoint.  IT/Commerce conjoint.  None of it resonated.  Then one day I’m driving along and boom, there’s a billboard saying, ‘Study Marine Biology here’.  The picture was a man driving a boat, sunnies on, wind in his hair.  Damn that looked good!

I did some digging and found the course looked awesome with Scuba qualifications included.  I confirmed I was eligible as a 24-year-old mature applicant without high-school qualifications. Took the step.  Applied.  Interviewed.  Accepted. Need to move to new town.  Best mate (again) has spare room.  Done.  Need loan to pay for study.  Done.  Move.  Make it happen.  Get, it, done.

First grade – 95%.  I was stunned.  Fluke?  

Second grade 93%. No fluke.  

And on it went.

I continued that journey through University.  I stayed intentional.  I still wasn’t where I wanted to be, but I was on a better track.  My plans were lengthening.  I observed my first-year tutors and liked the look of their job.  They all had a master’s degree, so I decided that was my next goal – it would take 3.5 more years and I was good with that. 

Pausing here to reflect, when you change course in a key aspect in life, every other aspect of your life can change also.  You can change yourself entirely.  One act of generosity by my friend, followed with one decision to enrol in a course had me living an entirely new life within 18 months.  I was in a new town.  New friends.  New hobbies.  New Skills.  New clothes.  New style.  New girl(s).  Everything was in a constant state of re-invention.  I was shifting gears in every aspect of my life.  No drugs these days.  I drank and smoked cigarettes, but no drugs.  I was studying intensely.  I partied, sure, but not like I used to and not at the expense of my study.    

While I had laser focus on my end point – master’s degree – as a mid-20’s red blooded man, one of the key distractions for me was women.  Of course; nothing wrong with that. Naturally, there were various women along the way.  Some better than others in different ways.  Importantly, I did not fornicate anymore.  Now I was on this path, I was looking for more than a casual lay.  I wanted to find a wife and I had a very clear idea of who I wanted her to be.  I had very specific criteria. 

  • Sexual attraction – a given
  • Right level of maturity and life-experience
  • Intelligence
  • Humour
  • Adventurous spirit
  • Love for the outdoors
  • Non-partier
  • Desire to be looked after (led) by her man
  • Strong family values
  • High moral standard
  • Critically…a desire to be a mother
  • More critically…a desire to share the same life journey I was on

None of the women I met, offered everything on this list. Admittedly there was one who managed to get my pretty hooked through her sexuality, but it was never going to be long term.

In 2006 I had a research assignment which took me to Tonga to research the Whale swimming industry.  By 2007 I was into my last year of Undergraduate study, and the company I researched with in Tonga, asked me back as a guide.  Continuing the theme of walking through open doors, I jumped at the opportunity…to the surprise of many.  In the thick of my last year, while writing up papers for Uni, I flew to Tonga to work fulltime for a month.  And boy am I glad I did.

Swimming with Humpback Whales is one of those life adventures that is extremely hard to describe.  It’s life changing.  Not only do you develop an incredible sense of humility swimming 15 feet from a 30,000 kg mammal, but the fact you’ve done something that is so amazing, yet so few people have done, inserts a new category of success in your life.  But this year had more in store than just whales.

At the start of my second week there, I walked down to the dock and there, waiting expectedly, was a new face.  5’5” blonde Californian.  My age.  Her boat had broken down.  So, she was on ours.  We talked.  We played.  We swam.  We connected like you would not believe.  I vetted the shit out of her and she vetted the shit out of me.  We both knew what we wanted.  We were 27.  We had intention.  We met each other’s criteria, right down to intended next steps – she wanted to do a marine science master’s degree, in NZ.  She just wasn’t sure how to make that happen.  So, to New Zealand.

Lessons so far…

To improve your life from rock bottom, you must first accept the inadequacy of your position. It creates a sense of urgency and awakens your mind to the potentiality of life.

If you truly want to change your life, opportunities will present themselves.  But when at rock bottom they will be rare so you must take the first opportunity to change for the better that you are presented with. My first opportunity after realising I needed to change, took 9 months to present itself.

Intentionality requires clarity.  All along this journey I had specific targets.  They didn’t have a whole lot of detail, but total clarity on end points. And these end points evolve and become more detailed the more you improve your life. Look at the timeline.

  • 2003 – Get to the next weekend with cash for drugs and alcohol;
  • 2004 – Better Life;
  • 2005 – Study;
  • 2006 – Masters Degree;
  • 2007 – The right women to marry, defined through specific criteria. 

It’s critical to have these when you have options.

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