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HOW I DECIDED TO BECOME A FREEDIVE INSTRUCTOR - A LESSON IN INTUITION

Going from a lucrative career in finance to becoming a freedive instructor at the ripe age of 46 doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. Unlike many of my major decisions of my life, I would invariably use logic to analyze the hell out of the pros and cons. This time was different though. 

QUICK PLUG AND UPDATE - I am now teaching in Taiwan, click Learn Freediving Taipei for more course information or contact me directly at ray@freedivenomad.com 

In much the same way I came to study to become a freedive instructor was the story of how I got into freediving. Like 99% of freedivers out there, the movie The Big Blue, even though I watched it three decades ago as a young teenager, never left my mind. It was always something I’d try if given the opportunity but I didn’t even know that freediving was a thing you could learn until 2017 when I was close to securing a  job that would require me to move to Singapore. Doing some research on living in Singapore led me to the website of Zen Freediving, a freediving school in Singapore (https://zenfreediving.org/) and discovered that learning freediving was very accessible. Unfortunately that job opportunity did not materialize, and I ended up in land-locked Vegas for the next year and a half. 

Fast forward to January 2, 2019, my previous employer Deutsche Bank offered me to return to Taipei, a wonderful city where I spent 10 years of my career. After a few weeks of settling in, I started to do some research and was surprised to find so many choiced for freediving schools in Taiwan. 

This would be a good time to let you know something about myself. Sometimes I am a procrastinator, not professionally, but when it comes to personal affairs, tomorrow is always the best time to finish doing something. It’s something I’ve dealt with my whole life and have gotten better as I’ve aged. However, learning freediving was one of those things I would have thought “Why start now when I can just do it later”. I had a four day weekend coming up in the first weekend in April and something just told me I HAD TO DO THIS, I HAD TO GO AND LEARN FREEDIVING THAT WEEKEND. I did my research and looked at who was available to teach a course during this time, in English. Those were my only two criterias. 

Freedive Taiwan (http://freedivetaiwan.com/)  was the only school that fit those two criteria and I booked immediatly and paid the full amount right away (instead of just the deposit per norm) certain nothing was going to get in the way of this long weekend. To be frank, I got really lucky. Very very lucky. Little did I know that 1) Donny, the instructor there, was an awesome and professional teacher 2) I was the only student that weekend and 3) he also introduced me to the podcast he hosts, the only freedive podcast in existence (http://freedivecafe.com/) which has been a great source for a lot of my freedive knowledge. The tuition fee also includes a place to sleep, which is a big plus. Donny’s school is located at Xiaoliuqiu, which is a small island off the Southwest coast of Taiwan near the largest city in the south of Taiwan, Kaohsiung or about 3-4 hours door to door from Taipei. 

Two months later Donny asked me if I was ready for the next level, AIDA 3, I was like “hell yes, sign me up”! 

I have spent nearly the last 3 decades of my life in a city/urban environment. The last 20 years sitting behind a trading desk blasted by radiation from 8 LCD monitors. Working in the city and in an office is a health hazard not appreciated enough which is a topic I will address in a future blog post but suffice it to say that my energy levels were sapped and I was in a constant state of pain management (10-12 hours a day looking at your monitor sure does a number on your neck and shoulders). I was most likely chronically in a low-level fight-or-flight mode. 

On the course with me was Donny, a fit 36 year old and Eileen, a 26-year-ol bad-ass surfer and soon-to-be yoga teacher who smashed a 4.5-minute breath hold without much training. But this 46-year-old bag of bones managed to keep up and to put it simply I DID NOT FEEL LIKE I WAS 46 YEARS OLD, but much much much much much younger. “This was it” I thought “this is what I was meant to do in life”. Not for a lack of trying, there are A LOT of things I love to do like Brazilian Jiujitsu, cooking, traveling, powerlifting, yoga, golf etc but nothing rejuvenated my mind, body, and soul as freediving has. 

I have simply never felt this way. It was powerful. Compelling. Something brought me to that island of Xiaoliuqiu. A powerful force. Was it intuition? Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (https://tinyurl.com/yxde6fqr) is a deep examination and scientific justification of intuition or “gut feel” and went into concepts like thin slicing and the gut-brain connection. In summary, gut feel is for real and now I think I just experienced it. 

One month after completing my AIDA 3 course I was laid off from my job at Deutsche Bank after just 6 months on the job and I knew exactly what I was going to do and put plans in place to pursue a freedive instructor certification and 3 weeks later I was on Gili Air, Indonesia ready for the next chapter of my life. 

“You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”  - Steve Jobs

I’ve always admired this quote, but it was much later in my career when I first saw it and jumping into something new on a gut feel was something I thought I’d never experience. Now here I am. In a future blog post I’ll explain how everything made sense connecting the dots looking backwards. 

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