Greetings from the bottom of a cold, dark lake somewhere in Nebraska.  What ridiculous set of circumstances brought me here, you ask?  As you may remember, this month’s learning challenge was supposed to be learning how to make croissants with my wife.  I had to call an audible, however, and shift to SCUBA diving so that some friends and I could make sure to have the certification process finished for an upcoming trip.  Thankfully, my wife was a good sport and agreed to postpone the croissants as long as I promised not to drown.

For those not familiar with our 30-Day Challenges, here’s a quick review.  In order to stay disciplined and intentional about learning new things, I do periodic “30-Day Challenges” where I will learn about something that interests me and then write about it here at the blog.  Hopefully some of you will be inspired to follow along at home each month and we’ll be able to add something fun and interesting to our “life skills resume.”

For those keeping track at home, here’s our list so far:

  • Learn all the countries of the world
  • Learn to SCUBA dive

Why do this?  One of the central messages here at Intentional Retirement is to pursue knowledge and experiences that enrich your life.  I’m a big believer in the importance of learning and doing new things.  It keeps your mind sharp and engaged.  It helps you figure out what you like.  It gives you new people to interact with and results in a sense of accomplishment and personal satisfaction.  With that said, here’s the skinny on SCUBA.

SCUBA Certification: The process

Getting SCUBA certified involved a combination of classroom work, pool work and open water dives.  Somewhat surprisingly (for a landlocked state), Nebraska has one of the nicest dive shops in the country.  The classroom work was really interesting, covering things like equipment, skills, the science of how your body reacts underwater, tides, waves and marine life.  The pool work allowed you to practice what you learned in the classroom each night and the open water dives (four dives over two days) allowed you take everything you learned and practice it on actual dives.  As mentioned earlier, the open water dives weren’t in the most beautiful lake, but it was much less expensive to get the certification dives done here than on an actual dive trip.

What I learned (or was reminded of) as part of this particular challenge

Be willing to spend for experiences.  Sometimes hobbies are cheap.  SCUBA is not one of those hobbies.  The certification is pricey.  The equipment is pricey.  Traveling to worthwhile dive locations can be pricey.  Sometimes the best things in life are free.  Sometimes they cost an arm and a leg.  Don’t be afraid to spend on experiences.  For more of my thoughts in this area, read:

Be willing to take risks.  We all know to avoid the business end of a shark, but there are plenty of less obvious ways to get hurt diving.  For example, did you know that holding your breath while ascending from a dive can cause your lungs to explode?  Or that the deadliest creature in the ocean is a Jellyfish called a Sea Wasp?  Each class was a reminder that diving (and life) is full of risks.  But doing nothing is full of risks as well—the risk that you will lead a boring, unfulfilling life.  So don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and take a chance on things.

Look for complementary hobbies and skills.  When we were learning about different dive locations our instructor Pat mentioned Belize, Bonaire and the Great Barrier Reef.  Thanks to last month’s geography challenge, I knew where all of those places were!  Pat is also a very skilled underwater photographer.  Since photography is one of my other hobbies, we spent time looking at his photos and he gave me information on an underwater photography class that he teaches.  Those skills/hobbies of geography, photography, diving and travel can all cross pollinate to make richer overall experiences.  Look for similar opportunities as you consider the types of things that you want to learn and do.

Look for fresh perspectives.  The world is 70 percent covered by water.  Since I enjoy breathing, the underwater world was largely off limits to me prior to getting SCUBA certified.  Now I can spend time exploring the two-thirds of the planet that was formerly a no-go zone.  I’m looking forward to getting a fresh and interesting new perspective.

What’s next?

The croissants are still on deck, but I have a bit of travel in June, so I may not have a pastry update for you until sometime in July.  In the meantime, be thinking about things that you’ve always wanted to learn.  Hopefully these posts will be inspiration to start a 30-Day Challenge of your own.  Better yet, email me about what you’d like to do and we can work on it together.

Have a great week and remember to keep life interesting.


Photo courtesy of Mark and Andrea Busse.  Used under Creative Commons License.
Retirement is a path, not a door
An open letter to the Class of 2012 and the Monthly Rewind