Recently, after coming to Antalya for an open-water swim camp with his group, one of my coach friends remarked, “You are so lucky living in a place like this!”
I appreciate the sentiment, but I feel I should clarify my story.
If you’ve come to one of our swim camps, or have come to have some private lessons with me here in Antalya province, no doubt you’ve seen how amazing it is along the Mediterranean: the climate, the warm family culture among the genuine Turks, and of course, the awesome sea swimming year round. I don’t feel I take it for granted one moment how wonderful (in the most literal sense of the word) my life here is, with all the challenges and rewards we experience in family and business life.
But it is not luck that we live here.
My wife and I freely decided to give up all we had back home and move our family over here. We sold or gave away everything we owned but for our most personal effects and memorabilia (now stored in boxes in someone’s attic). We set out with only slim finances to support our living. We did it without an income source waiting for us here. We did it without an income source readily waiting for us back home if we had to retreat and move back. We took a huge risk. Our family and friends back home made a great sacrifice as well (some begrudgingly) to let us move so far away from them.
If you will permit me to describe it in terms of our spiritual culture, we felt God invited us to come and see what might happen, and learn from it. We felt He promised to take care of us emotionally and not let us be destroyed, per se, but there was no sense of guarantee that we would find ‘success’ out her or even make it very long on our finances. At least, we knew our credit card limit would be just enough to get the whole family home on a plane, if we had to.
But the bottom line was this: we would never know what waited for us out here unless we went. And so we did.
And the amazing things that have developed since moving to Turkey, which have allowed us to survive and eventually come to thrive here, mostly came as complete surprises. I would label many of them as providential. But they came to our aid only after we committed to the risk and jumped off the edge of the known into the unknown. Not before.
It was our dream to assimilate into an ‘exotic’ culture quite different from our own (Turkey is indeed exotic to Americans). It was our desire to raise our family out in the broader world, away from the convenience and limitations of our home culture. (We want our children to view the world as their community, their responsibility, not merely one nation in it.) It was our desire to live in an environment that would require us to adapt. We were aware that it would change us irreversibly. We assented to this. We wanted to go near the challenges of our world and find ways to increase our positive impact on them. It seems God was pleased that we would dream this way and recognized we were just crazy enough to go, if invited. The invitation came in a form we recognized and we accepted. Here we are.
If we had waited for circumstances to line up and make it feel convenient and safe to go we never would have left America. (Looking back, America doesn’t seem that safe anymore.) I have yet to meet someone who has set up an amazing life (that I admire) or accomplished some tremendous positive impact on our world who has not had to take serious risk, jump off some intimidating edge, overcome great obstacles and or walk with courage through discouraging situations to get there.
And failure is something everyone experiences out here. We all know that those who don’t try are the only ones guaranteed not to fail. The difference between those who try and don’t succeed and those who try and do is this: they fall down but get back up and find a new way to get going again.
But is the point of all this merely to find ‘success’? What then is ‘success’?
The pursuit of our dream is worth it, even if we do not achieve it. The greatest portion of the reward is built into the path, not the destination. . . if the attitude is calibrated to receive it that way.
Some may compare my life to theirs and conclude that I have reached some envious or attractive destination. But I would argue that what is mistaken as some ‘achievement’ is actually a glimpse of what it is like to walk along a satisfying path – even if that path involves a great deal of challenge – toward a worthy vision. Have I reached some achievement? I don’t know. I am not measuring things that way. But I am a person at peace while working my way forward through an uncertain future toward the goals and vision on my heart.
I try to maintain no illusions of certainty. Realistically, all we have here could vanish or be broken by world circumstances in a matters of days. That realization would not necessarily make it any easier to bear, but realizing this ahead of time could help me get to the transition quicker. If it all ended tomorrow I think I would still be glad we came this far. I would then look around to pick up some pieces and start building a new thing, in a new place, if I must.
I am not a person aiming at success in the form of an arrival at some great achievement or destination. It is simply my aim to keep walking forward toward the dream, to keep learning as I go. And in this the only obstacle to success is my own attitude and will.
So, if you envy my life and business, all I can say is, “Come!” The water is warm, and there is more than enough room along the Med for both of us to have an amazing experience.
What’s standing in the way of you stepping out to follow your dream, if you haven’t done so already?
What are you waiting for?
Do you really expect it to get more convenient to do it at some later point in life?
One more note: I did set out on this adventure with a ‘tool box’ full of problem-solving skills and an attitude that accepts change and cooperates with adaptation (change and adaptation are still hard, even with a tool box along). I realized that I was going to have to solve most of the problems of this journey while walking it out. So I didn’t let the unknown stop me from going. That’s actually one of the features that makes this journey rather satisfying.
Get on the road to your dream, and, in my experience, the things you need along the way will actually have an easier time finding you.
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no one is ever lucky…hard work comes into play all the time…i too chose another country to live in and work…and am so happy i did so….my swimming has improved and will continue to improve because it provides the contemplation for me to continue to conquer my fears.
In another chapter I would emphasize that we did not ‘do it alone’. No one proceeds, or succeeds, in a vacuum. There has been much help from friends, and strangers (often who become friends), along the way. This is what I mean by providence, and by aid coming once we set out on the journey, not before.
And I agree, the skills we learn and practice in TI are the very skills we can use to over come our obstacles in other areas of life.
Carry on, Susan!
Mat, I felt like I was reading a high quality newspaper article or a passage in a chapter in his latest book of a favorite writer. Hope everything will work out even better for you and your family along the way. Take care. Cenk (July 2011 TI Istanbul participant)