Suffocated By Paradise

Ben Buie | 7/1/15

I recently heard the story of Chris Burkard (watch below).

Early in his career he said his life was filled with, “blue skies, warm, tropical beaches, and a tan that lasts all year long.” I’m jealous already.

“To me,” he continued, “this was it! Life could not get any better.”

You see, Chris is a surf photographer, and a good one. He spent his days with a camera in hand, traveling from tropical beach to tropical beach and he loved it. Or so he thought.

Surprisingly, he said that the more he lived this life, filled with the “trappings” of the world’s tourist destinations, the more he felt “suffocated” by it.

Chris: “I set out for adventure, and instead I found routine.”

Isn’t that interesting. He was living a life that most of us would give the shirt of our back for (of necessity) and he didn’t find happiness in it. Why? I’m confused.

So, Chris began a “personal crusade against the routine.” He started looking for surf locations that others had written off as “too cold, too remote, or too dangerous.” He found what he was looking for on his first trip to Iceland.

Me: I don’t surf, but when I do, I don’t surf in Iceland!

The surf spot was hard to reach and when they finally got there it was cold, really cold. One time they had to weave through huge ice blocks on the sand just to get to the shiver inducing water. His hands were so cold and numb, at times, that he had a hard time snapping the shutter on his camera.

Despite the difficulty, Chris said he found a sense of joy and clarity on this trip that he was missing. He then spent the rest of his career going to these unlikely surf spots taking some amazing pictures.

His whole point: he found joy through the shivering.

I love his story, mostly because of what I’ve learned from pondering it. Is it true that all good things in life come through sacrifice, through struggle, through difficulty, or through, yes, shivering?

In pondering this question and Chris’ story I’ve formulated what I’m calling the pattern of good and bad decisions. Creative, I know. :) Suggestions welcome.

A Pattern of Bad Decisions

I think all (or most bad) decisions follow this pattern: one step forward, two steps back. The step forward is instant, it’s gratification, it’s easy; and the step backwards comes slowly but surely and subtly through time. Can you think of a bad decision that doesn’t follow this? I haven’t. There are some that seem break the mold, but upon further analysis, I can usually make a case.

One easy example is drug use. Drugs give an instant high and the consequences come slowly. Drugs change brain chemistry causing a user to focus increasingly on the drug at the detriment of their family, career, and health, among other good things. They cause addiction that deadens the persons ability to freely choose. Many drugs cause harm to the body that is only felt through time.

Because the two steps back come slowly, some people unwisely believe that they never come. When a bad decision becomes a habit, they can trap us in an exponential path to misery.

At first its like, ooh, aah, yeah. Everything seems to be going great and then BAM, the steps backward start catching up!

Time knows only truth.

In Chris’ story, it took time to see that his dream career filled with ease couldn’t offer him what he was looking for.

Why Is This Important?

This pattern can not only help us make better decisions and to judge our past decisions, they also show why bad decisions are so deceptive. At first, all our senses leads us to believe that a bad decision is, in fact, a good decision.

It is only slowly but surly and subtly through time that we realize how bad it really was.

A Pattern of Good Decisions

Like good to bad, the pattern of good decisions is the exact opposite of bad decisions. It is one step backward, two steps forward. The step backward is quick, it’s sacrifice, it’s a little bit of shivering; and the two steps forward come slowly but surely and subtly through time. Can you think of any good decision that doesn’t follow this pattern?

A great example of this pattern is exercise. It takes our time now, it is hard, and it hurts (if you’re doing it right!); and the two steps forward come slowly, sometimes so slowly we don’t even notice. Through time we start to feel better, we have more energy, we look better, we live longer, and our long life is filled with health.

Many good decisions are missed because people fail to see the end from the beginning. When a good decision becomes a habit, it sets the person on an exponential curve to true happiness, or joy.

one good habit

 

At first, it’s like ouch, ouch, ouch! Is this really worth the sacrifice? Remember when life was…easier? But if we pay attention, we’ll start to see the subtle steps forward.

Why is this important?

Again, this pattern can not only help us make better decisions and help us judge the decisions of our past, but it can also give us the motivation to make better decisions.

For example, if I want joy in love, work, recreation, spirituality, life…real joy…then I’ve got to be willing to sacrifice for it.

Or said another way, when the need to sacrifice comes, because it will, maybe I’ll have a different attitude about it.

True joy in anything in life…like in Chris’ career…comes through a little bit of shivering.

Watch Chris’ full story here:

About the Author

Ben currently works as a contract web developer and business consultant in Boulder, Colorado.

His passion for entrepreneurship led him to study business and learn to code. Although he never anticipated working on the web, Ben has spent the past 9 years learning everything he could about building and operating websites and web assets.

When not at work, Ben spends a lot of his time with family. He is married to a “beautiful” woman and they are raising 4 energetic boys. In his spare time he loves keeping up with technology, playing guitar, eating Sweet Cow ice cream, and painting (although he has very little time for painting these days). Other than that, Ben is a supporter of freedom and liberty, a fluent speaker of Russian, and he tries to be a humble follower of Jesus.

Read more about Ben.

  • Matt Reisman

    Great post Ben, fantastic insights! This resonated with something I’d been thinking about lately. I’ve been trying to think more about the impact of how every-day decisions impact my future self. With that, I’ve been trying to be a good friend to myself in the future. I make a joke out of it by doing things like deep cleaning the kitchen at night then waking up the next day and saying “thanks yesterday Matt, the kitchen looks great.” But I believe that on a larger scale, to your point, this is key to a good life. It’s often easier to act selfishly with respect to your future self. To your point about making bad decisions – you get immediate gratification (1 step forward) but then suffer the consequences of 2 steps backward in the future.

    • benbuie

      I love the idea of being nice to your future self. That is a powerful idea.