Life is Not Linear

Life is not Linear

Kate Byars | September 4, 2016

My parents were children of the Great Depression. They were both raised on farms so at least they never went hungry. When they married, my father took a job at a global corporation; a big step up for a farm boy. I remember my dad leaving for work each morning at 7AM and returning promptly every afternoon at 5PM. My father is a creature of habit and his daily schedule never changed.

My mother had a short career as a bookkeeper prior to marrying my father. Once they married, she quit her job to “keep house.” The rest of her life, my mother was a homemaker.

Shortly after my father’s 50th birthday, his company offered him an early retirement package. Since that time, my father has never worked. Instead, he enjoys various hobbies and travels. Today, at the age of eighty, my dad has spent nearly thirty years enjoying his passions. That is the American Dream. Work hard, retire, and go play.

But sometimes the American Dream is elusive.  

My mother worked hard as homemaker. She drove a used Cutlass Supreme. She bought her clothes at Sears. She never decorated her home or went out on the town with my dad. My parents lived frugally so that they could afford a home that would allow their daughters to attend the best public school available.

For twenty-five years my mother raised her girls. And just as she and my father began to enjoy retirement, she died.

In his book “The Code of the Extraordinary Mind,” Vishen Lakhiani challenges the thought that life must be a slow and steady growth toward future enjoyment.

The Code of the Extraordinary Mind Graph I

In this chart I see my father. He never enjoyed his work or even spoke of it. He simply went to work, head down, and waited for the future to enjoy his life. I also see my mother. She worked hard, head down, and waited for a future that never arrived. This breaks my heart.

Now look at this next chart. Here Lakhiani challenges us to consider a new definition of life. One that looks more like this:

The Code of the Extraordinary Mind Graph II

In this chart, I see myself. Rather than a slow and steady grind from childhood to success, I have experienced life as a series of ups and downs.

“What if life is meant to be a beautiful joyride, with ups and downs as we…try out things outside what is practical or realistic?” – Vishen Lakhiani

My childhood years were safe and happy. My teenage years were not. I moved away from home at the age of sixteen. I lived below the poverty line. I got married and divorced. I lost my mom. Then life improved once again as I graduated college. I took risk after risk in an attempt to follow my career aspirations. I landed two dream jobs. I traveled abroad. I moved to an island, got married, and had kids. I experienced fear and self-doubt much of the way. Yet, I prevailed and in doing so, became confident in my own self. I learned to trust who I am and what I am capable of. I learned that letting go of the status quo doesn’t mean failure. It means living on my own terms.

I like that.

And then life took another downturn. Nothing major; life just seemed to lose its glow. Giving birth to two boys only two years apart was challenging those first few years. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with my career. I felt blessed for my health, my family, my home, yet I also felt like I was simply existing rather than living. The lens of life had once again grown cloudy and no matter what I did, I couldn’t get back my groove.

And then I realized why.

After my boys were born I started playing it safe. I was afraid to take risks with two kids in tow. I had forgotten that I am fully capable of creating a life on my own terms, with or without children.

Yet, I have learned from my past that when I embrace risk my life blossoms. I find amazing success and a deeper connection with what is most important to me. I am energized and feel a profound sense of well-being.

In his book, Lakhiani says that the common thread he found in researching those who live extraordinary lives is this: these individuals are risk-takers, trailblazers, and pioneers. They are no smarter, nor any different than you or me. Yet, they are willing to embrace risk and in doing so, craft amazing lives.

Today I am taking risks again. I don’t want to simply exist. I don’t want to wait for retirement to live. And I certainly don’t want to bet that retirement will be there for me. It evaded my mom, what if it evades me as well?

We all want to live amazing lives. I’m going to continue to take risks in life and embrace the ups and downs. I would love it if you joined me.

I believe we all have a bit of trailblazer inside us, don’t you? I welcome you to subscribe to my Sunday morning email. Each week I share personal stories of blazing trails in business and in life.

It’s my passion to create change. I’ve always found that disrupting the status quo leads to an amazing life where nothing is impossible.

If this article resonates with you, please share! Maybe we can all be inspired and learn from each other.

How I Lost Four Divers Underwater

How I Lost Four Divers Underwater

Kate Byars | August 28, 2016

This story is a continuation of the three part series: “Why I Traded My Lipstick and Pinstripe Suit to Live on an Island”.

As I gained confidence driving the dive boat, I also gained confidence as a dive master. Too much confidence. Which is exactly what led me to lose a group of divers underwater.

Diving in the BVIs is fairly easy and safe. Most of the dive sites lie between the various islands, which is far safer than diving in the middle of a vast, blue ocean.

We routinely took our dive guests to the more popular dive sites. The Wreck of the Rhone. Alice’s Wonderland. Ginger’s Backside.

After awhile, these dives became somewhat monotonous. One day, one of my more experienced dive colleagues introduced me to a rarely dived site. It was a pinnacle a few hundred yards away from Ginger’s Backside, located on the south side of Ginger Island. The pinnacle arose out of the water at the southernmost edge of the BVI island chain. Past the pinnacle there was nothing but deep blue sea.

This is precisely what made the pinnacle so exciting! Sea creatures rarely seen in the shallower waters surrounding the islands, swam freely around the pinnacle which was closer to the deep ocean. Hammerhead sharks, Goliath grouper, massive hog fish, and huge schools of fish were common sightings. After diving the pinnacle a few times with my colleague, I convinced my husband, Scott, and two newbie divers to dive the site.

I was so eager to regain the feeling of confidence I had built in my former corporate life that I risked the safety of our dive group in my attempt to overcompensate.

Pinnacles are round where they jut out of the water. They are not necessarily round below the water. This particular pinnacle was a tear-drop shape beneath the sea. I didn’t realize this, nor did I think to bring an underwater compass. Excited to share this magnificent dive with Scott and our guests, I simply jumped in the water and began the dive.

BVI Pinnacle

On previous trips to the pinnacle, we typically led divers from our boat, which was tethered to a mooring ball to the west, around the south side of the pinnacle into a “fishbowl” area teaming with critters. At that point, most divers would run low on air and we would begin making a slow ascent back to the boat.

This dive was different. Despite this being their very first ocean dive EVER, our dive guests had amazingly good air consumption. We explored the fishbowl where we crossed paths with a beautiful, green sea turtle. We swam through a huge school of silver sides and watched Tarpon lazily pass us by. And we stared in awe as three black tip sharks zipped in and out nearby. After exploring the fishbowl, I signaled to Scott asking if he wanted to keep going and explore further. Scott shrugged. This was my dive, not his. He had no idea what to expect.

Without a compass, and without a clue, I merrily led these trusting souls around the outermost curve of the pinnacle and then began traversing us due north in a straight line up the side of the teardrop. I had no clue idea we weren’t headed in a circle back around to the boat. Finally, one of the newbie divers ran out of air and we surfaced to find the dive boat a mere speck on the horizon. I kid you not. We were at least 4,000-feet (1200m) away from the boat.


In the business world, I would have never jumped into a situation ill-prepared. Yet in the islands, where errors cost more than losing a promotion, I was all too happy to throw caution to the wind.

Guess which direction the surface current was headed? The exact opposite direction we needed to swim, of course. Scott shot me a look and sank back below the surface. He had just enough air to get him back to the boat. Meanwhile, I was left on the surface to “entertain” our dive guests. I chatted incessantly about how normal it was to surface away from the boat. I told our guests not to worry, Scott would return in just a few moments. I also encouraged them to ignore the burning fire of pain searing their quadriceps as we struggled to swim against the surface chop and head back to the boat. When I get nervous I talk a lot. You could say I was nervous.

Approximately thirty minutes later (!!!) Scott returned with the boat. My legs hurt so badly I could barely heft myself up the dive ladder. Always an optimist, and heavily shaken from the ordeal, I passed out dive snacks in an attempt to overcome my serious faux pas. “Ginger snap, anyone?” I chirped.

The pinnacle was our first dive of the morning. Our dive guests had paid for one more. Prior to the pinnacle dive, I had suggested to the group that we try another rarely dived site for our second dive. Fortunately, our guests didn’t know what that dive site might be. As Scott began driving away from one of the most memorable dives we ever had together, he stammered, “Alice’s Wonderland?” “Alice’s Wonderland,” I confirmed.

We headed north to one of the most innocuous, and frequently dived, dive sites in the BVIs. Safe, shallow, simple. No compass required.


I believe we all have a bit of trailblazer inside us, don’t you?  I welcome you to subscribe to my Sunday morning email. Each week I share personal stories of blazing trails in business and in life.

It’s my passion to create change. I’ve always found that disrupting the status quo leads to an amazing life where nothing is impossible.

 If this article resonates with you, please share! Maybe we can all be inspired and learn from each other.