Happy Living | Blog“Be like a river. Be open. Flow.”
(Julie Connor)

It was a normal transatlantic flight, not unlike the 50+ or so similar trips I’ve made over the past 30 years. I caught up on a few movies and slept a little bit.

Eventually, I landed in Barcelona, rented a car, and started the two hour drive north away from the Mediterranean Sea and towards the Pyrenees Mountains to our home in La Seu d’Urgell.

About 45 minutes into the drive, up on a picturesque hillside, I spotted a field of yellow wildflowers that appeared to stretch into the horizon.

There was an exit ramp just ahead so I pulled off the highway. I followed a gravel road up the hill through a tiny, ancient stone village where I parked the car.

I stood on the edge of the road and looked across the field. The warm Catalan sun perfectly offset the coolness brought in by the Spring winds coming down the mountains. There was no noise from the highway.

I thought to myself, “How did I get here?”

Rebelling Against Common Sense

More than four decades of paddling rivers has provided me the gift of counter-intuitiveness… a process of decision-making that is contrary to common sense. It plays perfectly into navigating the complex currents of river rapids.

On the river, the common sense voice says:

Balance your kayak more securely by leaning away from the current — safe choice.
Avoid rocks — fixed obstacles met on impact hurt.
Take more paddle strokes — speed wins.

The counterintuitive voice says:

Tilt your boat into the river current to capture the dynamic force from the flow.
Paddle towards rocks to avail yourself to options for direction and speed.
Fewer but better timed paddle strokes not only conserve your energy but allow you to use the river’s energy instead of your own.

Common sense works for “just enough.”

Counterintuitive opens the possibility to “do better.”

When I applied the practice of being counterintuitive to my life off the river — I created healthful change.

When I was unhealthy and overweight, I needed to exercise. Common sense said, “Exercise before or after work.”

Counterintuitive voice said, “Exercise with work colleagues during lunch and suppress the urge to grab a quick bite at the Chinese food buffet.” The gains in my health increased my energy and clarity.

I created lunchtime workouts. I tilted into the current

When my professional career was at a crossroads, I had to make a choice. Common sense said, “You are the CEO of an Olympic sport organization. Why leave?”

Counterintuitive voice said, “Leave your job to focus more attention on what matters most, and leave behind the negative people who drag you down.”

I walked away from my CEO job and went out on my own. I aimed at the rocks.

With more flexibility in my life, my family and I had a conversation about where we could live. Common sense said, “You have a beautiful home with no debt in Tennessee.”

Counterintuitive voice said, “eBay all this stuff, create space, and jump into the uncertainty.”

Together, we went through a year-long VISA application process. Our life, now, breathes with Catalan simplicity.

A farmer on his tractor rumbles down the gravel road alongside the endless landscape of yellow wildflowers. The farmer pleasantly waves to me as he passes. Our interaction completes this unexpected moment in nature.

How did I get here?

Simplicity realized through the practice of being counterintuitive.

With gratitude,


Ps — If you enjoyed this post, it would mean a great deal to me if you shared it. Please use the hashtag #LessCommonSense

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Hi, I’m Joe, the owner of 5 With Joe Performance Coaching. My clients are leaders, organizations, and teams who utilize my Olympic Gold Medalperformance strategies and 40 years of navigating whitewater river rapids to streamline decision making and actions when engaged in complicated river currents of business and life.

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