“See, we’re told to all be leaders, but that would be really ineffective. The best way to make a movement, if you really care, is to courageously follow and show others how to follow…When you find a lone nut doing something great, have the guts to be the first person to stand up and join in.”

Last July, I went back to school. Not very surfy, I know, but from where I’m standing now, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’m fortunate enough to be surrounded by ambitious and motivated classmates from all walks of life who inspire me on a daily basis, and exciting ideas seem to be a dime a dozen. They say that what school’s for, and I feel lucky to partake.

I have a lot of thoughts on how school helped restore surfing to a healthy, balanced place in my life compared with its stature beforehand, but for now I wanted to share a TED video we watched last semester about leadership – and how it’s overrated.

This video bears some relevance to what we’re doing with The Inertia, but that’s unimportant – especially compared with the video’s core message, which, in my estimation, is about courage. The video is brilliant, because it illustrates the point humorously, but I think that having the courage to pursue your passions even (and especially) when they’re unpopular is one of the most important elements of a fulfilling life. And surf culture’s obedience to the concept of “cool” hasn’t done it any favors when it comes to thought leadership.

To grossly generalize, it seems that surf culture has become so image conscious that it struggles to accept new ideas. Of course, there are exceptions, but, as a rule, we have too many people just sitting there, scared of being judged. Too aware of (and susceptible to) crowd preferences. That’s no way to be.

I hope this video helps inspire people to feel more comfortable starting movements they believe in – or, better yet, galvanizing nascent movements with which they identify. It’s okay to risk looking stupid. In fact, I encourage it, because once a movement hits a critical mass, people are often participating for all the wrong reasons. The same fear that kept their butt planted in the ground propelled them into the crowd.

So, be the dancing guy in 2012. Better yet, be the second, third, fourth, or fifth dancing guy. Those folks are the real game-changers, because they exercised discretion and had the courage to act on it with the added benefit of context. Just don’t sit there, afraid. And if you sit there, fine, sit there, but you better have a good reason as to why.

  • Matt O’Brien

    I AM THE DANCiNG CRAZY FOOL – When I dance that is. It is something I reserve for weddings and the occasional Street Corner. Or when I am on Vacation – great way to burn off food/booze when your landlocked and can’t surf. My wife thinks I’m Johnny T from Saturnight Fever (not really, but I do order 7 & 7′s just to keep up the/my delusion)… even heard some folks from UK videos my in Cancun past May – still looking for it on YouTube/Vimeo!
    see you on the Dance Floor…

  • Matt O’Brien

    I AM THE DANCiNG CRAZY FOOL – When I dance that is. It is something I reserve for weddings and the occasional Street Corner. Or when I am on Vacation – great way to burn off food/booze when your landlocked and can’t surf. My wife thinks I’m Johnny T from Saturnight Fever (not really, but I do order 7 & 7′s just to keep up the/my delusion)… even heard some folks from UK videos my in Cancun past May – still looking for it on YouTube/Vimeo!
    see you on the Dance Floor…

  • Reid Levin

    Great article, Zach. I agree that the people who act on their beliefs/passions are those who will know what it means to be fulfilled rather than those who take a seat at the “cool” table. The surf community could use more people with courage to evolve its image–not that there is something horribly wrong with it, but rather for the sake of change. Good on ya 

  • Reid Levin

    Great article, Zach. I agree that the people who act on their beliefs/passions are those who will know what it means to be fulfilled rather than those who take a seat at the “cool” table. The surf community could use more people with courage to evolve its image–not that there is something horribly wrong with it, but rather for the sake of change. Good on ya 

  • Reid Levin

    Great article, Zach. I agree that the people who act on their beliefs/passions are those who will know what it means to be fulfilled rather than those who take a seat at the “cool” table. The surf community could use more people with courage to evolve its image–not that there is something horribly wrong with it, but rather for the sake of change. Good on ya 

  • Al Baydough
  • Grumplestilskin

    Where can I see the TED Jemps?

  • Chris_Fauxte

    SC?  Couldn’t get into Anderson? 

  • Clif

    Ummmm I think the first couple of lads, especially the first, was off his chops on a pill or two. No leadership here. It IS a music festival. I know when I am off chops I’ll do the lone dance until the cows come home. Leadership? No. Ha ha. Party in my head with a crowd of pixies? Yes. I am not alone, even though I look like I am dancing alone. Odds on iy’s the same for the champ in the clip ha ha.

  • Eric

    Interesting social analysis.  From my perspective, first guy..tripping.  Second guy..practicing straight-up mockery.  Maybe even the third too.  Everybody else, like most of us, likes a party and a good time! 

    Regardless Zach, I agree with the gist of your post.

    Get up, stand up.. 

     

  • Linda Meier

    When I first saw this clip, it took a few to get the irony between the humor and the message. This was great to read, Zach.  One of my favorite lines was ”It’s OK to risk being stupid”.  Staying true to your own passions without fear of the judgement zone can light a fire or a candle or maybe both.        

  • Chris_Fauxte

    We at TWS risk being stupid every single day.  In fact, have you seen our website?  Nothing but stupidity.  I wonder when people will start to understand us?

  • Tsgarlin

    John Stuart Mill once wrote that “the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and moral courage which it contained.” Might be an overstatement, but interesting nonetheless…

  • Anonymous

    Eames. Picasso. Jefferson. Jobs. King. X. Earhart. Lincoln. All seen as crazy dancing people by the masses. What many have figured out is that nothing worthwhile is easy… and few easy things have relevance over time. I agree with your point about connecting the The Inertia to this vid and it’s why I’ve enjoyed being connected to this site. Life is fuller when there is a bit of risk involved.

  • Tim Hamby

    “Fear is the mortal enemy of creativity, innovation and happiness.” – Alex Bogusky

    • Al Baydough

      And, sadly, fear rules most people. 

       One day you will die and the life you lived will be all you had to show for it. Might as well go to your grave DANCING!!!

      http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6401727599474326174

      • Tim Hamby

        That’s a fact, Al, and a shame most people don’t get it. Or they “hear” it, but don’t fully absorb it and apply it earnestly to their lives.

        Risk and reward go hand-in-hand in every facet of life from sports, to arts, to business, to relationships. The sooner in life that someone understands the real nature of courage and dynamics of risk/reward– of not letting the fear of failure become an obstacle to their success; the fuller and more rewarding their life is likely to be. In business, it may be investing in a new venture like Zach has done, or perhaps overcoming the simple fear of giving an honest opinion to a valuable client that maybe that person doesn’t want to hear. In a relationship, it may be overcoming the fear of expressing your heartfelt emotions to someone you love (I’m a hell of a lot better at writing those things than saying them, and I should probably do more of both). And in arts, it may be overcoming the fear of looking foolish, like the uniquely talented performers in Al’s dancing video or some of the poor souls on shows like American Idol. In competitive sports, such as surfing and others, it tends to evidence itself in even more direct ways. It may no longer be about simply overcoming embarrassment or fear of failure, but a matter of winning or losing. And often at the expense of injury, up to and including life and death. Think about Olympians. They’ve dedicated their entire lives to reaching one moment. Think they’re nervous or fearful? Sure, that’s human nature. Think they’re going to let their fears prevent them from putting everything on the line to reap the ultimate reward? No way. I wrote a piece on this same topic back in 2010 after being inspired by Bode Miller and Lindsey Vonn’s heart-stopping performances in the 2010 Olympics. I ultimately related the subject back to  my area of business, but the lessons are universal for those interested in additional reading- “Safe” is Risky: The Rewards of Facing Your Fears http://bit.ly/hxUH0T

        • Al Baydough

          Darn tootin’!

            BTW, congrats on winning The Inertia goodies. Well deserved.

    • Al Baydough

      And, sadly, fear rules most people. 

       One day you will die and the life you lived will be all you had to show for it. Might as well go to your grave DANCING!!!

      http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6401727599474326174