When I started surfing, I never knew what a transformative life experience it would be for me. I have done a lot of sports, yet none even compare to surfing. I have to say it is the most expansive of all of them. I also have found it to be the best metaphor for life as an entrepreneur. Here are eight reasons why:
1. Every time you fall down, get back up. There is no other sport I have ever done that you, in a manner of speaking, fall off EVERY time and have to get back on the board, paddle back out and go again and again and again. What an incredible reminder for entrepreneurs. Growing up, so many of us are trained to be afraid of trying things because we are afraid to fail. As entrepreneurs, it is exactly the opposite, as with surfing – it is expected that you will fall off over and over again. Very quickly it teaches us to try things and be ok with risk and failure. It becomes second nature and teaches us that failure leads to learning and opportunity, which then leads to improvement and success. As entrepreneurs, it is no different. We are told NO over and over again, and it requires inner confidence, strength and certainty to keep going, adapting, adjusting, learning and getting back up and going again.
2. Surfing, like entrepreneurship, is a spiritual journey. Before I became a surfer, I was told that surfing is a spiritual experience and I didn’t really get it. Once I became a surfer, I got it. Being part of nature, paddling out there with all types of ocean life – great white sharks included – witnessing wind, rain, sun, moon and all of the majesty and danger that nature has to offer, it becomes a spiritual practice of trusting and being humble to mother nature’s magnificence. Entrepreneurship has the same magic and power. It requires focus and discipline and the ultimate confidence in yourself as well as trust in the process. As an entrepreneur, there are moments when you have no idea what the next step is or how you will get through. You just have to have the unwavering discipline, belief and commitment to taking that next step and trusting that somehow, some way, it will appear. It can be the same with a wave that is bigger than you have ever paddled into, and you just have to breathe, fully commit, dig in and go, and trust that it will work out. Ultimately, they are spiritual journeys that will test your utmost grit, faith and commitment, and in the end, there is nothing more rewarding or more worth it!
3. Mind over matter. Our attitudes shape our reality. If you think you can’t, you won’t. If you think you can, you will. It is that simple. In surfing, if you get in the water and think you can’t handle this or you are not going to have fun or if you are paddling for a wave and think, “I am not going to get this,” you won’t. As an entrepreneur, it is no different. If we believe we are going to get our goal, achieve our dream, or succeed in our business, we will. I recently said, “If you believe in the eventuality, eventually it will become your reality.” This has been my mantra every time someone has told me, “You can’t do that,” and in my mind, I respond, “Oh yeah, watch me!”
4. Be present. Surfing forces us to be present in the here and now. If you get ahead of yourself and think about the last wave, what you need to do for the upcoming wave or even on your to do list, it can throw you off from being able to respond to the changes with each wave because every wave is different. By staying very present in each moment, you are able to adapt and adjust your paddle, pop up, stance or otherwise to make magic happen. As an entrepreneur, while there is always a lot of planning involved, there are also obstacles and opportunities at every turn. If we are present and pay attention, we can often look for the opportunities to turn those obstacles into our advantage. If we lose focus and presence for one moment, we can be thrown off our game, just like being thrown off our boards. Rather staying present, smiling and rolling with what comes our way always lead to the long term wins.
5. Ego is no amigo. Some people may argue that as an entrepreneur you have to have ego. But in the end, I’m not convinced this is the case. Confidence, yes; Ego, no. In surfing you can see it, when egos get involved, it ruins the passion, love and spirit of the sport and often times fights break out. One of the most famous surf quotes is, “The best surfer out there is the one having the most fun.” As I have been on the journey as an entrepreneur, when I look around at those mentors and leaders that most inspire me, like Richard Branson and Tony Hsieh, what stands out is their commitment to authenticity, following their heart, and having fun. When things get tough in the water or out, I always remember this and take a few moments to lighten up, laugh a little and have more fun and it always put everything back into perspective, and back on track. (I credit this saying to one of my dear surfer sisters.)
6. Persistence and perseverance pave the way. Taking that extra paddle and making that extra effort paves the way for that pay off of that awesome wave you catch. If you fail once, fail twice, fail thrice, try, try again and keep at it. Your effort will pay off. As an entrepreneur this is key, if you take that extra step, persist and persevere, you can’t fail. You may “fail” but what you gain in experience, opportunity and learning will put you ahead of the curve the next time you get out there. So don’t give up, keep going until your effort paves the way for more joy, success and excitement.
7. Camaraderie and character are key. One of the beautiful things about surfing is that it builds character and creates a certain camaraderie that is hard to find elsewhere. Those tough paddle outs, long road trips or just long lulls between sets bring out a side of surfers that few get to experience. Plus the lingo that goes with it, “brah,” “stoked,” “shred,” (and the list goes on) or the pre- and post-surf getting naked in parking lots, along PCH, or wherever, create a community and bond that is hard to explain and hard to find elsewhere. Well, except perhaps as entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is tough, grueling and some days can be down right defeating and unrewarding. Yet, somehow, as with surfing, those most challenging moments or most incredible wins, the long hours or quirky startup babble, can build bonds that last a lifetime. The combination of the two – surfing and entrepreneurship – is an even more powerful combination to reckon with!
8. Patience pays. How many times when you are starting up your company and going after your dreams do you want things to happen now and on your time? And it doesn’t always – or usually – go that way? The waves are no different. There is nothing like sitting out on the water on a day when the waves, and sets, have a mind of their own and decide to come on their own time. You can get upset and frustrated that they aren’t coming or you can accept it and look around, enjoy the scenery, breathe, feel the wind in your hair, the sunrise or sunset, the dolphins, the seals, the birds, or even the people chatting and laughing around you and fully take in the moment and opportunity at hand. As entrepreneurs, we have to learn patience, surfing teaches us that over and over and over again.