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We’re focusing our relaunch around the theme: EVOLVE. Transformation is core to who we are, and we put it out to The Inertia’s influencers and most talented contributors to share moments that caused significant personal growth and transformation – ideally with some relation to surfing, but also to life in general. This is Tim Hamby’s moment.

"You know the saying, “You can’t take it with you”? I get that, now."  Photo: Tupat

“You know the saying, “You can’t take it with you? I get that, now.” Photo: Patrick Eichstaedt

Transformation, reinvention and evolution are rarely easy. Yet they are a part of life as ancient as the ocean and constant as her rhythms. Life is a series of crests and valleys. And our conditions are ever-changing. When we embrace the concept of evolution, we not only learn to roll with life’s changes, we begin to recognize the opportunities they present. At the very least, we overcome our fears of them. I know because I was forced to evolve following a sudden, deep and unexpected period of change in my life recently. And turning back wasn’t an option.

I’m sharing my story for a few reasons: One was a remarkably timely email that I received from The Inertia a few weeks ago, informing me of some changes coming to their website. The note also asked if I might consider writing about a “significant moment of change” in my own life, something that led to “personal growth and transformation” in conjunction with their re-launch. “Ideally,” the email read, “it could relate to surfing, but also just to life in general.”

My experience certainly relates to, “life in general,” and, as for “surfing,” to me those two things are inseparable. After God, family and friends, surfing has probably been the most significant influence in my life since first standing up on a wave at age 15. Most major decisions I’ve made in my life – where I’ve lived, who I married, how I’ve spent my time and money, have almost always been linked to surfing in one way or another. Isn’t that the all-consuming nature of the sport (activity) that so many of us have freely surrendered to?

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Interesting is the role that The Inertia itself played during my period of evolution. I don’t even know if Zach, Alex, Ted or anyone else was aware. Another reason I thought it an ideal time to share. Most importantly, I thought there might be others out there navigating similar times of unexpected change in their own lives who could find some value or encouragement in my experiences.

My “transformation” began in late 2007 when the collapse of the housing market struck a devastating, and ultimately fatal, blow to my 11-year old real estate marketing firm. The business I had launched with one friend out of a small apartment a decade earlier had grown into a 27-person, full-service integrated marketing agency doing about $5 million-a-year, every year.

Until the housing bubble burst.

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Understand that there’s a reason people use this specific language when talking about sudden market collapses. When “bubbles burst,” by definition, they cease to exist. And that’s exactly what happened to our industry and our business. One day, we were working 20 or so large accounts. Then, seemingly overnight, all new development just… stopped.

All of it.

The next four years would become a steady series of layoffs of people I considered family, and for whom I felt responsible in much the same way. I delayed every cut for as long as I could while methodically feeding the company with all of the resources my wife and I had worked hard to accumulate over 15 years of marriage.

We liquidated our savings.

Our real estate investments.

Our 401K’s.

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And finally, our home, which we were forced to sell to tap its equity. Thank God it sold when it did, or the bank may well have taken it from us.

Now, I have never been materialistic and can be as happy with nothing as I can with abundance. But, the fact was that my life had turned upside down, and the changes were painful. The home my wife and I had built eight years earlier was located directly across the street from the ocean with private access to a beautiful empty beach, with three extremely consistent sandbars within 150 yards of each other. For years, I could walk right out my front door and go surf anytime I felt like it.

As owner of my own business, I rarely missed a swell.

When my boards lost their pop, I ordered new ones.

And I traveled… Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Barbados, The Dominican Republic, Mexico (Mainland and Baja), Costa Rica (over and over), the Bahamas (over and over). But those days had come to an end.

Breaking down our 10,000 s.f. office was physically and emotionally grueling. My partners and I had invested $425,000 building it out to create a one-of-a-kind environment. Now I was selling designer furniture and high tech equipment for next to nothing on Craigslist.

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I remember a revelation I had when boxing literally hundreds of local, regional and national awards we had won over the years for just about every creative marketing and design category you could imagine.

You know the saying, “You can’t take it with you?” I get that now. At the end of the day, what value do these things really hold? I wondered then, and do still today, if Kelly Slater feels the same way about his collection of awards which must certainly far outnumber those we had accumulated. I have to believe that he must.

Still, stubbornly, I packed every last one of them with care, lugging five God-awful heavy boxes home with me. My justification: this was for my daughters – so that one day in the future they might pull these things down from the attic, brush off the dust and discover, “Damn – Dad was pretty good.”

A few weeks later, I reconsidered.

I realized that my daughters already know exactly who I am, and everything that is truly “important” about me, and to me. My values. My beliefs. The things I feel are important to stand up for. And what they might understand or think about my professional accomplishments one day in the future… well, that’s the last thing I’d ever really care about. Even at the pinnacle of my career, my work never defined me.

And it never will.

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And I hope the same is true for them.

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