I love baking, not catching waves.
I hate exercising and I’m mildly afraid of water. Despite all this, I decided to spend my birthday on the beach taking surf lessons with my instructor, Clifton.
I didn’t decide to surf on a whim. In fact, I’ve been trying to learn to surf for five years.
“Surfing is about failing… miserably,” Clifton says while waiting for a wave.
I know this lesson too well. For five years, I’ve taken lessons and failed again and again. I still haven’t mastered the perfect pop-up.
What I have learned is that Surfing is hard.
I should have given up, thrown in the towel. I should have said, “Oh well, surfing isn’t for me. Time to bake and do yoga.” There are too many reasons why I should quit: I’m clumsy, I hate pain. I even hate carrying my surfboard (It’s heavy!).
So why do I keep trying to learn?
Deep down, I’ve always been attracted to the freedom I see within people who surf. Sitting out amongst the waves, they all seem strong and fearless. I want that too. Surfing is my path. And of course, all surfers are hot and cool. I want to be a part of THAT tribe as well.
Most importantly, I keep trying because learning to surf has taught me a lot about being a leader.
Here’s what I learned from Surfing:
- It’s okay to give up control.
I like to be in control. I like to master things immediately and have the satisfaction that I controlled the outcome. With surfing, it’s been a longer journey. There is a lot for me to overcome, I have to grow and gain a whole new set of skills. Surfing is about learning how to be present in the moment. And that means letting go of the control.
2. Be comfortable with the unknown
I spent years learning how to meditate. I’ve learned different spiritual practices just to be able to feel comfortable with the unknown. Surfing for me is all about the unknown. There are too many variables at play: waves, wind, weather. There’s no planning. You have to accept that every moment is different.
3. Fail and then Fail some more
We all know that failing is important for growth. Yet, we’ll do anything to protect ourselves from failing. I always protect myself from heartbreak, scary adventures, asking for higher prices, and other challenging situations. No longer. Every failed pop-up is a reminder that there is another wave. Another opportunity to try again. It’s the same with life, you can’t be afraid to fail because there’s always another opportunity to try again.
4. Good things can take time.
It can take a long time to achieve good things in life. So long that we may want to give up. I’ve been trying to surf for FIVE YEARS. It was helpful to remember why I wanted to learn to surf in the first place. It’s about persistence.
5. Life is about choice.
I am privileged to have choices in my life. Because I have so many choices, sometimes I forget that it’s important to not always take the easiest road. Sometimes I have to take the hard, long road. I have a choice to show up. To do my best. Even when it sucks. Even when it doesn’t immediately feel good.
Life is ultimately about choosing who we want to be. I want to be someone who rides the waves and lives confidently.
It takes a real leadership to do things for your life. To write the book you talked about, to start a non-profit, go to Africa and create a new platform for the secular community. These things require a deep-down-not-always-comfortable type of leadership. As a business coach I’m not only trying to overcome my own fears; I want to help you go after your big ideas and make them a reality.
You do not become the best version of yourself in one day, month, or even 5 years. It’s small tasks or actions every single week that build your character in the long-term.
People say surfing is fun. I’m not there yet. But I will be.