When you live in Southern California like I do, you’re pretty much guaranteed to know someone who surfs.
A few of my good friends happen to surf and they all have something in common: they absolutely love it. Like really love it. It’s almost an addiction.
The way surfers talk about their sport, you’d assume the vast majority of their time is spent shredding waves. And it’s easy to get that impression watching surfing highlight reels.
The reality is that surfers spend most of their time not riding waves. This is by no means the sexy or adrenaline-fueled part of surfing, but it’s oh so necessary.
Before a surfer even comes close to riding a wave, there are a lot of steps that need to happen that most of us are unaware of.
This includes waxing the surfboard; transporting the surfboard to the beach; putting on a wetsuit and getting into sometimes frigid water; paddling often against a strong current, out to where the waves are; then waiting and waiting some more until a wave comes – that is, assuming the weather is even in your favor that day.
When the wave finally comes, sometimes another surfer will beat you to it. That means waiting it out for the next one.
When another wave comes, maybe it’s a too small – so you decide not to take it. You continue to wait.
Yet another wave comes, but this one’s too big and you decide to pass on it. More waiting.
Then a just-right wave arrives and you decide to ride it – only to immediately wipe out and get smashed down hard into the water.
More paddling and waiting.
Finally, another perfect wave arrives, and this time you ride it for all of 5, 6, or 7 seconds. An amazing ride.
Then, you paddle back out and wait all over again.
With surfing, all we tend to see are those elusive amazing rides. Rarely do we hear about everything else it takes to prepare for that moment when it finally arrives.
In many ways, this is a great metaphor for life and business, particularly when we’re struggling or feel stuck.
It’s easy to compare yourself to someone else’s highlight reel. But before you beat yourself up about where you are (or aren’t) in your life, take a moment to think like a surfer.
Imagine your life, or business, as though you’re preparing to ride a mega wave and ask yourself these questions:
Did you do your homework? Are you aware of any storms on the horizon?
Have you invested in the right equipment, or do you just think about buying a surfboard?
Do you have a plan? Have you found your way to the beach?
Are you ready to act? Have you gotten in the water yet or are you still on the sand?
Are you going to where the waves are or are you are you waiting for them to come to you?
Do you seize opportunity? Do you ride the great waves that come your way or do you passed on all of them?
Are you so committed to riding a wave that you’re willing to wipe out? Or are you afraid?
If you’ve done the prep work and continue to paddle hard, then you’re exactly where you should be. Don’t beat yourself up. Stay ready and be prepared for the wave (when the wind is at your back, go!).
If you haven’t done the work and aren’t ready to get wet just yet, what’s the first step you can take today? (Also, consider the possibility that you don’t really want to surf as badly as you say you do.)
And remember: Don’t judge yourself based on someone else’s amazing rides. Judge yourself based on what you’re doing to take advantage of the truly great waves when they finally come your way.
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