Surfing and Adversity
I’m not much of a New Years resolutions guy, but I’ve got a buddy who is determined to go surfing 40 times in 2016. I decided I would just piggyback on his resolution and join him, so every Wednesday we are heading down to the pier at Venice Beach, pulling on our wetsuits, and paddling out on our big, blue, soft foam surfboards. (You can buy these surfboards at Costco for about $100 and they are the surfer equivalent of putting a STUDENT DRIVER sign on the roof of your car. The bright blue color serves as a warning to other surfers to steer clear of the hapless newbie, and the inch-thick foam casing will merely harm, rather than kill, any unlucky swimmers in your path).
The winter time brings the best surfing to Los Angeles, and by best I mean best for people who actually know how to surf. The waves are not exactly big by surfer standards, but they are decently sized. Which means, when you’re a beginner out on the water, they are terrifyingly huge. And so, a few days ago we paddled out into the ferocious mid-sized surf and proceeded to get thrashed by the waves for about an hour. And you know what? I had a blast.
I wrote in my last blog post about how hard it is to be a beginner. Actually, I think that’s been a running theme for me this past year. But as I caught myself enjoying the wave-thumping I got yesterday, I realized that my attitude toward struggling has shifted. Starting a business, starting to code software, starting to surf…I’ve spent a lot of time starting things the past couple years and I think it’s starting to pay off.
What I mean is this: when I got out into the water yesterday, instead of feeling bummed that the waves weren’t perfectly smooth and slow, I saw it as an opportunity to practice paddling in choppy water. My mindset shifted from “these are crummy conditions, I’m going home” to “I get to practice paddling in crummy conditions! That’s a skill I’ll need as I become a better surfer!” I don’t want to sound too Pollyanna about this, but I really did see the adverse conditions as an opportunity to get tougher; an opportunity to get better at dealing with adverse conditions.
I guess I’ve realized that in business and in life conditions are usually adverse. That is the normal state of things. Every once in a while you will be handed the perfect wave or an ideal business opportunity will fall into your lap. You will get some lucky breaks, but you can’t rely on them. What you can rely on is showing up each day, putting in the hours of practice, being tired but pushing forward anyway. You build those muscles and prepare yourself. And when that big, perfect, beautiful wave does come along you’ll be ready to ride it for all it’s worth.