BLI Leadership | Business Strategy | Training & CPE

Lessons from a world-class surfer

"If you don't have a vision for yourself, your company (firm), or your team, you will just get sucked into somebody else's vision." -- Watts Wacker, futurist

Surf Wisdom comes from many unexpected places. Over the holidays, we were on vacation at a beach and my middle son was taking a surfing lesson. We had bought him a book about surfing (and life), titled, Force of Nature: Mind, Body, Soul (And, of Course, Surfing) by Laird Hamilton.

While my son was out in the surf, I picked up the book and was amazed at the wisdom from this famous surfer dude.

Here is a guy who is called the world's greatest big-wave surfer, making a great living, being close to nature and family, and radiating fitness and health, sharing his "roadmap" with everyone. He talks about overcoming fear, offers fitness and health advice, and shares his philosophy of life.

How did he get there? And more importantly, how can the rest of us join him?   Here is an excerpt from my favorite part of the book, which mirrors our own work in strategic planning (it applies to individuals and organizations):

  1. Visualize: "Whatever you want to achieve, imagine it in every detail. When Michelangelo worked, he said that he could see the sculpture in the rock before he began to carve and that his job was merely to remove the excess stone. That’s vision. Don’t be afraid to really use your imagination. Let it run wild. It’s one of the most powerful tools you’ve got."
  2. Make it challenging: "When it comes to setting goals, I think people often underestimate themselves. Maybe it’s human nature, and we’re all suffering from a collective case of low self-esteem. The good news is that if you really put your mind to something, you can go a lot farther than you think. Few people on earth ever max out their full potential — but the most important thing is that you believe it about yourself. And if you don’t believe you’re capable of much, then guess what? You won’t be. So the trick is to strike a balance between setting goals that aren’t too easy to obtain and goals that are completely impossible (because you don’t want to set yourself up for failure, either)." 
  3. Improvise along the way: "Once you’ve identified a goal, don’t be rigid about how you’re going to get there. Yes, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but life isn’t like that (and it would be boring if it was). Sometimes you have to go backward to get to a goal, or sideways, or around an impediment — the way a river flows around a mountain. You might even come to a dead stop. If that happens, the way to avoid frustration is to adapt."
  4. Accept that there will be obstacles: "Along the road to achieving your most ambitious goals, you have to expect the odd setback. It might take the form of resistance from people you encounter along the way, or maybe it’ll be some situation that doesn’t go as planned. This is the nature of aiming high—the route won’t always be easy."
  5. Allow satisfaction (but keep your edge): Take time to savor success and don't rest too long before resuming your journey or reset your vision.

One last thought from Laird about negativity and success: "NEGATIVITY: WE ALL GET IT, BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN YOU HAVE TO TAKE IT. The question is: How much life do you give it? How dominant do you let it get? You have to make sure that the positive has more power and gets more time in your head than the negative. If you let that negative side take charge, you’re going to find yourself in a hole."

I will cover attitude and positivity versus negativity in some future posts, but his thoughts are spot on.

This book now lives among some of my favorite business reads, and I think it is a great "whole life" manual for anyone who aspires to be at the top of their game.

What do you think: Can CPAs learn from a surfer?