In December, I was standing on Waikiki Beach enjoying my coffee and watching the waves roll in.
Matt introduced himself. “Great morning to surf, right?”
“I think so,” I replied. “But I think it’s going to be more like paddling. I’m a rookie.”
He smiled. “No way, brother. You are surfing today. We’ve got this!”
I loved the vote of confidence! Matt was my guide for the next 90 minutes. I know from personal experience that expert insight can cut learning time in half. I could have attempted surfing on my own, but working with an expert completely transformed my experience and propelled me further, faster. This applies to almost anything, including surfing! The goal was catching waves inside 90 minutes.
The lessons I learned from my surfing experience can be applied to a lot more than surfing. These simple steps create a clear path to success.
1. Before you dive in, spend time preparing. Surf school starts in the sand. Like any great coach, Matt kept his lessons simple and straightforward. Before we ever got in the water, he taught us four simple steps to remember. We drilled through our steps until we had them down. If I hadn’t learned these basic principles up front, my odds of success would have plummeted. Preparation is always the first step. Then, it was time to hit the ocean.
2. Stay focused. We followed Matt into the surf and paddled out. After passing the break, we talked through our approach to catching the right wave. There are always choices to navigate and changing circumstances to consider. The key is being able to adapt when it’s necessary. I was in position and could hear Matt over my shoulder: “Paddle…Paddle…STAND!” I was surfing and felt a surge of adrenaline. And then, I forgot everything I had just learned. Down I went! Matt reminded me that the key is to focus forward. Pick a target in the distance and lock your focus and energy while moving toward that target. It works!
3. Open your mind to new experiences. I was hooked. I was determined to catch as many waves as possible in our short time together, but as we paddled back out, Matt asked us to hit the pause button. We straddled our boards and for the next five minutes he wanted us to sit, breathe and be present in the moment. It took me a couple minutes but I started to appreciate the incredible view of Diamond Head, the beach and just floating in the water. Those moments of solitude gave me an awesome perspective. Matt asked us: “Where else can you capture this kind of peace and complete chaos in the same moment?” It wasn’t lost on me that I was being gifted another gentle reminder of why down time matters — and those few minutes are actually the most memorable of my entire lesson. A shift in perspective can offer the fuel we need to move forward. After all, this was precisely the reason I moved to a four-day work week last summer (and will be repeating it again in 2015). I’ve already committed to adjusting my schedule to accommodate for more creative time, new experiences and new shifts in perspective in 2015.
4. Never stop learning. I will admit to being a creature of habit. I love routine and repetition. When we live in our own comfort zone too long, it’s easy to start feeling a little stuck. I’ve been there and for a short period of time I arrived there again in 2014. This time around, I made it my mission to get back into the groove as quickly as possible. How? By renewing my commitment to learning. Reading. Writing. Coaching. Revamping my morning routine. Trying something new (Surfing counts!). To keep making progress, you have to keep learning. That applies to surfing, business and life. When you embrace continuous learning and make it part of your DNA, it’s a whole lot easier to catch the next wave of opportunity.
After my initial lesson, I spent a couple more days surfing. They weren’t perfect, but I made a little progress each time. I know that it won’t be my last surfing lesson. That experience has inspired me to carve out even more time for creating and learning. 2015 is the perfect time to keep expanding, evolving and getting better!
Ryan Estis helps companies and individual contributors embrace change and achieve breakthrough performance. Each live event blends original research with compelling stories that move participants to take action. Ryan has 20 years of business experience working with the world’s best brands to initiate change, inspire innovation and deliver growth. Learn more about Ryan Estis.