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5 business lessons I learned from surfing

Like surfers wait for the right wave, business leaders wait for the right opportunities.
By Phil LaDuke |

Most of us will never surf and the ranks of corporate boardrooms are not exactly crowded with surfers, so it probably strikes some as odd that surfing can teach us some powerful lessons. Despite the obvious lifestyle differences between those who wear power suits and those who wear wetsuits, surfing can teach us much about succeeding in business:




1. Life is a series of rhythms.

Waves tend to come in sets. A good surfer knows that the water can go from being completely flat to rife with choice waves in an instant, and smart business people know the business climate can turn on a dime. Instead of getting discouraged, you need to patiently wait for the right opportunity and be ready to act when it comes to you.


Related: What surfing can teach you about entrepreneurship



2. Chase the right waves.

Waves are simply opportunities, and you can quickly exhaust yourself chasing the ones that you just cannot catch. I know plenty of salespeople who jump on every opportunity and wear themselves out running after leads that are not real. If you are exhausted from pursuing mediocre or impossible leads, you will not have enough energy to catch the really important deals that come your way.



3. Sometimes you will wipe out.


The difference between good surfers and bad ones is not that good surfers do not wipe out (they do,) it is that a good surfer will not let a good “maytagging” keep him or her from paddling back out. Years ago I was surfing the pier at Huntington Beach when I took a brutal hit that thrashed me around like a rat in a terrier’s mouth. Just as I got my head above water a second wave slammed into me like a freight train. I dragged my body out of the water and collapsed on the beach. 


As I flopped on the beach, battered and bleeding, the junior high gym class from the local school was coming out to surf. The gym teacher looked at me and asked if I was going to paddle back out.  When I told him that I was not sure he said, “If you don’t now, you never will.” In business sometimes we can let a career setback destroy our confidence and undermine our ambitions. True success lies in facing down that fear and charging out to meet the next opportunity. 



Related: Finding success by putting company culture first



4. Commitment is key.

When a wave comes in, you have a split second to catch it; it takes commitment. Those who excel in the business world remain committed to being successful and when the pivotal, game-changing opportunity presents itself they do not react with a lukewarm response; they jump on it. Commitment requires preparation and planning. You cannot succeed in business or surfing if you are not sufficiently proficient and confident.


Related: Remembering Hobie Alter, the surfing visionary who invented a sport and a culture



5. Everything is better wetter.

I have yet to meet a surfer who does not enjoy paddling out, even if the surf conditions are poor. Never become so focused on your job or your career that you forget to enjoy life. Nobody ever said, “I wish I would have spent more time worrying about my career” on his or her deathbed. Enjoy your job or get another, life is too short to toil in misery.




Copyright © 2016 Entrepreneur Media, Inc. All rights reserved.

This article originally appeared on Minor edits have been done by the editors.


Photo from horsepower /

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