Business is like Surfing

Don’t Float. Paddle Hard. Catch the Wave. Enjoy the Ride.

A long time ago I lived on the ocean and while describing the cycles of business to somebody last week it dawned on me it’s a lot like surfing –

The first thing you have to do is jump in and start struggling against crashing breakers and strong currents. You’re swimming against the tide, diving under the breakers, getting knocked around endlessly, holding your breath too often, and not seeming to make much progress. And you’re dog tired as a reward. Starting a business or any new initiative in an existing business gets you pretty much the same response, doesn’t it?

Once you get past the breakers you are still paddling like crazy against the tide and up the swells and rollers. Most of the time you can’t see much farther than the next wave coming at you and even though you’re paddling endlessly, there are almost no reference points for whether you’re making any progress. Business is the same – once you’re past the initial struggle, the long slog to success doesn’t seem to have any context – is this getting me anywhere? Oh, and you’re tired.

Once you’re finally out where the big ones are forming, you turn around, point yourself at the beach, and after all the paddling against the waves, now you have to paddle even harder WITH THE WAVES in order to catch one going in.

This is where most businesses miss the wave. We paddle so hard against the momentum that when we finally catch some good times and the current is with us, we relax, turn over on our backs and catch some rays. It’s an instinctive reaction and after all we deserve to goof off – we’ve worked really hard to get there. But you’ll never catch the wave that way.

The reason most business owners don’t ever get off the treadmill isn’t because they don’t have the opportunity, it’s because every time they catch some momentum they start floating. When we get momentum, we should be paddling harder then we’ve ever paddled before. When we do, we can catch the wave and at that point you don’t have to paddle anymore, just ride the wave, pose for the cameras and enjoy the ride.

If you’ve got some momentum, don’t float, paddle harder. There is nothing more rewarding or exciting than finally catching the wave. Do you want a business that has enough momentum to regularly make money while you’re on vacation? Wouldn’t it be great to have a business that prints both time and money for you?

The don’t call it “catching” the wave for nothing. It doesn’t just happen. You get out in front of it and paddle like crazy. We create our momentum, THEN we enjoy it when the business gets a life of its own.

Don’t float. Paddle Hard. Catch the wave. Enjoy the ride.

We Burn a Lot of Fuel On Takeoff

Business owners are always wondering how the next guy seems to get things off the ground so well and why they themselves are always struggling to just keep what they have afloat. It’s because we don’t understand momentum.

Ideas don’t happen because we thought them up, and they aren’t sustained because we kick started them. I have a lot of business owners right now saying to me, “Doesn’t if feel great to have your book totally done and out there?” (see my book). Some of them know it’s only the start, but a lot of them are saying this to mean, “Won’t it be fun to sit back and watch the sales roll in?”.

Birthing a book, a project, a new product, a business, hiring an employee or any other new initiative is a lot like having a baby. If you brought a newborn home would you show it the house, lay it beside the refrigerator and say “Well, you’ve gotten the tour and there’s the fridge. We’ll be playing golf if you have any questions!”

Too often we start new things to solve a problem, but end up creating one because we pull out of the process way too soon.

A jet on a 3,000 mile transatlantic flight burns at least 50% of it’s fuel just getting to cruise altitude in the first few miles. The next nearly 3,000 miles takes only half as much effort. Everything in business is a lot like this.

“Finishing” a book, hiring an employee, training on a procedure, bringing on a new client, or rolling out a new product all require outside help because initially these have no momentum of their own. The inertia is overwhelming and the only way to overcome it is to push hard yourself. When you do this, you feel like the airplane at the beginning of the runway – a lot of fussing and fuming, roaring of engines and blinking of lights…and the wheels haven’t even moved yet.

We don’t get it because we put out a huge amount of effort getting that project started and since there is no movement, we assume things are going wrong. The only thing going wrong is that we don’t understand momentum.

You burn a lot of fuel before the wheels even move, and a lot more just rolling down the runway, and still the wheels aren’t even off the ground. The only way to break through all the inertia is to push even harder. But just before the wheels are about to leave the ground is about where most business owners start slowing down. The project never quite does what they wanted to accomplish and they chalk it up to outside forces.

The joy is if you push through the initial inertia, the project, employee, book, etc., will begin to get momentum of its own, requiring less and less outside momentum from you. Just know that your commitment, excitement, vision, clarity, direction, purpose, and in-the-trenches hard work are required to get it there.

Don’t stop pushing until you’re at cruise altitude. And when you get there, make sure you have someone else pushing and someone else at the controls. You’ll make more money in less time and enjoy the ride a lot more if everything is in place to keep it all in the air for you.