I'm of the opinion that it's important to try new experiences in order to understand whether it's for me and I encourage my clients to try new things because they don't know whether they will have a great time doing it or suddenly show an unexpected aptitude for a new hobby. For example, I have never studied the violin but I could be a world class musician. Stranger things have happened!
In pursuit of broadening my mind, and in part because I live in Southern California, I went for my first surf lesson last week. Until that point, I had never held a surf board and so it was a new experience.
We started with a quick lesson on the sand as to the many and varied actions that comprise surfing (I discovered through this process that it's not just a case of going out in the water, getting on the board and then having the thirty foot waves lift you in a glamorous fashion and bring you back to the shore). I heard about how to get on the board in the water, three techniques for getting from laying on the board to standard on the board, how to paddle in preparation for the wave to arrive and how to leave the board when arriving at the beach.
I mastered all of the techniques on the land and was then ready to head out into the water. It's actually quite a struggle just getting out to the right position with a ten foot surf board during high tide and with some exceptionally large waves. Just as objects in the rear view mirror may appear closer than they are, waves when you're in the water are significantly higher than they are when you're standing at the shoreline looking out at the horizon. I like to call this the Meatloaf effect.
A key part of the standing on a surf board process is that it's important to keep your body balanced with your feet at right angles to the surf board but your head facing forward so that you're looking at the beach and where you want to go.
As I climbed on the surf board for the first time and was waiting for the right wave to head my way (this is an art as much as it is a science), I kept thinking about what the instructor had said about looking where I wanted to go.
In life, so many people channel their energy and focus on what they don't want; they don't want to be poor, they don't want to be unhappy, they don't want to be lonely, they don't want to be unhealthy and so on. In surfing, if I look towards the shoreline and focus on heading to the lifeguard tower (there's a practical reason why I chose to surf near that), then regardless of the way in which I get there - standing, kneeling, laying or otherwise - I'm still going to make it because I'm focused on getting there. If I look towards the end of the shoreline, and in California, that's around twenty miles away, I'm going to end up there.
Life is like surfing; if we focus on what we don't want, we end up with exactly that. And if we focus on what we do want, commit to that outcome and put our energies into that, then we'll get that.
And as the right wave came along and I paddled like crazy, I focused on my target of the lifeguard tower and got up on my board, rising from laying flat, to kneeling on one leg and then kneeling on both legs. Now, that's not what I intended to do when I was on the beach looking out at the waves, but just as life doesn't always go to plan and give us the easy route to our destination, it turns out that surfing is the same. I got to the beach and right in front of the lifeguard tower, even though I didn't manage to stand in that perfect surfer stance.
My exit strategies from the surf board were all predicated on being in a standing position on arrival onto the beach and yet I found myself in every position but standing when, in practice, I was out there in water. This made for some comic endings to my otherwise Baywatch filled existence.
The feeling, though, of surfing on that board for the very first time will never leave me. It was exhilarating and I was hooked and if I can do that on my first attempt, is there really any reason why I can't ride those thirty foot waves next time?
Rob Whitfield is the CEO and Founder of One Brit, No Bull, a coaching and corporate training company based in Los Angeles and operating worldwide. Rob can be contacted here or on (+1) 518 9NO BULL.
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As well as being an experienced management consultant and energetic public speaker, Rob Whitfield is a certified Trainer of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, a certified Master Coach and a certified Master Practitioner of Hypnotherapy and Time Line Therapy. No Bull.