Photo by Lacie Slezak for Unsplash

Since I moved to Southern California in 2006, I’ve dreamed of carrying a surfboard on top of my car and riding a wave before going to work. About a month ago, I finally decided to pick up surfing and signed up for an intensive surf camp down in Costa Rica. 

I spent my second week there at Surf Simply, where coaches teach based on a roadmap of surfing skills called the “tree of knowledge”, which breaks down the logical progression of surfing from entry-level surfers to competitors. Surf Simply was not just a surf camp. It was a passion-filled gathering place for like minded people who strove to learn and connect through surfing. Our day started with morning surf lessons where the crew shot video of us. Then we had classroom lessons where instructors went over our video from that morning’s session. There were also a variety of theory classes including surfboard design and wave forecast. We ended our day with evening surf lessons to implement our day of learning.

These classes were helpful, because the more I understood the science and physics behind surfing, the faster I learned. For example, historically I’ve had such a hard time paddling out to the line up. After learning the right paddling technique in the pool session, it was evident that my paddle out was faster and required less effort.

Not surprisingly as an entrepreneur, I began to notice how the lessons I learned from surfing also applied to business. Here are five of those lessons: 

  1. Pick yourself up when you fall.

The ocean is rough, and I spent a lot of the last two weeks falled, crashing, and getting wiped out by the waves.. There were countless times I started to doubt my ability to surf. But each time I picked myself up, got back on the board, and went back out. After 2 weeks, I was not only able to stand up on the surfboard, but to curb on waves too. We are all going to fail at some point  in business. When that happens, we either have to learn from it and start again or pack up and go home. Failure only means you have to get back on the board. 

  1. Be Patient. 

Waves tend to come in sets. There are times you are sitting around waiting for a good wave to roll in for 10  or 15 minutes. And even when a good wave comes through, other surfers may have priority, so you’ll have to miss that wave. Rather than getting frustrated, I embraced it and took it as an opportunity to learn by watching other surfers. I also learned a lot about how to read waves. When there are frustrating situations at work, be patient with others and with yourself. Listen, observe, and learn from surroundings. 

  1. Pick your battles.

Wave selection is crucial to any surf session. As I was released to catch waves on my own, I immediately went for the biggest waves, which, of course, wiped me out so hard. Even if a wave is good, you must be at the right place to be able to catch a wave (at least for a beginner like me). And the same goes for business opportunities. Opportunities will always present. Be selective and strategic of opportunities and only chase the ones that make sense and provide the best ROI. 

  1. Always be ready. 

Nature is unpredictable and no waves are the same. Waves are constantly changing based on weather conditions and a wave may break in front of you. While I was enjoying sitting out in the ocean and daydreaming, my coach constantly yelled at me to paddle out since waves would crash in front of us. Like the ocean, business is often unpredictable. The Internet may not work when you have an important presentation, for example. But no matter what curveballs are thrown at you, be ready to observe, adapt, reach, and work through it. 

  1. Commit.

When you see a wave you want, you don’t have time to second guess. When I saw a wave I wanted, I had to sit up, spin, and paddle hard. When I didn’t fully commit to going for that wave, I didn’t catch it also got beaten down by that wave as punishment for my indecisiveness. When you make choices in business, put your head down and fully commit to what you are doing until you achieve them. Don’t look back or hold back and you will create the work you can be proud of.

These principles might not inspire you to grab a board and jump into surfing, but they give insights into a more relaxed and efficient way of working in the business. If you get rejections by potential customers, get back on the board and paddle for the next one. If you make mistakes, learn from them and do better next time. Don’t forget to go with the flow, learn, and have fun in the process.