How surfing can teach you a lot about business

Picking up a surfboard for the first time is, in many ways, like the beginning of a venture into the world of business. As you feel the sand at your feet and look into the sea, you dream of catching the biggest waves. However, you must first master the basics. In surfing terms, that means putting on one of your wetsuits, lying down on your board and learning to paddle.

Paddling on your board is like starting out in business

In the same way that you must learn to crawl before you walk, you must learn to paddle before surfing. It's the same in business – you need to get up and running before becoming preoccupied with thoughts of making your first million. As you begin to paddle, you realise that becoming a decent surfer could take a while.

Not only are you quite some distance from catching a wave, you're not even close to standing up on your board. In the early stages of your business, you will encounter similar hurdles. The strategy that you were convinced would make you rich fast is going to take some perseverance. You'll have to get your message out there, build contacts and make sure your limited resources stretch far.

Swimming against the tide is tough

Your task just got harder. You might think to yourself – 'How am I supposed to paddle against the tide?' The temptation to throw the towel in is overpowering, but you've worked too hard to give up on your vision.

In a courageous moment, you stand up and catch a wave

Brilliant! It finally feels as though you've made it. You found the right moment to stand up on your board and caught a wave in that split-second. In business parlance, it's the equivalent of making your first big sale. The dream is alive.

But you fall back down within seconds

All great business people have "fallen off their board" at some stage. Whether that means sales don't match projections or an important contract is reneged upon, disappointments are a guarantee. But the setbacks will strengthen your resolve to get back up on that board.

You feel like you're back at square one

Before you know it, you're paddling again. You feel as though you're back where you started, but you're not. The experience you have gained will steady you for the next time you stand up and catch a wave.

You're back on your feet

You've been building the relationships, putting in the hours, making the right decisions and, before you know it, boom! You've landed a major contract that will secure your company's future. It's the equivalent of standing up on your board and majestically riding a combination of waves. You may eventually fall back down. When you do, though, hopefully, it won't be too painful.

That's business in a nutshell. Sometimes you're riding the crest of a wave, other times you're struggling to stay above water. It's the paddling in between that makes all the difference.


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