What surfing teaches us about leadership

What’s the thing you’re most wanting to do right now? For me it’s surfing. I want to just fly somewhere warm and go surfing, without a wetsuit, so I can stay in the water for hours and hours without going numb. And because I’m me, I get curious about why I am so eager to go surfing right now.

It could be because I haven't been since April. It could be because I’m reading “Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life” a Pulitzer Prize winning memoir by William Finnegan. But there’s more to it. Surfing grounds me and reminds to practice patience. To feel the energy around me, to sense what is happening, and remember that nothing can be forced, especially waves. They come when they come. And if I’m aware, and open to it, I can go for it when the time is right. 

That takes me to “what’s the connection between surfing and leadership?” Good leaders don’t rush, and they don’t try to force things to happen. They watch, they listen, they feel, and when the time is right and their intuition says go, they go. And sometimes they still don’t get quite get what they wanted. So they paddle back out, catch their breath, and try again.  Learning to think and “be” like a surfer helps me to less reactive, and more calm. 

Also, while sitting on my board, feeling it out, waiting, predictable magic often happens.  A dolphin or seal swims up, or a bird dives for a fish and I get to be a witness to that. The same thing happens with people, I get to be present for others to step into their power, and that’s a great gift for both of us.