They might seem worlds apart, but in fact there are many similarities between surfers and entrepreneurs. Here are six and a half.
1. It takes time to learn how to stand up
Before even reaching the water, surfers have invested time and money in their surfboard. Surfers then spend the next few months finding their feet. This is not easily achieved and brings with it a brief moment of exhilaration when they stand up for a few seconds. This journey is similar to that of an entrepreneur with a new startup, where profits are almost always swept away by unforeseen currents.
But once the skills of business are developed, the entrepreneur has them for life – just as a surfer has the skill to stand up on his board. All that is required is practice and patience.
2. Getting inside a tunnel when you can’t see the sun is a good thing
A “barrel”, as it is known in surfing parlance, is the tube shape a wave makes when it falls around a surfer. This is also what happens to entrepreneurs who they reach a certain point in their business. It’s when there’s a great sense of excitement about the business potential, yet the workload is becomes overwhelming. Here, you only have two options: put the brakes on and risk being sucked back into a ‘wipeout’ or making the choice to power forward, pulling out of the barrel and into the sunlight.
3. Surfers have to work with the waves that roll in
If a surfer doesn’t like the wave conditions, they have the option to move on to another surf location or work with what they have. Similarly, entrepreneurs have to work with the conditions they are given, and to make the most of them. So for entrepreneurs, this may mean having to forgo their morning coffee or post-work drinks until the business is generating enough revenue.
4. To catch waves, first you have to paddle through them
Just as surfers have to paddle out into the waves, so do entrepreneurs in order to reap the rewards. For entrepreneurs, the rewards are money and a sense of achievement; for surfers it’s the rush of adrenaline when they take the bottom turn (the first part of the wave). It’s when a surfer knows he can either burn out or continue on this wave and onto great success.
5. You can lead someone to water but you can make them surf
While talking to an older friend at the beach, I mentioned that I was a surfer. He then told me that he had always wanted to learn to surf. That was four years ago. Today, nothing has changed.
This is true for many aspiring entrepreneurs. Many people believe that they have the perfect business idea – one that will make millions of dollars. Yet their idea never becomes a reality because they continually try to ‘perfect’ their idea, waiting for the right time but never managing to take the first step: putting their idea into practice.
6. There is always another wave
No matter how successful or problematic the last wave or business idea was, like surfers, entrepreneurs know that they can always paddle back out.
It is inevitable that an entrepreneur will experience setbacks, debt and especially those times when everyone around them tries to convince them that their business is doomed. However, like surfers, entrepreneurs will find the drive to push on through these obstacles onto the next best thing. These experiences will become part of their learning process; knowledge to be shared with aspiring entrepreneurs trying to reach the elite ranks of success.
6.5 After all is said and done…
And finally, after catching your wave of the day, you can go home, rest and prepare for the next day on the turbulent seas.
Scott Cowley is an 18 year old entrepreneur, writer and student currently writing a book about the opportunities available for Gen Y.