Six business lessons that surfing will teach you

January 22, 2020 | Surfing
From the ocean to the office: surfers and businesspeople share many similarities | Photo: Shutterstock

There might not seem to be many parallelisms between the salt-crusted surfers throwing shakas on the shore and suited businesspeople in the boardroom.

So, it might sound like a stretch to say that many fundamental business principles can be learned from this laid-back sport.

Despite the differences between surfers and businesspersons, there are six business principles that the ocean can teach us:

Just Jump In

Most of us have been on the fence about making a big decision, but you won't learn if you don't jump in the water.

Unfortunately, the waves won't come to you while you're sitting in the parking lot with your wetsuit half on.

You've got to pull up the suit, grab your board and paddle out to have a chance at catching the wave of your life.

Accept that You Can't Control Everything

The ocean, just like the world of business, has a mind of its own.

You can't control when a good set will come in, or when you get pummeled by a sneaker wave, and you certainly can't control the crowds or the weather.

What you can control is your attitude, your willingness to stick things out and to take a chance.

Surfing: a sport in which you can't control everything | Photo: Shutterstock

Preparation Is Key

Informed decision-making is just as relevant to business as it is to surfing.

Checking the tides, scanning the weather reports, and watching a set before paddling out will undoubtedly set you up for the best surf possible.

This doesn't mean you shouldn't take risks and jump in, but doing so in an informed way will help you avoid the frustration of "ankle busters" and close-out sets, and give you the best chance of getting in the "green room."

Rolling into a pitch with no prep work, no facts, and no strategy leaves a lot of room for error.

Doing your research, whether it's checking the tides or finding out exactly what your client wants, will leave less room for error and give a more successful outcome.

Stay Relaxed

When you wipe out and get held down under, the first instinct is to panic and get to the surface as quickly as possible.

Flailing around just burns oxygen and exhaust energy.

By relaxing and becoming more aware of your surroundings, you'll have more energy and more air left in your lungs to bring you back up to the surface.

When a big meeting starts to head south, many of us start to panic - talking too fast, breaking a sweat, throwing in last-ditch ideas.

Instead of turning into a frantic mess, take a deep breath. Think through what your strategy should be.

Relax, be aware, and the next step will come to you.

Surfers: a relaxed lifestyle, in and out of the water | Photo: Shutterstock

Wipeout and Get Back on the Board

Sometimes you'll wipe out. We've all kook-ed a wave or two.

What makes good surfers aren't that they never wipe out, but they know how to take a hit and get back up.

It's easy to let office setbacks wreck your confidence and give you hesitation in pressing on.

What all great businessmen and women share is that they don't let setbacks undermine their ambitions, and they keep chasing their goals despite the circumstances.

Less Is More

Paddling for every wave is a waste of energy. Instead of taking every single opportunity and burning yourself out, observe the environment and be strategic about your choices.

Pick the wave that looks right to you, which isn't always the first wave of the set.

While these principles might not have you grabbing a board and checking where the closest break is, they give insight into a more relaxed and efficient way of working in the business.

Even if you wipe out, or you tank a pitch, there's going to be another wave of opportunity.

If you get skunked on a day you thought would be great or lose an investment you thought would be guaranteed, get back on the board and paddle for the next one.

If you get dropped in on, or a partner steals your thunder, don't give up. You went out there and did your best. You learned, and you'll be better next time for it.

The most important thing is to go with the flow, hang loose, and have fun.


Words by Mildred Delgado | Marketing strategist at Academic Brits

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