Success In Life Requires Falling

A friend of mine recently said 90% of surfing is paddling, only 10% surfing.

I thought about his words and how relatable they are to life in general whether work, home, or in relationships. Without a significant investment up front, the opportunity for the payoff rarely presents itself.

Earlier this week I found myself sitting on the beach watching a young surfer offshore. Hearing my friend’s words, I decided to see how close his words applied to the reality in front of me.

With a cross-shore breeze and the waves breaking to the left, the surfer found himself repeatedly paddling his board back to where the breaks began. And many times, after paddling what could amount to half a football field, he’d stand up only to lose his balance to the wave within seconds. Hardly a fair payoff for the minutes it took him to get into position.

But then again, and it could be five minutes later or 45-minutes later, he’d hit the right wave and dance along with the violent water as if he were a master dancer.

And what follows his moment of joy? More paddling, more scrutinizing the approaching sets and more preparing to be in the right spot at the right time. In other words, back to 90%.

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I began to think about this in my life and how true this formula seems to play out.

In my relationship with my wife, we cruise along each day, both living life and doing our best to keep our world moving forward. We are making deposits in each other’s life by complimenting, supporting, and listening. But then come those moments that will always remain as fresh as if they happened only yesterday, the moments you realize a life shared with someone you love deeply is one of most powerful experiences in life. The payoff might be the birth of a child, navigating raising children, or simply finding yourself standing in front of a beautiful sunset, your fingers entwined.

In our professional lives, the people who tend to move ahead are those who never sit still on their existing skill or knowledge sets. They are always self-learning or exposing themselves to new experiences, unafraid of what they do not know. And to them, a new set of waves is always coming and they want to be prepared.

The surfer offshore continues to fall, his footing not quite right for the wave. But again, with each attempt, he is preparing for the moment he can see in his mind. Learning anything difficult in life is to understand you will need to put in extraordinary amounts of time before you can ever realize the reward.

The surfer offshore falls yet again and is quickly back to paddling. But, importantly, he is not discouraged.

Thomas Edison never considered how many times it took to get a light bulb to work – considering it the necessary preparation for the successful outcome.

Do not be afraid of the 90% for inside it lays the important ingredients for success.


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