Standing at the edge of the world, the cold waves licking at my feet, I realized I’d never actually seen someone surf. All my knowledge came from TV, and that knowledge was coated in Hollywood glamour. Yet, watching real surfing, I fell in love with the whole process.
Have you ever watched someone surf? As it turns out, there’s a lot of falling. A lot of water in the face, and a lot of chasing your board, even when it’s attached to you.
Nothing epitomizes try, try again quite like surfing.
I watched surfers try wave after wave, falling repeatedly. I felt my heart race at the excitement of each almost moment, right before the fall. I wanted them to stand, to ride, to win. Watching the younger surfers, I was impressed by their tenacity and attitudes, high-fiving each other after each attempt. And I thought about my own attempts at, well, everything. When I fall off my board, I give it a few more tries, but then I quit and walk away. Yet, it takes more than a couple of tries to master anything.
“Don’t practice until you get it right. Practice until you can’t get it wrong.” -Unknown
I don’t think anyone decides to learn to surf and is immediately a professional no more than I think a writer just becomes a best-selling author on day one or a photographer has a six-figure business overnight. It takes practice, dedication, education, practice, belief, discipline, and practice. Like surfing. You can’t ride the wave and hang ten until you practice.
“Every day that you don’t practice is a day you’re getting worse.”
Even when you finally catch a wave and ride it out, you still have to swim back out to sea to try to do it again. On the way, you’ll watch others catching their own waves, maybe even the wave you had been hoping for. It’s a never-ending journey, and we should enjoy the ride, even the hard parts where we have to paddle ourselves back into position.
I recently completed the 1,000 Miles challenge I gave myself to help raise awareness for violence and abuse…6 months later than I had intended. It was supposed to be finished by the end of 2014. I had no idea when I began that I wouldn’t meet my goal. Maybe we often surprise ourselves by not achieving what we set out to do, but I did learn one huge lesson (among many): keep going. It would have been amazingly easy to reach December 31 and say, “Welp, didn’t make it. Oh well. Close enough!” and then move on. But, even while disappointed, I picked up and kept going. I finished officially on July 3 instead. 2015.
“You never fail until you stop trying.”
As it turns out, it’s not a race. Learning and growing doesn’t come with a ticking clock. I see that now. Setting goals is wonderful, but sometimes we have to give ourselves grace to fail at the deadline but to keep going on the journey. Those who fall off their surf boards a few times and give up will likely never be good at surfing. Likewise, those who give up on school because they failed math (hi) or give up on business because parts of it are very hard (hi) or push out a second-rate book when they are capable of so much more because they don’t want to do the digging into their pain (hi) … those people will never find their hearts fulfilled because they keep giving up. They fall and they don’t get up again. Or they ride one wave and call it quits because it’s too hard to paddle back out to sea to do it again.
We’re in this together. Let’s try, try again.
“Commitment is necessary. It teaches us to exchange instant gratification for long-term reward and shows us that some change takes time.”
–Jeff Goins, The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do