Most of us will never surf and the ranks of corporate boardrooms aren’t exactly crowded with surfers, so it probably strikes some as odd that surfing can teach us some powerful lessons. Despite the obvious lifestyle differences between those who wear power suits and those who wear wetsuits, surfing can teach us much about succeeding in business:

Life is a series of rhythms.

Waves tend to come in sets. A good surfer knows that the water can go from being completely flat to rife with choice waves in an instant, and smart business people know the business climate can turn on a dime. Instead of getting discouraged; you need to patiently wait for the right opportunity and be ready to act when it comes to you.

Chase the right waves.

Waves are simply opportunities, and you can quickly exhaust yourself chasing the ones that you just can’t catch. I know plenty of salespeople who jump on every opportunity and wear themselves out running after leads that aren’t real. If you’re exhausted from pursuing mediocre or impossible leads, you won’t have enough energy to catch the really important deals that come your way.

Sometimes you’ll wipe out.

The difference between good surfers and bad ones isn’t that good surfers don’t wipe out (they do,) it’s that a good surfer won’t let a good “maytagging” keep him or her from paddling back out. Years ago I was surfing the pier at Huntington Beach when I took a brutal hit that thrashed me around like a rat in a terrier’s mouth. Just as I got my head above water a second wave slammed into me like a freight train. I dragged my body out of the water and collapsed on the beach. As I flopped on the beach, battered and bleeding, the junior high gym class from the local school was coming out to surf. The gym teacher looked at me and asked if I was going to paddle back out.  When I told him that I wasn’t sure he said, “if you don’t now, you never will.” In business sometimes we can let a career setback destroy our confidence and undermine our ambitions. True success lies in facing down that fear and charging out to meet the next opportunity. 

Commitment is key.

When a wave comes in, you have a split second to catch it; it takes commitment. Those who excel in the business world remain committed to being successful and when the pivotal, game-changing opportunity presents itself they don’t react with a lukewarm response; they jump on it. Commitment requires preparation and planning. You can’t succeed in business or surfing if you aren’t sufficiently proficient and confident.

Everything is better wetter.

I have yet to meet a surfer who doesn’t enjoy paddling out, even if the surf conditions are poor. Never become so focused on your job or your career that you forget to enjoy life. Nobody ever said, “I wish I would have spent more time worrying about my career” on his or her deathbed. Enjoy your job or get another, life’s too short to toil in misery.