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You Can’t Surf from the Shore

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

You Can’t Surf from the Shore

Scott Miker

I stood on the edge of the ocean and looked out.  I held a surfboard for the first time in my life and I was about to cross off a bucket list item.  But there was a problem.  I was afraid of sharks.

I remember the feeling vividly.  I was terrified and excited.  I was nervous but somehow remained calm.  I thought about bailing, coming up with some excuse to keep me from even trying.  Then I grabbed the board and ran into the water. 

Going after our dreams sounds easy.  It seems like everything is simple - black and white.  We either do or we don’t do.  But life is hardly a bold line between right and wrong.  Instead it is just a blurry grey.   

For me, surfing for the first time was much more than it should have been.  Instead of being something fun to do on vacation, it was a right of passage.  It was breaking out of my comfort zone.

As I began my journey into the ocean with the surfboard I learned a thousand lessons before I even got 10 feet from shore.  To me, this was it, finally overcoming my own limitations, which all stemmed from fear. 

We all experience fear when we dream big and want to become better.  In order to change and improve we have to learn how to face this uncertainty, this dark void, and then we have to charge forward.   

I can’t say that this will always lead to something great.  In fact, many times in my own life when I have taken this approach it led to something bad.  But it led to something important that would have been missed if I caved to the pressure I put on myself. 

We all experience a time in life where we know what we want but talk ourselves around it.  We say we can’t do it.  We say something bad could happen.  But we can’t accomplish our goals without jumping into the dark waters.  We can’t surf from the safety of the shore.  

If there is something that you want to do in life but keep telling yourself why it is impossible, learn to shift your thinking.  Your thinking is likely building on any real dangers and creating something impossible to overcome.

Yes there are real risks in life.  We can’t pretend like they don’t exist or that all we have to do is to think positive.  But we also can’t let the potential for real danger combine with our own fear to create an even more impossible obstacle. 

Once I realized that I was the sole reason why I wasn’t further along in life, it opened me to the potential of creating a different future.  If I was the reason I am not more successful, then I control what needs to change in order to be better. 

But too often we don’t want to admit our own fault in our failures.  We blame others or some outside force.  But this gives away control and leads us to believe that we can’t go out and improve.

Jumping in the ocean that day helped me to realize that the fear of failure and the risks we face in life can easily become built up inside our mind.  We can create insurmountable odds.  We can create mountains out of molehills. 

When we learn to see the obstacles for what they are, not what our fears convince us they are, then we can take back the control in life.  We can start to go after our ambitions and do the work necessary to reach our highest goals and dreams.  It doesn’t suddenly make it easy or automatic, but at least it makes it possible and gives us hope.