Let’s assume that you can surf.
You have the balance of a gymnast, the dexterity of a ninja and the paddling ability of a duck on some serious steroids. You have honed your skills on the waves at your local beach (let’s say Fistral Beach in Cornwall for argument’s sake), but there hasn’t been a big ocean swell for months. You start to forget what it was like to ride that big wave, the thrill of speeding down the face, hand brushing the water as you swoosh out from the tube. You start to crave that wave…. the one that makes you feel alive.
Half the enjoyment in surfing is the serenity of waiting out there on the ocean for “that” wave. You take your best guess, paddle like hell, pop up onto the board and see where the wave takes you. There are very few aspects of the ride that you control (apart from keeping upright and maybe performing a few flashy turns) – the wave dictates what sort of ride you will have.
Hence the concept of the “perfect wave.”
There is a café on Fistral beach, and you can sit sipping coffee, watching the surfers far out to sea, waiting for their wave. Some paddle out there and try their luck every ten minutes or so. The wave forms too early, they don’t paddle early enough, it isn’t big enough for them, it might give them a face full of sand…. there are many outcomes for those happy to try their luck. Once every few waves, they will have an enjoyable ride. With each ride, they will become slightly more experienced, whether they manage to catch the wave or not.
Then there are those who are waiting for “their” wave. They bob up and down on the ocean, often a little further out than the others, waiting and waiting. They look into the distance, trying to discern what the ocean is sending them. They want to feel in control of this most unpredictable of elements. Suddenly a series of bumps appears on the horizon – this could be it. They have been in the water for 40 minutes now, but seemingly this is their chance. They paddle to where they think it is likely to break and wait with excitement.
Their perfect wave then fails to materialize.
The waiting comes to nothing, but all around them, their friends are catching waves, getting dumped by waves, just missing out on waves….
Nothing is perfect in life or in business. If you want to achieve something amazing, you have to accept that you will fail more than you will win. If you take as many imperfect opportunities as you can, some of them might actually turn into that “perfect ride.” You make your own luck, but you will never get any luck if you are bobbing around in the ocean waiting for that wave.
Entrepreneurs need to “wipe out” and get dumped in the sand a few times before they succeed. No successful businessperson is without bruises. It comes with the territory.
Each wave is different, and each experience is unique. You don’t need to ride perfect waves to become a great surfer, just as you don’t need to wait for the perfect opportunity to succeed as an entrepreneur.
Nick Day is Managing Director at JGA Recruitment, an agency based in the United Kingdom, providing professional, recruitment services on contingency and retained assignments in the UK, Europe and Asia. Nick held several Director roles in the recruiting arena prior to his current assignment. He has contributed several articles to Executive Vine.