Last week I had an incredible time in the Maldives. I was invited there to give a training on “Storytelling” for a group of 30 travel industry pros, and was fortunate to be able to bring my wife and daughter along.
It was awesome.
The resort where we stayed was breathtaking, and aside from achieving my career dream for a
second time in my life (travel to cool place + lead meaningful training + brining family along), the group of people in the training were super fun to work with. They were on time, engaged, and eager to use the tools we presented them.
Aside from, I did something that I wouldn’t normally do: I took a windsurfing lesson.
Now, those who know me know that I HATE THE WATER. I’m not a strong swimmer, and in general, never enter the water unless I absolutely have to.
But for some reason, from before we even started the trip, I was super pumped to book a surfing lesson. However, given my training schedule, I wasn’t able schedule one until our final afternoon there.
What follows are Five Lessons I learned doing what ultimately became one of the single most gratifying and fun hours of my life.
Lesson One: Intentionally Push A Limit
Again, I can’t stress this enough: I hate the water. Hate it. Don’t like it and never have.
My whole life I’ve avoided the water. But by intentionally choosing to go in, and by being excited about it, I was able to overcome my fear and have fun.
Now, I am significantly less afraid of the water, and cannot wait to take more lessons when the time is right. I really enjoyed myself out there!
Lesson Two: The Fundamentals are Fundamental
My instructor had 15 years of surfing teaching experience, let alone a lifetime in the water. His fundamentals were perfect – footwork, arm placement, wind manipulation, etc. He was on point.
So as badly as I wanted to fly like he did on the water, I knew it wasn’t going to happen. Normally I would feel dumb or like I looked stupid for not being so fluid. But this time, I didn’t give to shits. I had only an hour, so instead of feeling bad about crazy expectations I could set for myself, I instead just focused on having fun, and on the fundamentals.
It wasn’t “How quickly can I fly across the water?”
Rather, “How much fun can I have focusing on the little details and seeing what happens?”
The result: I was able to get going way faster than expected, and with less frustration, too.
Lesson Three: Always Look Forward and Away, Not Down
We’ve all heard the old adage, allegedly from driving school, that “Where you look is where you go.”
My first few times on the board, I kept looking down, even after getting the sail up. Ibrahim swam over to me and said “Just look up man. You gotta just look up and away in the direction you want to go. Your balance will work itself out. Trust me, and trust yourself.”
So, I tried it. I didn’t believe it would work, but I took his advice and believed in my feet and…it worked. Perfectly.
Honest to god, as I started rolling along, I though of my life and how I ALWAYS LOOK DOWN. I focus too much on where I am and what happened in the past, not where I’m headed and where I want to go.
The lesson? Look up. Have confidence. As long as you know where you want to go, you’ll figure out a way to get there.
Lesson Four: Feel, then Move
While surfing may be 50% of the word, it’s but a fraction of the overall equation.
Wind, therefore, is the predominant player. And, even though I learned how to stand up on the board, I soon realized that I
(a) had no concept of how wind interacts with sail, and
(b) Ibrahim was teaching me how to use basic tools – board and sail – to ultimately harness a force much larger than both of us. And, in a lot of ways, it didn’t matter how fast I got to speed on the tools – the larger force is where the true learning – and joy – happens.
At one point in particular about 30 minutes in, I thought of my dear friend Jeffrey just as I got the sail up and started to move. A permaculturalist and a deeply soulful, heart-centered brother, Jeff enjoys a deep connection the world around us that I derive inspiration from daily.
Thus on the board I tried to channel him. I could immediately see how my hands and feet were trying to control the board more than feel it, so as best as I could I tried to let go and relax. I tried (as I thought he might) to just feel the wind in the sail, and only then play with the boom instead of the reverse.
The result was my first successful turn, and I was able to replicate it numerous more times before the lesson was over.
The Lesson? Stop trying to f’ing control everything Trevor. Just chill out, relax, and go with the flow.
Lesson Five: Time Spent On My Physical Practice Is Always Time Well Spent
Everything I do in my professional life every day is above the neck, cerebral work. Progress is not only hard to come by, but hard to quantify. And, for the things that are quantifiable (business metrics, money in, percentage increases for emails opened, etc.), they aren’t always satisfying when they do come – even after hours and hours of hard work.
Some days it can just feel like numbers on a screen, no?
My physical practice, on the other hand, always delivers. This is especially so of wholistic activities like hiking, biking, and now, windsurfing. They do more for me than my body weight routine or going to the gym have ever done.
Thus, I not only had amazing fun during the lesson, but I was wonderfully worked out and tired for our plane ride journey home later that evening.
So much so that today – a week later nearly to the minute – I’m still glowing, and have been able to keep the physical momentum going.
Now, none of the above is too suggest I have mastered the art of windsurfing in an hour. Far from it. Rather, I like to think that I successfully failed a 100 times. What I’ve instead tried to show is how I attempted to stay maximally present in both facing a deep seated fear, as well as the joy I felt (and still feel!) having tried something so new and fun.
It was as an amazing learning experience, and look forward to doing it again soon.