What Body Boarding Can Teach Us about Career and Business

“Wait, wait, wait….GO GO GO!”

My husband (that’s him on the wave) was coaching me as I attempted to successfully catch a wave for a lengthy body board ride into shore during a vacation to Tybee Island, GA. It had been years since either of us had done this, and he especially was having a blast. I’m delighted to report that I had three successful long rides, and was happy to defer to him to use the board the majority of the time.

The concept of body boarding got me to thinking about business principles that are actually pretty easy to draw from riding a wave. Over dinner at the Crab Shack (a unique place we ended up going to twice!), Keith and I brainstormed and came up with the following:

You’ll miss more waves than you catch.  Half of the experience of body boarding is watching for waves. So many will go by you as you wait for the right one.

In career/business, you cannot possibly take advantage of every opening, trend or market need. For example, there are certain “holidays” each year for which it may be good for me to write a blog post (i.e. Administrative Professionals Day). But I’ll miss some, either in favor of providing “evergreen” content or just because I was busy with other things. And that’s okay. I’ll grab opportunities when the timing is right.

You have to look ahead, yet stay present. To body board well, you have to watch for waves forming in the distance to determine which ones may provide the better ride. At the same time, you have to watch out for the larger ones nearby that can smack you, be aware of others around you, and be attentive to marine life (you are in the ocean after all!)

In your professional life, it’s wise to have a long-term plan or goal, but don’t miss the opportunities around you. I advised a friend who had just been hired for a particular position but who has aspirations for another up the line, to be a rock star at the current position. No matter what job you have, your character and values are going to show and could open doors for you.

Not every wave is worth riding. It’s a fact–the right waves will come in, well, waves.

In the business world, there are lots of situations that are trendy. With social media, trends are an everyday occurrence and sometimes they only last for hours. The latest guru selling their way of making money may be a millionaire and may be around for some time to come, but their method may not be for you. Be true to your character and style by being willing to learn from others without feeling you have to do everything like they do.

A little coaching can help.  I confess. When it comes to being coached about anything involving athletics, I tend to be resistant. Athletics and physical coordination don’t come as naturally to me as other skills. Being coached reminds me of that and I get uncomfortable. But in business, I’ve matured a lot by being willing to be teachable/coachable. (Maybe I should apply that to athletics…)

The big ones don’t always give the best ride. Keith often found that forgoing the “big wave” coming and riding one of the medium swells gave him just as satisfying a ride. Same thing in business. Big isn’t always better. I enjoy being a small business owner and don’t have to become a huge corporation to be satisfied.

Every ride will end. For us, a successful ride is one that carries you along for several seconds and pushes you almost fully toward shore. But even the good ones end, and you have to plod back out to sea to find another one.

In your career, don’t give up. Maybe you experienced the high of being able to be part of a big project. At some point that project will end. Embrace the excitement while you can, but know that you’ll have other opportunities some day too. Maybe you’ll lose a beloved job. (I have, several times.) Change is inevitable. As the motivational poster says, either ride the wave or you’ll get buried under it.

Even if your ride is the best. One. Ever. You may get bruised or scraped up. I drafted this post on the morning after we’d gone to the beach for two days. My husband is sore from all the activity. He may have even gotten bruised or a little scraped up. But you can bet he wants to do this again some day.

Riding waves can be exhausting even while exhilarating. As much as he wanted to go to the beach one more time before we went into Savannah for the second half of our vacation, Keith knew that he’d need to rest and take it easy so he could enjoy the next phase. Riding waves is a lot of fun, but it can be tough on the body. Make sure you take regular breaks from your work.

Now you…find a wave to catch, or skip today!

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