Sergio Mottola is a good friend, an inspiring entrepreneur and has a wonderful eccentric Italian flair for a good analogy. I'm actually on a skype call to him right now, starting to type this post before I forget it. I've embellished his analogy in my own way, for the purpose of an original yet inspired post.
Here it is.
Being an Entrepreneur is like being a Surfer.
At some point in my life, I simply have to grab my board and hit the sea, hoping to catch a wave.
I'll enter the water with bravado and intent, a vision of my perfect wave etched in my mind. Clasping my board under my arm, I stride ahead into the shallows before lunging onto the board head first. The icy cold water gets into my collar, first the trickle down into the small of my back, across my chest and down my legs. At first it's shockingly cold, and I wonder why I decided to get up out my nice warm bed at 7am and hit the beach.
I'm still feeling the bite, as I glide across the frothy white shallows and into the first set of small breaking waves, slipping past surf-schoolers, body boarders, stag weekenders, newbies, the too old and the too young. I get mixed up in the noise, dodging the oncoming traffic, distracted by the odd hello, even less small talk and wetsuited beauty to frequently to efficiently push through.
But eventually push through I do and as the wetsuit is starting to warm up, I've cut through the initial reticence and I'm optimistic about what lies ahead. There's a little spray off the surface and the sun is starting to break through the morning mist. Life is good and we're pushing on.
I'm hit with the first of a new incoming set. It's a different experience to the smaller frothy white stuff I'd seen others happily satisfied playing around with in the shallows. No, this wave had a presence and a sense of raw power that, although you expected, you are never quite prepared for.
I'm initially knocked from the board. and I feel the leash pulling against my ankle as I hope there was no-one behind me and feeling the repercussions of the surprise attack that took me completely off guard. It's ok, no lasting damage. I regain control of my board and lunge atop, square myself up and paddle head on into the oncoming breaking set.
This time, I'm a little more ready. I spot the wave a little earlier, it's bigger than that the last, but at least I'm prepared. I pull my body forward and push down on the nose of the board, as the wave tries to lift me and duck down into it gathering body of water. I feel the pull, it lurches me and I'm a little off balance, but I'm able to relax, retain control and surface the other side of the wave, keeping forward momentum and pushing on.
This time I'm totally ready. I spot the wave early. I'm carrying good speed across the water. I've timed it perfectly to duck dive as before, finely adjusting my body position based on the feedback I'd received from the last dive to further improve my hydrodynamic qualities.
Just as the wave approaches, I spot out of the corner of my eye, the fast approaching outline of someone rising from their board, taking to their feet and settling into an attacking stance. I turn to get a clearer view. This throws my body off balance slightly and the board lurches to the side. Still the oncoming board approaches and headed in my direction. I start to panic as I continue to lose balance whilst trying to calculate the course and trajectory of the surfer headed straight toward me.
I take decisive action. I grab the board and turn sharply to the right, as the surfer gathers onto me and before I know it has carved straight past. Side onto the wave, my board gets hit full force onto the widest part and it forces me off and tumbling over with the wave. I can't fight it, I let go and again, feel the snap at the ankle as the leash once again gets its tensile strength tested.
Eventually, I regather, realign and press on. I'm much more adept with my duck diving. I can spot the on coming traffic more readily and take earlier action to avoid or deflect the uncontrollable instances of those ahead of me choosing to take their shot and come straight towards me. They're not aiming at me, they;re taking their shot. They've waited, they've been through the same waves as I have. They've earned the right.
And now, as I break through into the calmer swell, hanging out the back of the onslaught, I take a moment to catch my breath. My shoulders ache from the paddling. I need some time. Time I now have.
Watching the horizon, I have a picture of my wave still in my mind from the moment I set foot into the water. Even through all of the turmoil and tribulations, it's still there. And now I wait.
The first wave of the new set gets me excited. I paddle hard as it approaches, keen to jump straight on and ride it all the way back to shore. I forgotten the battle that I had to get out here in an instant and all I can think of is how I'll paddle hard for 10 seconds, rise triumphantly to my feet, gather speed as my board and I descend the face of the wave before leaning onto the right edge of the board and carving back up the face to the crest.
I'm still paddling hard as the wave rolls quietly underneath, not enough to even think about grabbing me and the board and taking us forward. I stop paddling, cuss myself of the naive over exuberance, turn and reclaim the distance I'd just lost out of pure innocent excitement.
There's quite a few more instances of misjudged, misaligned, frustration-driven attempts to catch otherwise seemingly suitable waves but for whatever reason, weren't the one. Some would pick me up enough to get a quick thrill, others continued to roll innocuously underneath the board.
And then, after all the waiting, the failed attempts. It's here. It's really here. This is it, this is the one.
Everyone else around me is getting excited, they sense it too. The change in expectations is palpable. Readiness in unison and boards turn, bodies lie flat and assume attack positions. Peering over shoulders, the wave forms perfectly behind us and we start to paddle. We're jostling a little, trying to get our right of passage, the etiquette of the wave in place early to avoid conflict. For others, no matter. This is an opportunity not to be missed.
I start to paddle hard, my shoulders feel strong and I quickly gather speed. The adrenalin is overcoming the fatigue of all the earlier attempts. All the pieces are in place, these are the perfect conditions - the perfect wave, I have it all planned out. I'd rehearsed it over and over in my head. This is my time, my wave, my destiny. No one was getting in my way.
Just as I start to get gathered up by the wave, I feel the leash gather around my ankle. It feels awkward, but I think I can still carry on. I'm on the wave, now's the time to stand up and be counted.
The damn leash is not only wrapped around my ankle, it's caught on my board fin. I can't stand up. I'm half up, I'm off balance. I'm holding the board one foot is up, the other off the back of the board, flailing mercilessly behind. I'm off balance, but the sheer perfectness of the wave takes me on, gathering speed as I battle in ungainly majesty to stay on the wave. But, I'm doing it. I'm still here. I look a sight, but I'm heading towards the shore. I've got one leg tied up, I'm off balance, but I'm riding the wave.
It's hard, but the velocity and raw power of the wave takes me on. And on.
I must look frickin' ridiculous.
As the wave finally comes to a rest, I gather myself, untangle my foot from the lead, unstrap myself and raise the board up under my arm. I walk from the water, tired, excited, thankful but somehow unfulfilled. It could have been better. I can improve.
Just then, the wind picks up. A gust of unnatural energy blasts through. The cute blonde who is trying to elegantly and swiftly change her swimsuit under a careful placed towel comes a cropper, as the towel blows away down the beach leaving her exposed and embarrassed. I smile and walk on, thinking about the next wave I want to catch and how next time, it could be even better than the last.