I only had 10 minutes at Event Santa Cruz to share my greatest learning from kitesurfing and entrepreneurship.
Be comfortable in the uncertainty.
When you’re pulling into a wave perched on a surfboard attached to a kite with the power of a Mac truck a million things can go wrong at any second. A line could break, a release could pop on it’s own, part of your harness could give way, a fin could hit a stray strand of kelp, a leg muscle could twitch, someone else could cross lines with you.
You are tiny, fragile thing balanced between two powerful forces of nature. As the wall of water rushes beneath you everything is uncertain. Yet you must maintain absolute certainty that none of those million to one chances will happen and if it does that you can handle it.
Anyone who as done an extreme sport knows it is the moment of doubt, that split second of hesitation that gets you every time. You can never know for sure, but you must act with surety.
Over the last five years of my transition from the security of a regular paycheck to making my own way in the world I have been living on the edge. Financially, emotionally, intellectually. Uncertain what each day will hold. It can be terrifying.
Looking back I should have given up a hundred times over. I even tried to and got a job and discovered I was too far down the path to go back to the gilded cage of a job. The only way was forward.
Things suddenly started to come together for me on land when I applied what I knew from the water. To be comfortable in the uncertainty. I released my death grip on trying to make my business happenhow I thought it should and rode whatever possibilities presented themselves. Just like I love to frolic on the waves.
Recently I reconnected with an old boyfriend from Back East (because that’s always a great idea). He lectured and yelled at me about how I’ve been running my life in the last few years. How monstrously irresponsible and selfish I am. As he ranted on I could see his fear. It gave me confirmation of what I see on the horizon. We are in uncertain times. No matter what your beliefs or how you hope it plays out there is no denying our social, political and economic systems are uncertain. This ex-boyfriend of mine is deeply entrenched in the systems as they are. The thought of their changing is terrifying for him. I can see how it would piss him off to see me designing my life to ride the wave of change when he feels like he’s about to get pummeled by it.
In sports if you aren’t wiping out you aren’t pushing it. In entrepreneurship you aren’t pissing people off you’re probably playing it too safe.
Ironically, his “attack” held up a mirror for my comfort in the uncertainty and gave me confidence that, whatever happens, I can handle it. I’m agile, flexible, adaptable and responsive (a bit like all the software, programs & tools being dreamed up here in Santa Cruz).
When you dare to live life on your own terms you will always grapple with uncertainty and fear. I don’t think that ever goes away. So I’ll close with a practical tool that always works for me to shift from terror to comfort in the uncertainty.
Remember. The only difference between fear and excitement is breathing.
Photo: Greg Gilholm