The Rule for all Terror is to Head Straight into Them

photo credit: adriana pitea

photo credit: adriana pitea

My feet immerse in the chilling ocean and I’m reminded of my deep-sea terror. There are leopard sharks, seals, stingrays and jellyfish at this beach. I’m not a strong swimmer. In just a few thoughts I’ve scared myself to death. My mind, the fear, preventing me from experiencing the magic of flying on water also known as surfing. I recently decided that I don’t want to be a slave to fear. I will face, head on, what scares me. When I bought my first wetsuit and 8ft foam board, I had no idea the things I’d learn from surfing would be the lessons I would need for a breakthrough.

Fear starts in our mind and left unchecked it develops into terror. Terror is extreme fear that paralyzes us from moving forward, from taking risks that could position us for success. That next stage could be marriage for a single person with commitment issues, for the unhappy careerists that could be making their side hustle a full-time reality, or for the unhappy partner that could be letting go of a dead-end relationship to create space for a healthier one, the list goes on.


Here is the ugly thing about fear: it doesn’t just leave. The more you feed and nurture your fears, the bigger they become. I’ve helped numerous friends turn their dreams into reality. I’ve also been a part of start-ups and know how to boot-strap a lean venture. Though I desire to start my own business, I just haven’t. I’ve identified the culprit as my fear of failure due to past mistakes. Ironically, when I decided to confront my fear of the ocean, surfing has become the best mentor and metaphor for life as an entrepreneur. What I’ve learned as a beginner surfer has granted me tremendous breakthrough in my fear of failure. Here’s sharing a few:

Þ    COMMITMENT – You have to fully commit to popping-up (standing) on the board without hesitation, even if it means wiping out instantly. When a wave comes you’ve got seconds to catch it. It takes commitment, a making up of the mind that even if I face plant, I’m giving it my all. Commitment requires preparation and planning so when the right wave/opportunity comes, there is no hesitation in taking that risk. Having a lukewarm response to a game changing opportunity could cost you your success.

Þ    PERSISTENCE – Even when you wipe out or completely miss a wave because you didn’t paddle hard enough, get up and try again. You often hear about “failing fast” in the start-up scene, well surfing teaches you that instantly. Every time you fall down, get back up again and again and again. Very quickly it teaches you to try new things and be comfortable with risk and failure. It teaches you that mistakes lead to learning and opportunity, which then leads to improvement and eventually success. 

Þ    CONFIDENCE – You won’t get very far in the ocean without confidence. You have to be aggressive with the waves in paddling out past the white wash. Trust in the process even when you are getting pounded, never stop believing that you can and you will. As an entrepreneur, it is no different. If you believe you are going to get your goal, achieve your dream, or succeed in your business, you will. If you think you can’t, you won’t. It is that simple. In business sometimes we allow setbacks to destroy our confidence and undermine our ambitions. True success lies in charging out to meet the next opportunity. 

Þ    PRESENCE - When you get in the ocean you have to observe the swell, wind direction and water conditions and position yourself accordingly to catch a wave. Surfing forces you to be present in the here and now. If we lose focus and presence for one moment, we can be thrown off our boards. As an entrepreneur, while there is always a lot of planning involved, there are also obstacles that come like waves. If we are present and pay attention, we can turn those obstacles into opportunities.

Þ    PATIENCE – Rome was not built in a day. Anything built to last takes time, hard work and patience. You can’t walk into the ocean and command nature to create the best wave for you to ride. A lot of surfing is paddling out, waiting and timing. A good surfer knows that the water can go from flat to choice waves in an instant, and smart business people know the business climate can turn on a dime. Instead of getting discouraged; you need to patiently wait for the right opportunity and be ready to act when it comes to you.

Þ    HAVE FUN - Never become so focused on making it that you forget to enjoy life. No one says, “I wish I would have spent more time worrying about my business/career” on his or her deathbed. Enjoy your journey or get another one, life’s too short to work in misery.

After five or eight times of surfing like a complete idiot, I’ve started to make progress and gain confidence in my abilities. I’m starting to fly and have fun. I’m starting to giggle because I see hard work, persistence, patience and commitment payoff.

You see, the only way to way to get rid of the darkness that comes rushing over you like a ten-foot wave is to charge at it: action cures fear! It may be the very thing that saves you. The next time an amazing opportunity comes your way that simultaneously makes you quiver, you’ll remember the last victory, and you won’t pass up another opportunity to succeed. Whatever your fear is, I hope you will do it afraid because the SECRET TO GAINING CONFIDENCE is to face your fear. The rule for all terror is to head straight into them and ride it.