In any creative endeavor or goal worth pursuing there are obstacles. Sometimes you achieve those goals quickly and other times it takes longer than you'd like. You can read, prepare, and study until you're "ready." But "ready" is an illusion. You won't really know what to do until you're in the water. Opportunities are like waves. You can go for them or keep letting them pass by. But the sooner you go for a wave, the sooner your ride will begin. Like every wave I've ever ridden, every person's path is different. It will come with its own set of challenges, its own circumstances, and in its own time.
Surfing isn't only about riding a wave; it's about the Zen-like high and thrill that comes from it, known in surf lingo as "the stoke." The beauty of the stoke is that it can't be measured or quantified, because it's a limitless gift. When creation becomes its own reward, you'll transcend yourself. You'll be on your way to unmistakable.
My goal is that reading about what makes others unmistakable will galvanize you into getting off the sand and into the waves.
Let's go. Surf's up.
PART 1: THE PADDLE OUT
Even though I've lived in California since 1993, I needed fifteen years and, ironically, to leave the country before I finally started to surf.
We often wait like this when it comes to the pursuit of some of our most important dreams. We drive by the water admiring it from the safety of our cars, or we simply stand onshore watching and admiring those who are already in the water. We justify not doing anything by convincing ourselves that people in the water have something that we don't. They've had lucky breaks that we never will, or they've won some sort of genetic lottery or happened to be in the right place at the right time. While in some cases this might be true, our
justifications start to become excuses and then narratives we repeat that limit our potential.
When you start to pursue anything that falls outside the boundaries of societal expectations, anything that disrupts or disturbs the status quo, the sirens of safety and security will begin to go off like a fire truck blazing through the streets of New York City. A decision to disrupt the status quo is in many ways a decision to disrupt yourself and your life. But we resist changes like this, despite knowing how much a subtle or significant shift in our lives can come to outweigh what we fear.
And we fear that taking a plunge into the water, into the unknown, and doing the work required to become unmistakable will be worse even than the boredom or dissatisfaction that we currently feel with our lives. So we just stand onshore with our feet sinking into the sand. We continually choose to do nothing, settle, and
compromise until we get to the end of our lives and find ourselves looking back at a life that could have been.
* A life in which we could have published the novel we've stashed in our desk drawer.
* A life in which we could have started the company or nonprofit that is deep within the chambers of our heart and mind.
* A life in which we could have dared more greatly and dreamed more audaciously.
But we always have a choice to take one small step forward to begin our quest for change. Nearly every innovative, groundbreaking, creative idea that defies the limits of what we once thought was humanly possible started as nothing more than a thought in someone's head, a moment of creative daring, before it became that person's unmistakable dent in the universe.
Given that we're about to enter a new and unfamiliar environment and attempt to learn a completely new way of living, we have no idea what our limits are. We might imagine those limits to be greater than they are, dreaming of being Michael Jordan when we've never picked up a basketball in our life. Or we might imagine them to be worse than they are, that we can't even try to write or draw, sing or dance.
Inevitably, when you get in the water you'll face obstacles like rocks, waves crashing down on your head, jellyfish, and other surfers yelling at you. Similarly, the pursuit of unmistakable work also comes with its own set of obstacles that you will have to face, like critics, naysayers, moments of panic, fear, anxiety, self-doubt, and competition.
Before you get ready to paddle out, consider what's making your feet feel like they're stuck in the sand forever.
***** TABLE OF CONTENTS *****
PART 1: The Paddle Out
PART 2: The Lineup
PART 3: The Drop
PART 4: The Ride
PART 5: The Impact Zone
PART 6: The Stroke