What a beautiful, serene, glorious morning. As I stare at the mighty Pacific, and watch the waves I have been listening to in my off and on subconscious all night pound the shore, and see surfers, and beachcombers, and early exercisers all doing their thing, I wonder about the journey we are all on, together and apart.
Take the surfer, he is artfully carving each wave at a level normally reserved for the very occasional TV surf competition that I happen to catch. Possibly years of practice to get to his level. And the guy next to him, still good, but even to my untrained eye at over 1000 yards can tell there is a vast difference between the two. It is almost a confidence exuded from the board, as much as it is skill honed over time. He just sees the patterns of the waves the tiniest bit slower, or doesn’t recognize as many or maybe he just doesn’t possess the kinesthetic intelligence to get to the level of the first guy. My guess is time on the water plays at least some part.
It also leaves me wondering where they got their start. Why surfing? Surely childhood, and proximity to things (like ocean, people, gear, mentors, knowledge, etc.) all played a part but at some point the better surfer had to say on some level, surfing over X. To get to his level he had to say no to many things on his way to this particular yes. It is fascinating how many seemingly innocuous choices can lead us to our ultimate outcomes.
I think the same is true in our professional lives, and often there is a genealogy that probably pretty closely matches the surfers. Wouldn’t it be great to know in hiring which employees had some of the “kinesthetics” to be a world class marketing specialist, or sales professional, or COO? None of it happens in a vacuum or by accident, and we use the rudimentary tools we have to try and assess. But they can fool us. Things like experience.
We often wrongfully assume that experience equals success.
There is a chance that the surfer I am watching, that is clearly not the better of the two, has more experience on the water. It is not the most probable outcome but is nevertheless a possible one. In that case, like in many business cases, aptitude for the work would be the key factor.
Desire is another. Both of these guys were on the water when I started to write at sun-up which was about 6:20am PDT. I guarantee, in fact I would bet all I have that within 5 miles of this beach, on this morning, there is a more talented surfer still in bed because they lack the desire to do the hard work. Maybe surfing always came easy, and they were not really bit by the bug to be the best, and surfing is one of many things that bring them joy, but from an innate talent point they are better just we will never know because “surfing isn’t really their thing.”
This is happening in our companies every single day. We are trying to find geniuses, weirdos, specialists…and we often don’t know the back story and have to take some wild guesses, and then we try and create the ‘ultimate waves’ at work so they can thrive, and learn, and be the best version of themselves possible. But what if they aren’t into your waves, or your game, or haven’t really figured it out yet, then what?
I think shifting perspectives slightly can go a long way.
If we start to think of our companies as more of a training ground, or dojo, or the Pacific Ocean at 6:20am, we can be successful. You are going to get some people that are curious about ‘surfing in your ocean’ and they will serve a role for a period of time, and in the process of increasing their skills will likely move on to new oceans, and that is ok. There will be others that thought they loved surfing only to find out mountain biking is their true calling, and they will move on, and that is ok too.
But then there will be a group that falls in love with surfing, and if you do it right, in love with your ocean, and your game, and your teaching style, and they will do the best work of their lives while getting better and better at YOUR company.
Set up the game, and learning opportunities, and ocean to attract as many of that group as you can and do whatever you can to keep serving up, as only Jeff Spicoli could say, the “tasty waves.”
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