How learning to Skateboard & Surf Helped Prepare me for Business During the Pandemic
I grew up doing neither of these things.
My thing growing up was roller skating with my mom. She knew I could miss 10 days per semester at school, and she had a certain amount of sick days from work--and we would plan out when we could play hooky and skate. This started in elementary school and went straight through all 4 years of high school. It was our own private joy and I knew when she handed me a bogus note in the morning that excused me from school for some imaginary doctor's visit, we would be on our wheels for the rest of the day instead.
I don't know who else felt this way, but I went through this weird time when I felt too old to start something new. That was most of my 20s.
If I hadn't already started when I was young, I had no business starting now. I thought that at 21. How stupid of me. By 28 my relationship with the ocean felt unfinished--and I got on a surfboard for the very first time. At 35 my then 3 year old son showed interest in skateboarding, and I wanted to be the mom for him that mine was for me. So, I embraced the suck of starting something new--and got up on the board.
This is what I learned:
1. Learning to surf teaches you to manage your expectations. I lusted over surf videos for a long time before I got brave enough to get out on the board myself. After my first forehead full of sand at full force, I learned pretty quickly that failure is just a necessary step to success. Like entrepreneurship most of the time spent surfing is waiting, calculating, and failing. But holy hell when you get up on that board with your wiggly knees and tired arms, all of the struggle becomes obsolete. I keep this in mind every time a new business challenge comes along that knocks me off my board--which to be honest, feels daily.
2. Learning to skateboard at 35 feels ridiculous. But you know what is more ridiculous? Never doing the things that you want because of what others might think. I realize I look like someone trying to be a cool mom on a skateboard. I don't care, my son deserves to see confidence, not cowering (even if I'm faking it). Starting a business is also humbling and embarrassing. You don't know whether you are going to be in that stat of businesses that didn't make it. You just don't know, and now with social media--everyone you ever met & their parents will watch you fail. But...they might also watch you succeed; that's up to you & your grit.
3. I learned to manage fear. The ocean can kill you, and we were born without wheels for a very good reason. Fear can either stop you from starting or it can drive to you some of the biggest rushes ever. The first time I was able to skateboard for a long, fast stretch and feel my hair blowing from the velocity of the board-- all the false starts became worth it. Once I learned to manage a surfboard and finally stand up and enjoy the ride, there is no comparison. Before the Allure article was published, I may or may not have googled "how to fake my own death". Now that we are officially back up and running, and people seem to love our products, the fear is starting to dissolve. Maybe I'll take a stab at "enjoying" this ride too. :)
4. It won't seem impossible forever. Practice. Repeat. The longer you do something, the better you will get. When we were on a mission to create the best conditioner bar to help reduce the world's plastic, we went through so many iterations. We didn't just buy a formula off the shelf, we wanted to make the Ferrari of conditioner bars that you could have in the shower, bring to the beach, and throw in your gym bag. You have no idea what it means to build a product you love until you are actually in it. I refused to sign off on this conditioner bar until it was the best conditioner bar I had ever used. I can say I love this conditioner more than anything else in the line. I even thought of the surf community when it came to formulating--I made sure that this was also the BEST conditioner bar for surfers to protect hair from brittleness and breakage after long days in the sun & sea.
5. No one is interested in perfection. It's cool to be pro, but scrappy and learning is way more interesting. This is true for surfing, skateboarding, and business. When our content shoots were cancelled & our lab closed, we had to totally change our vision for content. I took a chance and just owned it on our @saynoap instagram. We wanted to be what marketers call "authentic" by actually being authentic. With time to actually look at things, I post stock photos that masquerade as the truth and pick out the absurdities that make them so obviously false. It feels truthful instead of curating a feed of smoke & mirrors. It hasn't blown up or anything, but I have had several messages from strangers who said that the content makes them feel happy--and that is worth it for me. In a world where people are losing loved ones to the virus, we didn't think it was good for the mental health of our team or our followers to pretend everything was ok.
We've all heard it before: nothing worth doing is easy.
And that's okay. For anyone who owns a brand they know that the launch is not the beginning. By the time a product makes it to a consumer's eyes usually 1-2 years of unpaid work, stress and sleepless nights contribute to the development. It takes a lot of grit--and I truly believe that is why so many surfers & skateboarders I meet are actually really successful in business. Behind the scenes you fail way more than you succeed, and only the successes are photographed.
I noticed the Pandemic is inspiring people to try something new
Now is the perfect time to be terrible at something and emerge from the quarantine really good. Find your thing. My mom started to learn Mandarin at 60. She isn't around anymore but she left me with one of the best pieces of advice that keeps me afloat & trying new things:
"Given the choice, always go swimming."
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