Riding On The Crest Of A Wave

by | Jun 23, 2022

How learning to surf is like retirement

Last week I told you about the incredible time I recently spent at the Modern Elder Academy in Baja, Mexico. The school is the brainchild of Chip Conley and it’s dedicated to helping people, from all walks of life, navigate midlife and beyond.

I’d enrolled on Leading from your Essence, a course run by Chip and Vanessa Inn, because I’m curious and I never want to stop learning about finding your purpose and travelling along the undulating pathway that is life.

The school is located on a beach, and you have the most spectacular view of the Pacific as you work, rest, and dine, but there’s nothing peaceful or pacifying about this ocean. It has a roar and intensity to it like no other and because of the strength of its undercurrents, the best you can do is walk along its pristine white shore and feel the waves lapping against your legs.

I’d presumed that was the only encounter I would have with the Pacific, but on the final day of my visit we were given the opportunity to learn to surf. And, well, you know me… Despite having just recovered from a shoulder injury, I said, “Hell, yes! What have I got to lose?!” (Almost my dignity as it turns out!)

I must admit that I did have some reservations and wondered whether I should just watch from the side-lines, but in the end, I put myself out there and I’m so glad that I did.

On Dry Land

Now as anyone who has learned to surf knows, you start on dry land. Learning how to paddle out, then get on your knees and finally, hopefully, onto your feet. I mastered this quite easily, but then came the waves!

On my first attempt I did all the right things but fell headfirst into the water.  The same thing happened the second time, despite me repeatedly telling myself, “George, you can do this.”

I’m a determined guy and usually I’d beat myself up for failing, but for the first time in a long time, I didn’t.  I decided to ‘fail forwards’ and not get upset for not being good enough.

Huge wave - why learning to surf is like retirement

On my third attempt I got to my feet. It was a momentary success which lasted seconds before I once again toppled into the water. I can’t say I rode on the crest of the wave, but what I achieved felt good enough. Why? Because I put myself out there, tried something new – something that I was afraid of, something that I may never have the opportunity to try again, but then again, perhaps I will.

Keep On Trying

There’s a very common misconception in life: that when you get to a certain age, you should stop trying. You’ve done your bit, learnt your lot and that’s enough. BUT (and this is something I want to scream from the rooftops) this is simply NOT TRUE. We should never stop learning. There’s no age limit on life. And, if we stop trying new things, the space in which we live gets smaller and smaller. When we put ourselves out there, it grows bigger and bigger and will continue to do so.

So, let me ask you this? Would you rather quit and grow old, or would you rather recreate a new beginning for yourself? I’ve recreated a new beginning for myself, and I love my life.

George Jerjian
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