Business psychology

What your solo business can learn from big wave surfers

- April 18, 2017 2 MIN READ

My partner is an avid windsurfer and stand-up paddle boarder. The other day he listened to a podcast featuring Kai Lenny who’s a young big wave rider and overall water-sports enthusiast.

The nature of big wave riding means that surfers can get pummelled by 20-foot waves and be floundering under the water for over a minute.

A minute.

And that’s amidst the thrashing murkiness of the ocean, not knowing where the surface is.

As a result, some surfers have unfortunately died tackling these big waves. But, it’s not from lack of preparation. Most big wave riders prepare for every breathless, heart-stopping scenario.

Kai Lenny does.

This is what happens when he’s faced with drowning.

Disassociation not death

When Kai Lenny is knocked off his surfboard and punched deep into the stomach of the ocean, he does something quite unusual. Rather than thrashing toward the surface, heart pounding and lungs bursting; he immediately relaxes.

Yup, he relaxes.

Rather than relinquishing his fate to external factors, he takes complete control of his mind and body.

He does this by focussing on something other than the situation he’s currently in. In other words, he disassociates himself.

Instead of thinking, “That’s it. I’m going to spend my last moment with a random, passing octopus,” he just loosens his body, lies still, and imagines building a Lego bridge with Lego blocks.

Just one brick at a time.

One on top of the other.

Brick by brick till the bridge is built.

He knows from experience that if he relaxes, he’ll eventually rise to the surface on his own. And the way he relaxes is by disassociating himself.

How this technique applies to business

Naturally, I’m not suggesting you set up a desk on the ocean floor, mentally build Lego infrastructure, reply to emails, do your BAS and slowly asphyxiate.

But, this technique does illustrate how we can stop ourselves from ‘drowning’ in business.

You know the types of drowning I’m referring to. Sing it with me!

  • Drowning in work.
  • Drowning in lack of work.
  • Drowning in bills.
  • Drowning in busy-ness.
  • Drowning in anxiety.
  • Drowning in to-do lists.
  • Drowning in

When we’re drowning, it’s difficult to see the surface. To get our heads above water we flail around madly, snatching at solutions, implementing quick-fix ideas, only to run out of breath and sink deeper into the dark, murky crevices of stress and exhaustion.

The hardest thing to do in these situations is to stop thinking about the problems. To stop obsessing.

When we slump over our problems 24/7, we lose the ability to make sharp and effective decisions. We lose the objectivity to see there’s sometimes a solution right under our nose. Why? Because our brains are foggy, fuzzy, fatigued and fried.

By detaching and disassociating, we return to the situation with more clarity and calmness, and we invariably rise to the surface, ready to take the next step.

How to disassociate yourself:

Choose disassociation over drowning. Take a break and breathe.

Next time you’re drowning in business problems, detach yourself from the issues. The act of disassociation can help you think clearly, stay afloat, and eventually, to breathe easy.

Do you have any tips for when you’re drowning in business?