How surfing helped me deal with an unpredictable, fast-moving, crisis as a CEO
In today’s rapidly fluctuating business environment, entire business models are undergoing sudden transformations almost overnight. Businesses are being forced to deal with the unknown in ways which require great flexibility and stability from those in command.
As a CEO of an online, data-based company, I have the privilege of seeing these the changes Covid-19 is causing business up close. During these challenging times, I try to apply the lessons I have learned from surfing and apply them to business, which I will share with you below.
Since the very first day of the lockdown restrictions, I have been craving a return to the ocean. Like many other surfers around the world, I rely on this sport for much more than just a hobby. It is a way of understanding the world. Today, as the Covid-19 restrictions are gradually being lifted – surfing is back to give me much more than just a hobby. Surfing is my sounding board, and it has taught me to manage this crisis with the flexibility, alertness, and fast decision-making that it requires.
Here are 6 ways that surfing can teach you about managing a business during a crisis:
Adapting to an unpredictable environment: Unlike many sports, the surfing environment is unpredictable and cannot be controlled or anticipated. You need to always be aware of changes in the ocean as they happen – just like in our current marketplace.
You can plan ahead, have a fully fleshed-out course of action, and then something will shift your direction, completely changing the situation. In surfing, you need to remain completely alert and react in real time to the information the ocean gives you second by second.
Always be forecasting: Every surfer, from a 15-year-old rookie to a 40-year-old CEO, relies on continuous forecasting. How does this work?
Macro Thinking - Before hitting the waves, surfers check synoptic maps, the wind direction and power, swell direction, and more, to increase the chances of finding that perfect wave. I find that this method of macro thinking also applies to the business world. After all, any executive must be acutely aware of the relevant elements affecting their ecosystems and be ready to adapt their strategies accordingly.
Micro thinking - When judging the minute-to-minute movements of the water, making the wrong decision, or choosing the wrong spot will force you to paddle against the stream, which none of us want to do. Making a bad decision in the choppy waters of our current market may take you longer than you think to fix – so you must always be on the lookout and ready to evaluate and reevaluate your position frequently based on the available data.
Wait for that perfect moment: Ninety percent of surfing is based on waiting, particularly waiting for an opportunity to arise so you can hit it with all you’ve got. A good executive knows when to wait for a better opportunity and does not rush to capture one that may not be worth the effort. Surfing teaches you how to not fear waiting.
Decision-maker loneliness: Surfing is a one person show. It is just you, your surfboard, and the ocean. The same goes for the business world, if you are the main decision-maker in a business, eventually you are on your own. And when it comes to the crunch-time, your colleagues, teams and management all rely on you to make the decision on your own.
Keeping calm: In the surfing world, this factor can be critical to keeping you alive! Every seasoned surfer has experienced (at least) one near-death incident and has learned plenty of lessons from it. If you are pushed underwater and your surfboard has been taken away – the only way you can stay alive is by keeping calm! This situation is very similar to the business disruptions that we are seeing in this an erratic market – we have all been there. The only way you can ensure that you stay on top of such a situation and make the right decisions is by remaining calm, sharp and collected.
And, finally, it requires commitment: To ride that perfect wave, a surfer needs to go to great lengths. Waking up at dawn, entering the freezing cold water, jumping from a jetty into the waves, encountering sharks, even breaking bones – I’m pretty sure this illustrates full-on commitment! In the business world, you may encounter plenty of “sharks” or heavy waves, but when you do, staying on course, and remain committed to your mission while adjusting it to whatever the waves throw at you, will bring you one step closer to that memorable surf!
By Or Lenchner, CEO, Luminati Networks