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Here’s something most people don’t know about me: I’ve always wanted to be a surfer.
I grew up watching beach shows and longing for a carefree life where no matter what was going on, someone might yell, “Surf’s up,” and my friends and I would sprint to the beach and catch some waves.
But, like most of us, I made other choices. I love being a coach, and I’m happy with where my choices have led me, but as I’ve gotten older, my identity as a surf bum has felt further and further away.
Then last month, I went to Costa Rica with my partner Justin, and something changed.
For the first time in years, I was surrounded by real-life surfers. At first, I was still distancing myself from them (“That’s not me,” “I’m too old,” “I’m not that person anymore”), but then one day, a fit grey-haired guy zoomed past us on a mountain bike with a board bungee-corded to the side.
I immediately thought, “That guy has something figured out.”
Then Justin said, “Dave, that’s you.”
I looked again. He was my age, and even looked and dressed like me. I felt something deep inside me shift.
I started to wonder if I’d been looking at this in the wrong way. Maybe my path didn’t lead me away from my surfer dreams; maybe my identity just became more layered. In other words, maybe it’s not too late.
I spent the whole next week surfing. It’s been years since I’ve been on a board so it was awkward at first, but I started to get the hang of it. I loved the constant challenge and the rhythm of the ocean. There’s something about that incredible force that makes me feel so alive.
When I was surfing, I didn’t feel like a different version of me; I felt like me. Dave, coach, business owner, resident of Ontario… and surfer.
I’m home now, and the combination of my busy schedule and the frozen lakes around where we live don’t leave a lot of opportunities for catching waves. So instead, I’ve decided to keep the spirit of it alive by committing to half-day Fridays, with the afternoons reserved for outdoor adventures. Last week, Justin and I went skating. I couldn’t believe how good it felt.
Take a moment to reflect on your version of this story. Here are some questions to get you started:
- What are some of the early dreams you had for your adult life?
- How have those dreams been realized, and how have they not?
- What is one small, practical way you can bring those dreams closer?
I did a deep survey of more than 15,000 retirees over the age of 60, and asked them one question: “What is your single biggest challenge in retirement?”
Surfing, like leading, forces me to become intimately aware of my skill, attitude, and limiting beliefs. I’m going to share four lessons leaders should know in order to harness the power and opportunity of their role.