I've been absent from writing my blog during this summer due to the heat wave in Seattle. Ok, just kidding. Seattle is about the only place in the US that didn't have a heat wave! Luckily I wasn't around for most of this cold summer. Microsoft rewarded me with a sabbatical which is 8 weeks off from work. I love the time off and am looking for ways to bring my experiences back to this blog. I spent July in Hawaii and found myself learning many new things. Most experiences weren't just challenging mentally, but physically as well. Boogie boarding is one such activity that took some time for me to develop and on the last day in Hawaii, I was still in the water trying to catch some good waves. But it wasn't an easy journey to get to this point.
Boogie boarding is like surfing except you don't need to catch such big waves and you don't need to stand up on your board...so it's easy enough that anyone can give it a try. For me, learning to boogie board well seemed similar to learning other skills at work, like giving good presentations or learning how to find good code defects. You have to keep doing it to get better and sometimes it's really difficult to do, but then when you are able to do it well, it feels awesome!
The first time I went in the water with a boogie board, it felt awkward. The waves were pounding me and the current was strong. I had to figure out the best way to get through the breaking waves with my board without getting knocked around. I stayed in the water about 15 minutes before being totally exhausted and not real happy with any waves I tried to ride on. Many times, when someone learns a new skill, it can turn from exciting to overwhelming very quickly and this happened to me.
Next time the family went down to the beach, they all again went into the water to catch some waves. I, on the other hand, decided that this wasn't quite for me and my boogie board made a nice cushion on the beach to sit on while the others were doing their best in the water. On the way home, they talked about what catching the perfect wave is like. How at first you aren't sure you are being carried on one until it pushes you forward faster and faster until you end up on the beach. I knew I had never really caught one then because the waves always seemed to pass me by and leave me floating on the board waiting for the next one. I was intrigue with catching a wave and decided maybe I should try this again. Also, it didn't help that any time we went anywhere, we seemed to always go by a beach with people boogie boarding. The reminders were everywhere that I wasn't done conquering this skill.
So the next time we went down to boogie board, I was in the water once again. It was a bit scary to be walking through the water away from shore towards these huge waves that are crashing a few feet away, and then make it through them as I made my way to what I thought was an optimal place to catch a wave. I was unsuccessful on many attempts but after watching others (kids!) and putting some logic behind my attempts, I realized that the wave was only going to push me along if I was already heading in the same direction and I stayed in front of it. It was good to observe and look at the big picture before continuously repeating my erroneous approach. So after a few more tries, it worked! It carried me all the way onto the beach very quickly and I had to be careful to steer passed others in the water. It was awesome and I was hooked. I kicked with my feet to really make sure the wave would catch me but as I continued catching good waves, I stopped needing to kick to help me along and even got to a point where I could position myself on a moment’s notice to catch a forming wave. I was having a blast!
Then disaster happened. Like all good things, they sometime have to come to an end. I road this perfect wave and it carried me faster and farther on shore than I expected. I had to avoid a few people standing on the beach as the water pushed me by them. And then the wave pushed me right over the flat, black lava rocks embedded in the beach. I could feel my knees and shins get scraped. For a moment I felt relief that this was it and I could get off the board. Then the undertow from the huge wave pulled me back across the rocks the other way back towards the ocean. Now my toes and hands got dragged across the rock on the way back out. Luckily, although I was already shifting off my board, it didn't come out from underneath me until the wave had pulled me out onto soft sand. I was a mess and I hurt. That was it for me boogie boarding. What a horrible ending.
Over the next few days, my scrapes all started healing, but I couldn't go in the ocean until they healed further because the salt water just made them throb. And then the vacation was coming to an end. And I started thinking, I really need to get back into that water and boogie board one last time to end on a good note. That happened on the last day. I went in and caught some really good waves fairly easily. Taking that break, understanding my limitations, and then getting back involved allowed me to approach boogie boarding in a much smarter way. I even rode in a really long wave next to my son who rode it in about as far as I did. We were smiling and high-fiving, and having a blast. And then I decided I was done. I spent enough time to prove that the rocks weren't going to get me down. The unpredictable waves weren't going to get me down. I ended on a positive note and went home with a smile on my face.
I hope you can take my experience and relate it to activities in your life or at work. Sometimes you can get beaten up for no good reason, maybe just for underestimating the power of the wave you are riding or thinking you can avoid an obstacle that is unavoidable. The strength of a person isn't measured by how well they handle getting scraped up. It's how they can turn a negative experience into a positive one and come out ahead. Honestly, I need to use my own advice in other aspects of my life. Maybe you can use it to.