Many of you have seen me posting cool surfing videos on my facebook page. A year ago I moved to San Francisco and started surfing. I had always wanted to be a surfer. Something about the waves, and the board and the culture had always called me to surfing. Here's one in case you haven't seen them from July 18, 2015 in San Francisco.
This post is about finding your stoke in life. The thing that you want so bad you would do anything to get it. Yes, you do have one. Your stoke exists inside of you and it's the key to unlocking your power and creating the life of your dreams. Read the story below to begin uncovering your stoke.
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I arrived to San Francisco in May of 2014 and was out learning to surf by June of that year. For those that aren’t familiar with the Pacific Ocean in Northern California, it’s not exactly known for easy surfing. Not only is the ocean frigid cold (50-60 degrees), it is teaming with great white sharks and has some wicked currents that produce lots of rip tides and dangerous conditions. It also produces some great waves including world class big surfing wave: Mavericks.
If you have ever tried to surf, you will know that there is a whole lot of paddling, falling hard and underwater oxygen-deprived tumbling, especially as a beginner.
After several weeks of getting beat up in my attempts to learn to surf I wasn’t feeling very excited about my goal of becoming a surfer. My surf sessions didn’t really involve much surfing. They looked more like a few hours of paddling upstream until my arms felt like they were going to fall off and then placing myself in a giant cold water washing machine on spin cycle. And if that wasn’t enough punishment, when I got close to catching a wave, I’d lose my balance and slam into the water as the force of the wave held me under water as long as it wanted, over and over and over and over. I'm talking like a 100 times.
I was talking to a good friend, Dave and sharing my turmoils in the water. Dave loves surfing and has been surfing for several years in Chicago on Lake Michigan. Yes there are decent surfing waves in Chicago on Lake Michigan, albeit mostly in the middle of winter, but there are good waves.
Here's him surfing in the winter of 2014-2015 in Chicago:
I was sharing with him some of the frustration of trying to get up on the surfboard and actually surf, when he said something that completely changed the way I approached surfing.
He said: “Dude, You’ve got to find your stoke. The rest will take care of itself.”
Stoke (def): To supply with fuel, to feed abundantly
What he meant was, that I needed to stop worrying about how to surf, how I would get there, how to be good or do the right things. Rather, he said to put my attention on finding the stoke, catching that one magical wave and from there I would be so hooked, so committed that I would have the fuel to keep surfing, thus becoming a surfer.
Up to that point, I had been trying to figure out how to do surfing right, trying really hard, hoping I would figure it out. It wasn’t much fun.
After that conversation, I packed up my board and my wetsuit and headed down to Linda Mar Beach 15 minutes south of San Francisco. Rather than focusing on how much I sucked at surfing, I focused on finding my stoke.
I fell a ton that day and I paddled out to the break so many times that I thought my arms were going to fall off. Just when I was about to quit, I caught my first real wave and rode it all the way to the shore.
There are no words to describe the experience of standing on top of the ocean as you and a wave commune for it’s last 15 seconds of life. That feeling is intense accomplishment, intense presence, timeless joy, ecstacy, inspiring, FREE.
Ever since that day, I’ve been chasing that experience. The call to the experience that was so incredible keeps me going back over and over.
A year later, I can call myself a surfer. I’m catching bigger waves, learning to go left and go right and then back again. I’m in excellent shape from surfing and find it to be one of my greatest joys and coolest accomplishments in life.
There are so many metaphors for life that surfing offers, but I believe this whole part about “finding your stoke” is the best one. And, it perfectly aligns with my philosophy on achieving goals and living a fulfilling life.
As a life coach, I help people get from where they are to where they want to go. For most people, they come to me with goals like: making more money, losing weight, getting married.
While all of these goals sound good in theory, when you think about what it will take to get there, you likely aren’t that excited about going after the goal. When you aren’t excited about going after something, how powerful do you think you will be in achieving it. However, when you are totally stoked about what you are going after, the future you are living into, how powerful will you be in going after that?
In fact, I bet if you look at the major things you’ve accomplished, there was something that drew you very powerfully toward the outcome. Something that got you stoked. On the contrary when you think about traditional goals, they typically conjure up images that aren’t so appetizing.
- When you think making more money, you think more work, more discipline and less joy.
- When you think losing weight, you think early morning exercise, starving yourself and giving up foods that you love.
- When you think marriage, you think loss of freedom, fear of failing and any other past fears from relationships.
These aren’t the things you actually want, just like me becoming a surfer wasn’t what I actually wanted. What I actually wanted was to experience joy, intense presence and to feel alive. Surfing happened to be the thing that provided that opportunity.
Find your stoke by looking at the experience you are hoping those goals will provide.
- How will you feel when you lose weight?
- What’s the experience making more money will provide you?
- What are you yearning to feel in your heart with your lifelong romantic partner?
These are the stokes of our lives. When you connect to the thing you really, really want (the stoke) you are more than halfway to where you want to go. Your stoke calls you forward, it makes the uncomfortable parts tolerable because you know they are in service of something greater. Finding your stoke gives you the power to push through those times when you get scared, when you get bored and when you’ve lost your motivation.
Everyone has an experience they want to have in their career, romantic relationship and with themselves… Your job is to uncover it and go after the stoke.
Here’s where I suggest you start in finding your stoke:
Write down the experience you are yearning to have in the these major areas of leading a fulfilling life: Career, Romantic Relationship, Well Being.
Here are some suggestions to get started:
- Write down a few of your dream jobs or positions? If you are a business owner, write down where you would like to have your business a year from today, how much money, time off, etc.?
- Now, ask yourself the question: If you got that job or created that in your business, what would you be experiencing? How would you feel? What would you be inspired by?
- Most people start with: I want to be married, engaged or dating someone, or if you are in a relationship I want to improve my marriage, less fighting, etc. None of these are what you actually want. You want the experience you think this will provide.
- Instead, ask yourself: What is the experience I want to have of myself and with another person in a romantic relationship? You can answer this question whether you are in a relationship or not.
- Likely you will start with: I want to lose weight, or get in shape, or lost this spare tire. This isn’t what you want, what you really want is the experience you think this will provide.
- Ask yourself: What’s the experience that I want to have in my relationship to myself? How do I want to see myself? Who am I committed to being for myself in realtionship?
Once you have done this, use the experience you want to create and think about what kind of goals you could set to help you realize that vision.
If you get stuck, reach out to me for a free individual workshop. I would love to help you uncover your stoke.