The Surfer’s Rules for Innovators and Entrepreneurs

Last week I went to a talk in the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center titled “Make Your Own Waves” by Louis Patler, a well-known author, speaker and consultant. He just finished writing his book “The Surfer’s Rules for Innovators and Entrepreneurs”, and has been doing a lot of talks to promote its publication. I haven’t had a chance to read the book yet, but in the talk, he basically gave a quick summary of the book, which I deem very interesting. In essence, he draws an analogy between Big Wave surfers and entrepreneurs. As someone who has real interest and connections with the surfing community, Louis says that the Big Wave surfers possess traits such as preparedness, focus, patience, creativity, and courage. These traits mirrored his research findings of successful, serial entrepreneurs and innovators. In his book, Louis comes up with the 10 Surfer’s Rules that makes up the analogy fit: the first 4 address the hard work to be done before even trying to ride a wave; the middle 3 focus on the rides, wipeouts and determination to get up after set-backs; and the last 3 examine how important it is to not rest on your laurels, to collaborate and to stay passionate about what you do.

In this blog post, I want to do a quick recap of the 10 rules from Louis’s presentation, as I find them totally worth being shared:

Rule #1 — Learn to Swim

The basics set the stage for everything.

· For the surfer, it means learning how to swim.

· For the entrepreneur, it means doing homework on competition, partnerships, and resources. In other words, get to know who’s doing what out there by doing competitive analysis on the market and know people on a social level.

Rule #2 — Get Wet

Success comes to those who try.

· For the surfer, getting into the water is the logical step following the decision to swim.

· For the entrepreneur, get wet means get themselves to start to see the world from a different mindset, aka the entrepreneurial mindset.

Rule #3 — Decide to Ride

There are a lot of decisions to be made early on.

· For the surfer, this is the decision to choose what level of wave to ride on (small or big).

· For the entrepreneur, this is the first decision point of the business — at what “scale” to work with and how to ramp it up.

Rule #4 — Always Look “Outside”

Watch for what’s coming or you may miss a better opportunity.

· For the surfer, “outside” refers to the waves coming after the visible waves. An experience surfer will estimate and know ahead which big waves to ride in.

· For the entrepreneur, this is the step to do before launching the product — how to optimize the launch so that he doesn’t miss a good opportunity. Louis suggests the entrepreneur to study the market trends, history of similar products, and organizational structure of similar companies.

Rule #5 — Commit, Charge, Shred!

You have to go all out to be all in.

· For the surfer, Big Wave surfers only surf 2, 3 months during the season, and spend the rest of the year practicing. It means he has to be at the best form all year around so he can perform well during the season.

· For the entrepreneur, he needs to assess everything carefully, be well-prepared mentally, physically, and spiritually during the launch of his product.

Rule #6 — Paddle Back Out

· For the surfer, paddle back out means going back to the ocean after failing to ride the wave for an instance.

· For the entrepreneur, this is synonymous with embracing failure, not giving up and trying again.

Rule #7 — Never Turn Your Back on the Ocean

· The surfer should never turn his back to the ocean because some big waves might approach him and it will be a dangerous scenario if he can’t react properly.

· The entrepreneur needs to always stay in touch with the marketplace and the customers, as something disruptive might happen in the market or the customer might dislike certain things about the product, which in both cases can cause problematic issues.

Rule #8 — Dare Big!

· The surfer needs to stay grounded to seek the big waves to ride in.

· The entrepreneur needs to stay ready to seize the big opportunities.

Rule #9 — Never Surf Alone

Collaboration is the name of the game.

· The surfer should get involved with the surfing community and meet other surfers to practice and hone his skills.

· The entrepreneur has to seek out mentors, venture capitalists, business partners, technical talents… to keep his business alive.

Rule #10 — Stay Stoked

Desire drives success, passion carries the day. This is simple enough to understand: both the surfer and the entrepreneur should have insatiable desire and fierce passion to practice their craft and improve themselves.

So there you have it, the 10 surfer’s rules that are applicable for entrepreneurs and innovators. I would definitely check out Louis’s book soon, and I recommend you to do the same!