The Practice of Being Brave – What I Learned from Surfing


My favorite movie line of all time is from The Shawshank Redemption – “you better get busy living or get busy dying.” If this year has given me anything, it’s given me a reason to pause on this idea.


Getting busy at being a serious life liver rings true to me. More than that, it’s about waking up and doing something about it. This year I’ve noticed my life lists were chock full of dreams, but never with action behind them. Dreams without motion are mere wishes that never come true.


Pick a reason, any reason not to pursue the dream stuff. It costs too much, it feels indulgent, no time, no energy, or I don’t have what it takes. Setting aside all the excuses, I noticed all my dreams have one thing in common: they are my dreams.


Until this season, I didn’t think that was enough. But now, I absolutely believe it is. Even though it may not add to my resume or my pocketbook, the currency of the heart is worth it alone. It’s good enough because it lives in me.



Stoking the fire of long-lost dreams is valuable on its own, solely because they were placed in your heart.


Dreaming a Crazy Dream for No Good Reason

For a long time, I dreamed about surfing. Reading the stories of women who surf always inspired me. Surfer ladies represent a sense of boldness and confidence I longed to have. This far-out idea of me being a surfer on paper made no sense. The only thing that made sense about it was that it was mine and wouldn’t go away. Rather than sigh deeply every time I came across something related to surfing, this year I did something.


When I got started on this dream, it didn’t look like surfing. It looked like doing the smallest thing I knew – taking a walk. One simple act to move me towards learning to surf. I knew if I wanted to get on a surfboard, I would need to have energy. I started there and added to it. Next, I started walking with friends. This led to exercising and swapping healthy ideas. Each little task was one step closer to being the person I wanted to be: someone who knows how to surf.


When Doing Something Outlandish – Bring a Friend Along for the Ride

Crazy dreams are best pursued with friends – my friend Debbie walked with me on my adventure. We both wanted to get stronger and checked in monthly to chart our progress to our goals. She inspired me with her personal push-up challenge -- going from being able to only do one push-up alone to her being able to do 225 during an hour in four months. We would cheer each other on to pursue the dreams of our hearts. What we both agreed from the journey is that you can’t help but feel different. Every cell in you wakes up. Discovering this showed how much more good stuff is out there when you decide to go after it.


Last week, I surfed for the first time. It was a breathtakingly beautiful day in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. A sweet young man named Clark taught me how to paddle, read the waves and stand on the board. He gently yet confidently encouraged me that I could do this and he would be there to help.


When Chasing After Your Dream, It’s Helpful to Have Encouragers to Yell “Go!”

Up to that point, I had done all the work I knew how to do. I had gotten physically stronger. I had watched YouTube videos on surfing. I had signed up for the lesson and showed up. I even put on the cool surfer rasher shirt and wet suit to look the part. I had done all that I knew how to do to put myself in a place to be the doer of my dream. I was ready, but I was terrified. What if I couldn’t do this after all the work I had done? What if I was physically unable to get up on a surfboard? What about cold water, sharks, and rip currents? What if at the end of this, I hated surfing?


Suspending all my doubts, I got into the water. As the waves surged, Clark yelled, “Go! Go! Go!” and I took a deep breath and did my best to stand. On shaky legs, I rode my first wave. I didn’t master it every time, but more than enough times to declare I was indeed the kind of person who surfed. I had done it. With the help of encouragers to walk with me, provide accountability, and yell “go!” when it was time, I was able to become a person who knows how to surf. Not surf perfectly, or surf like a pro, but someone who can surf simply for the love of it.


That day taught me being brave is about small things. It’s doing one tiny, courageous thing every day. It’s simple things like push-ups for my friend Debbie or taking a walk with friends when you need to keep moving. It’s inviting positive voices into your head like the Clarks of the world that tell you it’s possible and to get going. It’s doing the tiny thing before you and seeing what happens.


Surfing taught me it’s wonderful to bring forth something outlandish from your heart for no good reason other than it’s in you. But more than that, the importance of doing the tiny things with consistency. I’m grateful I got to surf with my family in the Outer Banks. I’m grateful I dreamed that crazy dream. But mostly, seeing the possibilities of tiny actions, done with care and love showed me brave is not so far away.


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