Paddle Board Lessons On Failure

PaddleBoardDown“An hour should be enough, shouldn’t it?” I paid the guy then grabbed my board and headed to the beach. I’ve always wanted to try paddle boarding. It looks so peaceful and non athletic. I’d never done it before, but how hard could it be?

Really freaking hard.

I followed the guy’s instructions, got out past the surf, set my balance point and got some momentum going while on my knees. Then got both feet firmly balanced, stood up and SPLASH!

Down I go.

Eight times in all, with hat, glasses and paddle all flying into the ocean. Each time I regrouped, got some momentum, stood up and fell in. I never got the hang of it. A pair of sunglasses and a bruised rib later, I made my walk of shame back up the beach to the rental guy. My hour was up.

“How’d it go?” he says with an anticipatory smile.

“Not so good”, I say with a rueful grin.

We agree that eight in the morning on a smooth ocean was the best time to learn. Not at noon in a choppy surf.

I sit and nurse my bruised rib and ego. I’m on the south shore of Maui and it’s hard to feel bad about anything. But still…

My wife, who witnesses my failure, hears other women comment that I was really tenacious for refusing to give up. Points for that. But  I was still feeling like a fat old fool.

Then I start watching the other paddle boarders. There was a couple and a group of six, eight all together, heading out into the surf.

I notice something interesting. None of them are standing. The six head to the open water on their butts. Not even trying. The couple tries to stand, and after a few splashes each (which I can’t help celebrating) they finally get up on shaky legs and paddle around.

Why am I comparing myself to others? Why am I celebrating their failures? Where the hell are my damn sunglasses?

We Manics want to succeed at whatever we try. Right now, not after many failed attempts. As kids we don’t seem to mind so much, but as adults we have little patience for hard things that require lots of trial and error.

Sure, we know that Thomas Edison failed 1000 times before he created a working lightbulb. But we don’t have that kind of time. So we stick to what we already know and don’t venture out to try different things with long and/or painful learning curves.

Which brings me back to the beach. The butt-paddlers seem to be enjoying themselves despite not being able to stand. The couple are standing and paddling, but now and then falling off into the surf (and I silently cheer every time they do).

Comparing ourselves to others usually ends badly for us. Manic Impressives need to put in the work and let our results speak for themselves. When we start comparing we usually find fault with ourselves – we’re not disciplined enough to keep at things, we’re too scattered to focus on the most important tasks, we’re not as successful as others around us.

None of this helps or matters. What matters is how we view things.

I went 0-8 on the paddle board today. But if I reframe the experience, I can go from fat old fool to courageous role model in seconds. I tried something new in less than great conditions, got a bit of exercise and a little credit for tenacity. Best of all, I didn’t stay on my butt and I kept trying.

Next year I’ll rent the board for more than an hour and maybe even take a lesson. I’ll definitely not compare myself to others, whether they are standing or sitting on their butts. And whatever the results, I will frame them for my own best advantage.

And just maybe those sunglasses will wash up on shore by morning…



4 thoughts on “Paddle Board Lessons On Failure”

  1. I can certainly relate to wanting to succeed at whatever I try even if I haven’t done it before. It is tough starting out as a beginner after we have been successful in one area. I have to keep reminding myself that I am a beginner.

  2. you always get points for trying. We have been watching the Olympics and want a “regular person” to attempt each event before the athletes do so we can put the super-human efforts in perspective

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