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What Surfing Can Teach You About Medical Practice

What Surfing Can Teach You About Medical Practice

Fall hasn't even officially started and I already miss summer. Maybe that's because I've been reminiscing about my favorite trip of the season.

For the last few years, my family has made the trek to Huntington Beach, Calif., for the U.S. Open of Surfing competition. I can't think of a better vacation than one filled with the sun, the beach, my family, and some of the most talented athletes in the world.

I'm not a surfer myself (though I do ride a mean paddleboard), but I love watching athletes push themselves to perform to the best of their abilities. During the event, I couldn't help but think that there were quite a few things I could learn from these athletes that would help me in my job — even if we may wear different types of clothes to the office.

• Sometimes you get a bad wave.

In surfing, there are no do-overs. If it's your turn to ride and Mother Nature decides to withhold a wave, there's really nothing you can do about it. Sometimes in our jobs, we get a raw deal. A great employee leaves or a business deal falls through. When that happens, you just need to wait for the next wave. No one ever got anywhere by giving up.

• It's important to understand your environment.

Surfers can't control the waves but they still need to prepare for them — where the waves will break, which board they should use, and how to approach their competition. If we don't think ahead, build a strategy, and then adjust to shifting conditions, we're at the mercy of where the waves push us. If you're someone who doesn't need a plan to feel at ease, don't forget to think about those around you. Your team may not be as comfortable with ambiguity.

• Continual learning is essential.

Have you ever tried just standing on a surfboard? I have. It's not easy. Even if you are extremely coordinated, learning to surf is a big time commitment with a steep learning curve. I love that continuous improvement is a core value at my company. We work to improve our skills through active participation in our own development. Anyone who has run a medical practice knows that keeping up on your skills while balancing the demands of your team is tricky. But if you don't make learning a priority, the practice can quickly fall behind.

• Don't forget to watch out for sharks.

There are plenty of sports that are mentally challenging and physically dangerous. But surfing is the only one I can think of where, from time to time, an animal tries to eat you for lunch. In business, there will be competitors, clients, or even disgruntled former employees that may try to bring you down. Remember, everyone you interact with is important. If you treat everyone with respect, there will be fewer sharks out there to worry about.

• Don't let anything keep you out of the water.

Speaking of sharks, surfer Mick Fanning had to fight one off in the middle of a competition. Rather than retreat, he punched the shark in the nose. The scary encounter threw him off his game, but not for long. He was back on his board a week later. If that's not an impressive display of psychological strength, I don't know what is. Just about anybody could benefit from a bit of added resolve when facing an unexpected challenge.

The next time you see a surfing competition on TV, don't change the dial — you may learn a thing or a two about running a business. If you end up falling in love with the sport, I'll see you in Huntington Beach next year. Summer is just nine months away!

 
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