The Power of the Pause: Why you must slow down in “critical situations”

This is a topic I’ve been wanting to tackle for a long time. It’s so freaking simple that I debated whether or not it even warrants a post. But last night as I sat down to dinner with a friend, we began talking about this feeling of “inner urgency.” And that wasn’t the first time. Almost every friend I’ve spoken to recently has expressed this same feeling. Some are launching startups while others are working steady jobs. But what came up consistently was an insatiable feeling of rushing toward accomplishment or producing some result.

I know I’ve felt this way many times before. And often we’re quick to attribute the feeling to external causes such as deadlines or demands. But is that really the case? The more we talked about it and the more I thought it through, the closer I came to the conclusion that this feeling is internal which means that we can do something about it. But what do we do and how do we do it? Must we dig to understand the origin of this feeling or is there some action we can simply take now?

Enter the answer to all questions: An epic surf session.  Plagued with these questions, I got in the water to go for a surf and sort it all out, and came out with this insight. I hope you find it helpful. I know I did… (if you don’t speak surf jargon, just read the quote at the end and watch the video to see what I mean):

In surfing there’s something known as a “bottom turn” – a maneuver performed at the beginning of the ride; just after the wave is caught and the rider finds his feet. He stays in a crouch position, winding up like a rubber band while heading straight down the face of the wave until it just begins to break. At that point, the novice surfer will rush toward the shoulder (mellower part of the wave) to escape the load of water from crashing on his head and will meander his way down the line until the wave dribbles out. At that same critical moment, the skilled surfer will pause even past the point of comfort. Then, when it seems as though the entire wave is about to come crashing down on his head, he’ll make his move: uncoil his legs, blast off the bottom and rocket up the face with all the speed and power the wave has to offer and in doing so, set himself up for the ultimate ride. This one maneuver will make or break the entire wave. This one ability, to pause and set-up when all instincts say “run!”, is what separates the novice from the pro.

I see this applying to everyday life

Whether launching a new product or a new business; telling a story or delivering a punchline; the ability to pause and trust one’s skills and instincts is essential. It can make or break the outcome you’re shooting for. Launch too early – your ride peters out. Launch too late, and everything you’ve built up crashes down and the wave goes on without you. But take that one pause, keep poised and get set, and you will blast off for what might just be the ride of your life.

Now this obviously takes practice, patients and persistence. Even pro surfers take a few on the head. But if you can nail this one maneuver; if you can trust nature and stall when your nurture begs “go”, the result will be spectacular and the ride, your legend.

How do I practice this? 

Apart from spending time in the water and hoping to capitalize off the transferable psychological aspect of practicing my bottom turns, I take deep breaths, and remind myself of the following:

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. – Lao Tzu

Check out this epic footage from Riding Giants demonstrating Laid Hamiliton’s “ability to slow himself down when everybody else just want’s to run like hell” – That, in a nutshell, is what make’s Laid the king.


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