What I learnt when I was supposed to be learning how to surf
Chapter 4: Ambition
“Sammy bro, what happened bro?”
I am suddenly snapped back to my senses. I look around and see that most of the boys are no longer with us on the verandah. It’s just me and Guru now, sitting outside. It’s the middle of the afternoon, but we’re under the shade of some trees, and there is a cool breeze that is determined to keep us there.
“I don’t know Guru. Nothing really went right while surfing today.”
“Why bro? What happened?”
“I don’t know man. I think I may have caught just one or two waves today… How did it go for you?”
He pauses for a second. Raises a finger to scratch his head, and a smile
starts to cross his face. Then looks back at me.
“I guess I caught two waves today. Hmm…”
“Damn. Doesn’t that get you down? I mean we were in the water for almost four hours, and we barely caught any waves.”
Guru looks me straight in the eye, and puts his hand on my shoulder.
Whenever I talk about Guru with the others, they always talk about how much energy he has. But somehow I never saw it that way. Sure, he does have a lot of energy. He can be found randomly breaking into song and dance, running behind the kids who live around the area, and spontaneously backflipping off structures that he finds pleasing. But I never felt that he was energetic. I always found him to a certain kind of calm. Like nothing can really get to him. Like the ocean.
“Sammy bro, we got to spend four hours in the water. What more do I really want? For the last few years I’ve just been unhappy and lost. Until I found my way here. Now, everyday, my goal is to be in the water, and try catch some waves. I got to do that today. What more could I really need?”
I had spent the last few years working in startups. I knew what ambition looked like. I saw it in all of my peers every day, and I saw it in the mirror every morning. It was an incessant grind to do more, to get more, to be more. More productivity, more sales, more features. Goals were only set so that we can set more goals. There was no sense of accomplishment when we actually accomplished things. Just restlessness to set the next series of goals.
But here he was, looking me right in the eye, a prime example of an ambition of a different kind. Something a little more simple. A little more joyful. Ambition whose fruits can be enjoyed in the present, as opposed to a dangled carrot that we mostly just imagine about. After the startup hustle ambition had ground me down, here was another ambition I could strive for that would build me back up again.
I guess he saw the wheels whirring in my head, so he quickly clasped both my shoulders and gave the a quick squeeze.
“Sammy bro. Chill bro. Surf if you can catch the waves, otherwise just enjoy being in the water.”
Then he quickly vaulted over the verandah, kicked up a cycle that was lying there, and sped off, popping a wheelie just before he escaped from view.
There is a different sense of joy and contentment when the goals we set for ourselves are designed to maximise our own joy and contenment.