Surf’s Up

Have you lived through a 6.7 magnitude earthquake? A good friend of mine, who lived in Hawaii, once told me what it was like to experience a 6.7 magnitude earthquake. The house started shaking violently. Pictures, vases and dishes crashed to the ground. 

Initially, he could not figure out what was happening. Then responding with absolute adrenalin, he frantically began looking for his wife and kids, got them into the car, and drove to higher ground.

In the back of his mind, played news flashes from a recent tragic tsunami in Indonesia that killed thousands of people. The panic on the streets was palpable. People tried to find loved ones, animals, and what valuables they could gather.

He then witnessed a most amazing phenomenon. The visitors panicked! The locals grabbed their surfboards.  Why did the locals grab their surfboards? Because– “surfs up”!

Call it stupidity or searching for the ride of a lifetime here was a great example of how differently we can think about the same exact event! One person panics and runs for higher ground while another sees an opportunity for adventure. 

What does this statement say?


Is it, “Opportunity is nowhere”, or is it, “Opportunity is now here”? It’s your choice. Yoda from Star Wars had it right when he said, “Your perception is your reality and your reality is your perception.”

Think of a current challenge you are facing. It is designed to bring out the very best within you if you let it. Here is an example. I read a recent study that found stress is most damaging when you think you have no control over the situation (obstacle thinking). It also found that when you think that you are in control (opportunity thinking) stress can be motivating and can contribute to keeping your immune system strong and vibrant. It has a great deal to do with our thinking, our perception.


How do you think when faced with a challenging situation? How do you think when faced with a new situation? Do you look for the opportunities, or do you only see the obstacles?

  1. Think of a challenging situation you are facing right now.
  2. What is the obvious obstacle that comes to your mind? (It is the brain’s default mode to think of the obstacle first.)
  3. Next, shift into opportunity thinking. What opportunities could you create in this situation?
  4. Choose one opportunity that you envision and make a simple plan to create that opportunity.
  5. Think repeatedly about and stay focused on creating that opportunity and observe what changes in your life.


In life you can use obstacle thinking to run to higher ground, or you can face challenges with opportunity thinking and ride a good wave. 

Surf’s up! 


  1. James on May 10, 2019 at 7:26 pm

    Great article, I love the contrast you illustrate with the surfers in an Earthquake. I think sometimes we can face a trial that will derail us into obstacle thinking. How do we pull ourselves out of that once we have slipped into a negative cycle?

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