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I want to be an old man surfer.

These guys are amazing. Seriously. I sat there on the beach, iPad in one hand, coffee in the other to have my reading day. I had a towel to sit on and a hoodie to keep me warm. They had wetsuits and boards, and were out there in the water surfing. There were men, women, and multiple generations in the water, but it was the steady stream of these older dudes that kept grabbing my attention. And then it hit me. I desperately want to be an old man surfer.

And that has nothing to do with being old, a man, or a surfer. It has everything to do with spending a lifetime doing something you love, and never needing to walk away from it. Here’s what I observed that will get me to the point of spending my entire life staying in the game:

  1. They love what they do.

    There is no way you’d be spending your morning getting beat up in the waves, in the cold Pacific waters, if you didn’t love every second of being out there. When you love what you do, those moments of riding in your sweet spot make all of the hard work worth it, and you can stick with it for life.

  2. They didn’t disqualify themselves with bad habits.

    Not one of these guys was out of shape. If they had at some point in their journey decided to adopt some really bad habits, there’s a good chance they would surf for awhile, and then have to give it up. There are so many opportunities for us at every age – not just as young leaders, to start some small bad habits (poor work ethic, hidden sin, bad attitude, etc.) that will disqualify us to continue leading for the long haul.

  3. While they may wade in alone, they leave the water together.

    As I sat there, I watched individual surfers make their way down the beach, stretch and get ready by themselves, and then paddle out alone. But something unique to the older generation was they never came OUT of the water alone. They have formed community and a camaraderie that sustains through the day, not just while they’re in the water. Despite entering leadership, ministry, or any other arena on our own at different moments, we need to form those friendships. Not only will we get encouragement and sharpen each other, we’ll have more reasons to show up again the next day.

  4. They don’t wear their wetsuit everywhere.

    We are each responsible for cultivating a healthy LIFE, not just a healthy ministry or successful job. The suit we wear in the water doesn’t serve a purpose in our homes. Surfers have a unique ability to strip, rinse off, and dress behind their cars without ever exposing more of themselves than anyone else needs to see. Then they head into the rest of their day in clothes appropriate for the task. How many times have I left the office and worn the same voice, same stress, same project home instead of rinsing off?

  5. The routine had become second nature.

    This was my favorite part of watching these amazing men. With younger surfers it was as if they were checking off a To-Do list with every task. It was still a process they need to think through, from stretching to paddling to washing their boards after. But with the older generation, you could tell the “chores” that keep you healthy, the routines that are necessary for success, had become comfortable routines that they didn’t need to think through anymore. For all of us, there are healthy disciplines we need to be so comfortable with they become second nature and a natural flow of our day, not a task or to-do box to check.

May we all become old man surfers.

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