Lessons in Confidence: Experience, Preparation & Having the Right Tools

Photo courtesy Darling Don’t Panic and Ed Sloane

Confidence. You know it when you have it and you know it when you need it. We all face a number of different circumstances in our personal and professional lives where confidence – or, lack thereof – plays a significant role in our decision making to address them. Whether you’re going with your gut for the first time, or you’ve been around that block before, it’s important to recognize the origins of your own confidence. Mine has always been a byproduct of experience, preparedness and having the right tools for the job.

I grew up in Hawaii. There, the ocean was my playground, my sports field and, in many ways, my coach. I learned quickly that the ocean doesn’t play favorites, it doesn’t discriminate, and it’s brutally honest. My sport of choice was (and still is) surfing. Most days, I’d spend hours in the water trying to hone my skills. When I was about 15, I thought I was good enough to compete and become a professional surfer. When you’re 15, it’s a perfectly logical jump: “I like surfing” = “I’m going pro”, right? I started off competing in the local contests. Right from the start, my results were awful. A whole lot of last place finishes, frustration and confusion.

Reality Check

I was baffled. My results certainly did not reflect my ability. I was actually pretty darn good! I started to feel as if I was being discriminated against by the judges.

Sulking in the competitor’s area after losing in the first round of a competition, I complained to one of the other contestants about the results. Suddenly, the head judge asked to speak with me privately. He pulled me aside and, with a straight face, asked me, “Why are you here?” Stunned at first, my defensiveness kicked in. “What, you don’t think I’m good enough??” I spouted back. I dug in for the back and forth to justify my “right” to be there. Before I could respond, he put his hand up and asked again,”Why are you here?”. “You’re one of the best surfers around”, he continued, “and for whatever reason, you come to these events completely unprepared. You don’t have the confidence to put together a winning heat. So, why bother?” Even with all of my 15 years of “wisdom”, I was speechless. He went on, telling me how he can’t wait for me to get my s*&^ together and actually show up ready to compete and to win. He was right. I was showing up totally unprepared. I had absolutely no clue what it took to win. My arrogance – and ignorance – were running the moment.

A Lesson in Perspective

The following week, I met up with a friend. He’d been a very successful professional surfer and parlayed that success into a strong career outside of the sport.  I told him about my failures in competition and the conversation I had on the beach with the head judge that day. He sat me down and gave me some amazing advice that has stuck with me for life: “Surfing and surfing for a living are two totally different things. Anyone can surf, have fun and say they surf. But to be a professional, it means it’s your job. And like a job, you have to show up every day and work at it if you want to get paid. That means putting in the hours, doing your homework and find the right equipment for each and every situation you’ll face no matter the conditions.

A New Approach

This conversation had a profound impact on me. I began to rethink my approach to not just surfing but most everything in my life. Taking a step back from competition, I became a student. I studied the work of the great competitors and invested in expanding my equipment and knowledge of design. I studied every location and became intimate with the nuances of the reefs, tides and swell direction. Most importantly, I immersed myself in the scoring criteria, rules and etiquette of competition.

The following season, I entered my first event and, just as I’d learned, I went to work. At first, I had some good results. When I did lose, I’d take the time to to learn from my failure and work to remedy my shortcomings. Before long, I was where I wanted to be. I was competing as an amateur on a national and international level, eventually moving on to the pro tour and fulfilling my dream of becoming a professional surfer.

The Next Phase

I eventually transitioned out of competitive surfing. I graduated college and found my groove in the corporate world where I gravitated toward marketing. The lessons I learned that day on the beach years ago, however, have influenced the way I approach everything I do, from my work to my hobbies.

Into the Future

When we made the decision to pursue our vision in Aisle Planner, we followed the same formula. We sold Christina’s wedding planning business in Hawai’i and took a step back. She and I first became students by immersing ourselves in every aspect of the industry. We researched all types of businesses and worked with vendors of every kind. We asked questions and looked at every existing solution. In each other, we recognized and believed in what we brought to the table through our own experiences. We knew we’d prepared ourselves for the journey ahead. We made sure we had the right tools. Through this, we had the confidence to launch Aisle Planner.

Nearly five years later, we’re still learning, studying and discovering new tools to build the very best software for our community of weddings and special events pros. As we look ahead, we’re more confident than ever in a bright future helping you create extraordinary experiences and be the most effective business owners you can be.

Rob Farrow

CEO & Co-Founder

Aisle Planner

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