5 Business Lessons From the Ocean's Impact Zone

By: Stephanie Tuesday July 25, 2017 comments Tags: Time management, Mindset, leadership, Business planning

If you've ever surfed, boogieboarded, or even just swam in the ocean when the waves were large enough to curl over on themselves, you probably know that the impact zone can be one of the scariest places on Earth.

If you've been too busy working on your business to tangle with the surf or to look up the phrase "impact zone", it's the part of the ocean where a sufficiently large swell of water flattens out vertically, curls forward, and then slams down in an explosion that instantly transforms soft water into a hard wall of white turbulence.


When you're fifteen feet under water, no one can hear you scream.


You can't swim through this turbulence the way you can through regular water; it will hit you like a solid object and shove you along its path, rolling and pummeling you all the way.

Once you're caught in that, it can be difficult to break free, and sometimes all you can do is ride it out until it dissipates enough for you to regain control, gulp down a lungfull of air ASAP, and hope that you aren't in the spot where the next collapsing wall of water will land.

​Most surfing deaths occur in the impact zone, and it must be navigated with skill and care - much like the business world.

Today, I'm going to share five lessons that the ocean, and particularly its infamous impact zone, can teach us about running a business:

5 lessons business owners can learn from the impact zone:

1. Know what you're looking for.

Before you can judge whether or not to catch a wave, you need to know what size of waves you want to take on.

Do you want a six-foot wave that will push you to shore, but that won't punish you TOO severely if you screw up?

A twenty-foot wall of water that you can glide down and across, and that will turn your world into a soggy tumble dryer if you mishandle it?

A seventy-eight-foot-tall monster that could either make your day or efficiently end it?

Knowing what kind of waves you want tells you what beaches to seek out, and helps you to judge whether that swell in the distance should be sought out or avoided at all costs.

Similarly, when you know who your target audience is, you're better equipped to know where to look for them, what to say to them, and what kind of information, products or services they need.

It's also easier to find referral partners who share that target audience and get them to send clients to you, to choose the marketing methods that will reach those clients the most effectively, and to see opportunities to put those methods into action so you can help more people and increase your income.

2. Learn to read the signs.

When you're waiting for a good set of waves, your first sign of their approach is a subtle shift in the color of the water in the distance.

​It takes time and practice to learn to read waves - the difference in shade between a mediocre set that I'll ignore and a good set that I'll get in position for is so subtle that I couldn't effectively describe it to a newbie if I tried.

Heck, I might not even remember it clearly myself; it's been a while since I was on a boogieboard.

But in your business, it's often a bit more clear-cut.

Will your target audience, or people who are connected to that audience, be at the business event? If not, it might not be a complete waste of time, but it's probably not the best use of your time.

Has the person who's teaching the course they want you to buy created the same kind of success you desire? Have their students? If not, what is the evidence that they can help you to get the results you want?

​When you're evaluating a business opportunity, does it feel right to you, or is your intuition giving warning signals? Is it aligned with your true goals, and will the process of working with it make you happy, or is it more likely to be an unpleasant and time-stealing distraction?

Know who your target audience is, how you want to serve them, and what you want to accomplish for yourself and the world in the process of serving them, and evaluate every opportunity by whether or not it lines up with those goals.

3. There's always another wave.

On the subject of evaluating opportunities, remember: you can't catch EVERY wave, but there will always be another wave.

If you chase every wave that comes your way, you'll almost always end up either feeling the swell slip away beneath you and break just beyond your reach, or finding yourself underneath the wave rather than riding it.

But once you get a feel for what size of wave you're looking for, and when and how it will break, you can avoid the waves you don't want - the ones that will push you out of position and away from your goal - and position yourself to catch the waves you DO want.

But what if you're not sure whether or not you want it?

If the opportunity is aligned with your values and goals, but you aren't sure if you should go for it, should you err on the side of catching the wave or missing it?

If it's a relatively small commitment, like a speaking gig in your geographical area, then as Loral Langemeier says, "Say yes and then figure out how".

If it's a larger commitment, carefully evaluate the tasks you already have, and decide whether you have time for the additional commitment, and whether this opportunity is more important than some of the things you already have in your calendar or budget.

Will this opportunity conflict with other high-priority tasks? If so, will it give a higher return on your investment of time, money or effort than your existing to-do list?

If you have to choose between two tasks or opportunities that are both aligned with your values and goals, and you feel good about both of them, choose the one that's the more likely to bring you money and empower you to change someone's life.

4. Do or do not - there is no "try".

When a hundred-plus-ton wall of water is about to slam down on top of you, you have to make a snap decision: either catch the wave, or dive under it. Bolting for the beach doesn't tend to work - trust me, I've tried.

If you're already on top of the wave, you have to decide: are you in a position to catch this wave properly, or do you need to backpedal NOW in order to avoid falling headfirst into the shallow gulf in front of the wave, with the entire wall of water coming down after you?

If you don't make a decision fast enough, the default result is often that you'll get sucked into the wave by the undertow in front of it, or carried over the lip of the wave into a dangerous dive.

Fortunately, in your business, the amount of time you have to evaluate a decision is usually measured in hours or days, not seconds. But whatever you decide, commit to doing it for long enough to get an accurate read on your results.

If you're trying a new marketing plan, test it for at least ninety days, and look carefully at the results. At what point in the sales funnel are you losing people? Can you tweak that one part instead of throwing the whole project in the toilet?

And if you're testing a new lifestyle choice in hopes that it will be more conducive for your business than whatever you were doing before, give it at least a couple weeks so you can see the results.

If you aren't sure how long you should try something before drawing a conclusion, talk to someone who's tried something similar before, or ask an expert in the field, and see how long it takes them or their clients to see results when trying your strategy.

Some things take longer than others, but one principle holds true: Don't just give something a half-effort and then say it didn't work. Pick a course and commit to it, and give it the time and effort it needs in order to succeed.

5. Sometimes, you need to get out of the action in order to see more clearly.

When a wave that's five feet taller than you are is looming over your head, you can't really see what the wave behind it is doing. All you can do is deal with this wave, and hope the next one doesn't land right on your head.

But if you can get out beyond the impact zone, to the area where the waves are still round swells instead of peaked, curling explosions waiting to happen, you can see the next set of waves coming from a long way away. This gives you time to gauge how high they are, and decide if you want to get into position to catch them.

When you're drowning in work in your business, you're in a short-sighted "reaction mode", simply reacting to whatever immediate problems or tasks have come up without having the time or mental energy to plan for the future.

Sometimes, you need to take a step back and calendar some time to look at your goals and strategies, get a bird's-eye view of your business' operations, and plan for your business' future growth instead of focusing solely on its present demands.

This may require some delegation, discipline, and good boundary-setting. You will likely need to set this time in your calendar, and refuse to take on any additional tasks that will infringe on it.

This can mean telling people "I'm booked that day, but I can do Wednesday instead", postponing low-priority work, or hiring someone else to do a high-skill task or low-skill pile of busywork in areas that are outside your field of passion and expertise.

It can be hard to convince yourself to do this, but these planning and reflection times are essential to the long-term success of your business. If you have no clear direction, you'll just keep running wherever the latest wind pushes you, and possibly end up in the same place you started out in, or in a place you never wanted to visit.

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About the Author: Stephanie

Stephanie is a writer and coaching program design specialist. She helps coaches to design lucrative and life-changing group programs, so they can help more people, make more money, and have more time freedom.