The first time I hit rock bottom was in Y2K. My career in filmmaking was over; I was living in my car; and I had ostracized myself from the professional surfing community that I had called home. When you are down to your last $200, your options for weekend entertainment recede to zero. So when I received complimentary tickets to the premiere of a surf film by Jack McCoy, a legendary surf filmmaker and mentor, I jumped at the opportunity.
After the premiere Jack, who knew about what had happened to me, signed a poster for me: “Life is a wave/your surfboard is your attitude! Aloha Always, Jack McCoy.” I still have this poster and I think about this advice often. I might have been an average surfer in the ocean, but on the wave of life, I rarely fall off my board. I’ve seen some pretty low lows, but I’ve always been able to keep a positive attitude. For example, after all the surfers abandoned me in Sri Lanka while filming the around-the-world documentary that I had sold everything I owned to finance, I bounced off the soup of disappointment, swooped onto a new itinerary to India and pulled into the loving arms of Mātā Amṛtānandamayī Devī, one of the most amazing gurus in the world.
“If life throws you lemons, make lemonade,” Vinnie, one of the “everyday gurus” that I have been blessed to meet, told me.
“But Vinnie, what if life throws you rotten lemons?” I countered.
“Then make chutney,” Vinnie giggled.
For some reason God blessed me with an invincible positive attitude. What I have found is that life is just like surfing. When we are faced with our lowest lows, we are on the verge of greatness. When a wave goes to its lowest low–when the bottom of the wave drops out below sea level on a super shallow reef–the ocean is offering you an opportunity to get the best ride of your life.
When I think about the most memorable ride I had in surfing, right before I was about to get the deepest tube ride of my life—a tube ride is when the surfer rides inside the curl of the wave, considered by many to be the ultimate rush–I remember thinking, “there is no way I’m going to make this; I’m going to get pummeled.” The wave of life is the same. When things get unbearable, terrifying, and overwhelming–when we hit rock bottom–if we can just keep a positive attitude and duck under the huge dark mass that is about to crush us, we can accomplish miracles.
Ernest Hemingway said, “Courage is grace under pressure.” It is no mistake that Hemingway used the term “grace.” The real secret is that we are not alone. If our attitude is our surfboard, then God/the Universe is our surfboard shaper. We have the best board maker in the history of mankind hand-crafting us the tools to flow through the heaviest sections that life throws at us. I hope that I am somehow able to transfer this secret of a positive attitude to others through my writing or my films. I pray that I will be able to pass this on to my children.
Right now, on October 22, 2012, on the heels of a huge career change, I feel like I have just come out of the deepest, darkest, barreling wave I have ever seen. Flooded with joy, I stand with my wife and children safely on my surfboard of positive attitude, raise my hands over my head, and scream, “Thank you.”
If you have used a positive attitude to overcome adversity or if you need some positive energy for something you are dealing with right now, please share. We can all help each other.
Thank you for reading, sharing, and/or smiling.