With my kids getting older, I'd love to become a better cook or learn to paddleboard. At times, I'm envious of my teenagers who don't hesitate to pursue their hobbies along with their studies. Most of us are just trying to get by, living our life in the day to day struggle of balancing everything already on our plates. Today, my guest blogger is Marty Pomphrey, co-founder of Aulta, a direct to consumer, water-resistant watch company. Marty balances his hobbies and running a business and says doing so has improved his work life. Here is his perspective:
Growing up we had a small lake next to our house that held endless fascination for me. Every day I would speed through my homework so that I could go fishing or explore the creeks that rushed through the forest when the heavy rains came. I would stay out for hours until darkness or dinner finally forced me to come in. But somewhere along the way I grew up, went to college, started working, and life became unequivocally drier.
It wasn’t until I left a secure job ten years ago to start my first business that I even gave the loss a second thought. Lifestyle is an interesting word. By definition, it encompasses the daily manner in which a person lives but is often used in the context of a guilty pleasure, the weekend, or life after retirement. At my last job I was terrible at making time for myself during the week. Work was always the first priority. So when I struck out on my own, I vowed to do better. What I didn’t know then was that my lifestyle choices would actually create a new business. I just needed to get wet again.
Surfing is the common thread that connects me with my business partners at AULTA, a direct to customer watch brand that we launched in 2015. Abe Allouche is a Miami native and founder of the surf apparel company Island Daze and Pancho Sullivan is a former pro surfer from Hawaii. I met Abe completely by accident seven years ago when I left work a couple hours early to wind down with nine holes of golf. It was Abe who taught me how to surf, and a year later I found myself flying with him to meet Pancho in Hawaii for my first surf trip at the tender age of 40. And it was sitting on our surfboards in the ocean during the trip that the idea for AULTA was born. An incredible chain reaction traced back to a two-hour lifestyle break.
Connecting back to my love of water through surfing had an immediate positive impact on me. I realized physical benefits for sure, but the mental and emotional changes were as important. When the waves come, I feel like a kid again and stay out in the water even after the sun sinks below the horizon. What I didn’t expect was that fitting a hobby into my life and learning to surf in my forties would also teach me valuable business lessons. Here are my big three:
Get out of your comfort zone
I used to rely heavily on being the most prepared person in the room, but I wasn’t that great at improvising on the spot. Consequently, I didn’t step out of my comfort zone unless I had to, which meant that I wasn’t growing enough as a professional. There is no growth to be found in any endeavor worth pursuing without some measure of discomfort. Surfing made me confront this reality in a very physical way. For any surfer, there are days when the waves are bigger than they are used to handling and this often results in being tossed around a bit, or even held down underwater. But this means you will have more confidence the next time out because of that experience. The hard days are always the best learning days.
Don’t panic. Assess and then react
My first surf trip to Hawaii was a massive learning experience. Winter on the North Shore of Oahu is the proving ground for the best surfers in the world in waves of consequence, and I was just a beginner. I asked Pancho what to do if a wave held me down, and he told me to just let my body go limp and the wave would eventually let me go. Struggling just uses up oxygen and everything goes downhill pretty quickly from there. Two days later I found myself being ragdolled underwater two hundred yards from shore and somehow remembered Pancho’s advice. And just like he said the wave let go when it was finished with me, not the other way around. Sometimes the best first course of action in life and in business is to do nothing.
When life slows down, amazing happens
AULTA simply wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t met Abe that day on the golf course, and that meeting was the result of a deliberate choice on my part. Whenever I find the seesaw of work/life balance tipping in the wrong direction I try to stop and remind myself of this important fact. A well-rounded lifestyle, including taking up a hobby, is a personal choice, and we all need some level of counterbalance to a hard day’s work. Burnout becomes a reality if you don’t refuel somehow. I love what I do but work exacts a daily toll, and work/life balance is a challenge for anyone. The ocean is simply that place I go to recharge my engines. Each person has his or her own charging station; the trick is to make time to go there.
How do you plan to create time for a hobby you've always dreamed of pursuing?