Inspiring Others, At All Costs

This photo came up on Reddit today and it touched me at the core…  As the father of a 3 week old daughter, I am inspired to share moments like this with her; to share with her my passions and experiences.  But the more I learned of the people in this photo, the greater I was moved by the story and saddened at the loss.

Sion Milosky was a surfer from Hawaii (Where I’m from).  He’s pictured above with one of his daughters.  Sion was an elite big wave surfer, who is credited with riding the biggest wave ever paddled into (60+ feet).  As a founder, I couldn’t help but appreciate the risk & rush that must go into an experience like that.  But I can also appreciate the work it takes to get there.

Every ride is what it means to be alive.

There are a lot of parallels to surfing and being a startup founder.  When you first start surfing you paddle way more than you actually surf. You put in a lot of work, sometimes a painful amount of work that will guarantee almost rubbing your nipples off. Then you get good enough to actually catch a wave and try to drop in… and then you learn how not to drown.  (I once broke my collar bone on the sand bar after dropping in too late on a decent sized wave.)  But when you learn the craft well enough to ride the wave, every ride is what it means to be alive. To be in the moment experiencing every interaction you have with the world and the water you stand on, as it crashes along.  It’s a grand philosophical statement, but really… You are using your accumulated skills and experiences in real-time to interact with the world to create your ride.

After being greatly inspired by Sion I read that he died last May at Maverick’s in CA, doing exactly what he was driven to do.

It’s easy to look at the surface of things and say it’s a shame a daughter lost her father just because he wanted to ride a wave. But under the surface there is, I think, a greater message.  That a daughter saw her father really live.  She was shown a passion for life that few kids are exposed to.

Running a startup doesn’t have the direct threat of life that surfing does, but it comes with other monumental risks when you’re all in it.  Entrepreneurship has broken many homes, bank accounts and dreams.  Founders fully consumed in their company and the roller coaster of emotions that come with it, have lost touch with the ones they were doing it all for.

But, like a big wave surfer… I don’t focus on the possibility that the wave I’m riding can also drown me. I focus on riding the wave and making it epic.

Amongst the swells of my founder life.

Understanding the risks & rewards that come with the life I live, I’ve made it a point to stay fully connected and in touch with my family as I run my business.  Internet companies have one amazing luxury, that not all professions have… They work wherever there is internet.  And we have internet here on our farm in Hawaii, where I can run my company and my daughter can grow up on the land her mom grew up on.  Where I can have the best possible quality of life for my family amongst the swells of my founder life.

It definitely helps that I’m from Hawaii. I was born and raised here.  I moved home, where my passions for hacking & creating were first born.  And I am fortunate to have started and run my company remotely from day one, so the culture is baked in that although we’re not in the same room… we’re all passionately working on what we love. Just today a friend was telling me about a new job that he was working remotely and how the company didn’t have a culture that supported him. “Not every company runs completely remote and values their employees over their work output.” To which I responded “If you value your employees you get better output.”

And that value / result formula I think holds true for everything.  The higher quality you put in, the better you get back.  I’m putting the highest quality I can into my family life and my company.

And that is what I think Sion showed his daughter.  He lived his passion and inspired others, and if you die inspiring others… Your body dies, but your mission doesn’t.  I’ll carry it on Sion, and do what I can to inspire my daughter, and the world too.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]FBI, founder of the design community COLOURlovers and co-founder and board member of the All Hands Volunteers international charitable organization. Alumni of Y Combinator and mentor with 500 Startups. @bubs[/author_info] [/author]