I’m still a pretty bad surfer, but adopting a growth mindset has given me a little more freedom to look at every day in the water as a success. A day on my surfboard when I don’t catch a single wave (which still happens more often than I’d like to admit) isn’t a bust, because the end goal was never to go out and have a picture-perfect, awesome session. The goal was to get out there, push myself, and learn something.
It’s easy to feel this way when you’re a true beginner. There are no stakes, no expectations, and no past performance to weigh against what you’re doing today. It’s what I love about being a total rookie—you’re allowed to ask questions, make mistakes, and, if you really settle into your kook status, look at failures as successes in some small way. When I try to catch a wave and pin it headfirst into the water, I know I’ve messed up. But I also know that the more I pearl, the more I’ll know about how not to do it in the future. It’s all a part of mastery, which isn’t about being a master at something but the act of becoming that. When you make mastery your goal rather than proficiency, a setback is still a step in the right direction. The means are the end.