As a surfer, I have spent tens of thousands of hours floating on the surface of the sea. Under the curved blue dome of sky, I have gazed optimistically toward the horizon looking for the unseen, trying to discern exactly where to catch the next wave, that band of energy created from the friction between wind and water. I have spent a lot more time waiting and thinking than actually riding waves.
Over the last few months, all of us have been forced to spend a lot more time thinking and waiting for that next wave rather than riding it.
The Coronavirus pandemic has impacted every aspect of society across the globe – from London, England to small towns like Laguna Beach. Businesses have been financially squeezed, families have been compressed together while everyone else has been socially distanced and we have all been forced to make profound lifestyle and work changes. During this period of mandatory isolation many of us have re-evaluated where we were, where we are, and where we are going – it has been a period of obligatory introspection and a realization that perhaps what we thought was important is just not that important…
I believe that this enforced thoughtfulness through forced isolation will usher in a brave new world of people focused on purpose, on a more meaningful life that is not defined by consumerism but is defined by more inspirational and aspirational life goals. Purpose is our reason for being and gives our lives meaning. Purpose is the energy that empowers individuals to thrive, a personal North Star that enables us to truly fly and realize our potential. Purpose underlies our drive on the path to life fulfillment, what humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow called self-actualization, the state of becoming everything one is capable of becoming.
In today’s uncertain world, when we are all disconnected, despairing, fearful and stressed, finding one’s purpose is an important step on the road to well-being and fulfillment. Purpose can give us hope and lift us up from despair.
Living a life with purpose has all sorts of positive, cascading results including higher levels of motivation and wellbeing. In fact, if purpose was a drug, it could be considered a wonder drug. Two studies of over 70,000 people revealed that people with a sense of purpose live up to twice as long. Living with a sense of purpose makes our lives better and he has an even greater positive impact on our lives than exercise.
Purpose is often perceived as this ethereal, undefinable holy grail of morality, meaning and motivation – something important in life, but just out of reach.
Finding purpose need not be complicated and it can be found through a simple twenty-minute process of self-discovery and commitment called The Code.
The Code Method
Some years I was asked to inspire a group of students who were coming to the beach at Rincon, one of the world’s most famous surf breaks. At the time the beach was being impacted by a severe environmental issue and I felt that empowering activism in the students might be a good start to creating awareness of the problem and hopefully solving it.
I thought about what I should do to engage the students so I sat at my desk and in twenty minutes I wrote the 12 most important lines that surfing had taught be about life – not how to be the best surfer in the world but the basic building blocks of life: character and values – courage, commitment, purpose, camaraderie, morality, perseverance, resilience, hope, optimism and passion. I wrote 12 lines of metaphor, each line beginning with “I will…” and called it “Surfer’s Code.” I printed the words onto 100 small cards and gave them out to the students when they came to Rincon.
The young people and their parents loved the cards and it turned into a groundswell. The environmental problem was ultimately solved but the cards turned into a wave that kept on rolling and ultimately changed my life’s course. I started speaking about The Code at schools, universities and conferences and some of the world’s largest corporations - Google, Cisco, Disney, General Motors, PWC and Gap. Eventually I wrote two books – Surfer’s Code and The Code – The Power of “I Will”.
Today I share the Code Method across the world with 50,000 people each year – with community groups, religious groups, associations, jails, high schools, universities and some of the world’s finest organizations. I tell emotional stories of passion and purpose. I tell stories of character and describe how to create a simple Code to activate purpose. Over the last months I have been sharing my story through interactive livestreams.
Code is about what you believe – not what you know, but what you believe. Code is defined as a way of behaving according to a set of beliefs or values. Code is about doing something as opposed to doing nothing. Code is a call to action – every line of Code starts with two words of commitment: “I will.”
The Code is a simple tool of visualization and commitment to action that creates a feeling of confidence and internal power
Throughout the years I have come to realize that the strength of the Code is not in my words but in the structure – 12 lines, each beginning with “I will…”
I now encourage people across the world – including you – to write and share their own Code. Spend 20 minutes and write 12 lines, each sentence beginning with “I will…” This is your Code, a simple map to guide you into the future with purpose. This is a tool you can use to find a path through this current crisis into a new world. This is a tool of hope and dreams. Once you have envisioned the future, you can find the power to realize it – what you will, you will become. If you wish you can download information here: www.shauntomson.com
I have received hundreds of thousands of lines of Code from people across the world, inspiring and uplifting words of passion and power. While every line is different, essentially every line says one of just two things. Whether the writer is a CEO of a corporation with 80,000 employees, an inmate in a jail, or a teenager just starting out on their life journey, the depths of the human spirit and our ultimate power and purpose are revealed by two promises and these promises define our commitment to move through this time of crisis, from the darkness into the light:
I will be better.
I will help others to be better.
About the Author
Shaun Tomson is a leadership expert focused on activating purpose through his academically validated Code Method. He started, managed and sold two multi-million-dollar clothing brands – Instinct in the 80’s and Solitude (co-founded with his wife Carla) in the 90’s. He is the author of the best-selling books “Surfer’s Code” and “The Code: The Power of I Will", and the writer and producer of the award-winning documentary film Bustin’ Down the Door. Shaun is a Business Administration and Finance graduate from the University of Natal and has a Master of Science in Leadership from Northeastern University. He is a World Surfing Champion, an inductee in the Jewish and South African Sports Hall of Fame, the US Surfing Hall of Fame, and has been described as one of the greatest surfers of all time and one of the most influential surfers of the century (Surfer Magazine 1999). Shaun is a past board member and ambassador for Surfrider Foundation, the world’s largest environmental group dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans, waves and beaches and he received the SIMA Environmentalist of the Year Award in 2002. He is a past board member of Santa Barbara Boys and Girls club and is an ambassador for Boys to Men, a youth mentoring organization. Shaun currently lives with his wife and son in Santa Barbara, California and still finds time to chase the perfect wave. shauntomson.com