Be a Skill Surfer
Ride the waves of your curiosity to a more fulfilling career
Hello! I'm Pat, your guide to the business of creativity and innovation. New here? Join our supportive community to fuel your creative journey!
Creative career paths aren’t linear.
Forget your 5 or 10-year plan.
Follow your curiosity and ride the wave.
Become a “Skill Surfer” and watch your natural momentum carry you to a career you didn’t even know was possible.
What’s a Skill Surfer?
A Skill Surfer navigates their career by mastering skills that follow their curiosity.
They don't follow a predetermined path. Rather they embrace change and seek new learning opportunities. They adapt to the evolving demands of the job market much like a surfer adapts to the changing waves of the ocean.
This approach focuses on continuous growth, flexibility, and the pursuit of curiosity. It might be unconventional, but great rewards await those who ride the waves.
My Journey as a Skill Surfer
Over the last 12 years, I pursued a wide range of interests leading me to four distinct careers. First, I became an advertising strategist. Then a software engineer. Then a product designer. And now, a writer. I couldn’t have planned it, even if I tried.
I was always curious about new creative skills but more school wasn't for me. I chose to follow my curiosity and build my way forward. This allowed me to try out new roles without feeling over-committed due to a costly degree. When the swell of the curiosity wave would surface I’d hop aboard, follow its momentum, and eventually end up on a new shore.
I got into advertising because I was curious about how psychology affected business.
I got into software development because I was curious about how to build my ideas.
I got into design because I was curious about how to improve the software I was building.
Most recently, I got into writing because I was curious about how to help others by sharing what I'd learned.
In each case, I began pursuing the new skills well in advance of when I started to believe they’d be central to my career. I just thought they were cool and would be useful in my quest to live a rich creative life.
I didn't have a master plan or a guide for how to hop from one wave to the next. But I kept sitting in the ocean staying mindful of new swells coming to the surface. I didn’t ride every wave, but I’m proud to say that when the big ones arose I was brave enough to go with the flow.
How to Become a Skill Surfer
Test the waters first
Before you can ride a wave you have to go sit in the ocean. If you’re curious about what it’s like to do a new kind of work, the only way to assess it is to do it.
It's tempting to pursue more book learning as a way to test the waters. But that’s not how creative skill development works. The first step is to get in the water and start paddling: do the activity.
These days, it’s easy to find ways to test the waters for cheap on the internet. Just get started. Once you do, you’ll begin to notice areas where you want to improve.
That’s when seeking out the guidance of teachers becomes valuable. They can remove your blockers and speed up the progress you’re already making.
Ride one wave at a time
Every discipline has interesting and useful techniques to teach you.
It’s tempting to try to pursue them all at once. Don’t.
It will spread you too thin, put you out of balance, and knock you off your wave.
Ride the one wave that you feel has the most momentum for you right now.
Trust that this wave will one day subside and a new one will follow.
Exercise your patience
Mastering a skill takes longer than productivity gurus want you to believe.
You might be riding one wave or waiting on another for years at a time. That’s okay. This is natural and shouldn’t dishearten you.
Instead, focus on the present by expanding the perspective of your timeline. Considering the decades of your working life, it seems reasonable to spend years on a topic. As a Skill Surfer, you can go deep for much longer than you expect and not get stuck.
Some waves are long. Others are short.
Your job is to go along for the ride as long as it will carry you.
Skill Surfing is more than a way to find a new job. It's about loving what you learn and always being ready to embrace what comes next.
Use your curiosity as a guide.
I bet the waves that surface and where you end up will delight you.
Until next time,
What skills are you currently curious about and how do you plan to pursue them?
Fun fact: I got to know Fawzi after he introduced himself in a reply to one of my newsletters. You should reply too! 😎