The Parable of the Waves

This insight comes from famed TV producer Stephen Bochco (Doogie Howser, NYPD Blue) by way of Neil Patrick Harris, who told the story on Kevin Pollak’s chat show.

Harris became a TV star at a very young age, thanks to Bochco, but after his run as Doogie Howser ended, he went through a long dry spell. (Remember “Stark Raving Mad“? Neither can anyone else.). At loose ends, he talked with his old mentor, who had this advice, which is as applicable to the startup life as it is to Hollywood:

“Success is like riding a wave. It carries you along, and you feel unstoppable. But eventually it’s over, and you end up crashing on the beach. At that point, you have to decide whether or not to swim out through the pounding surf to try to catch another wave.”

Do you still have the will to swim out for that next wave?

3 thoughts on “The Parable of the Waves

  1. The real lesson should be that for those with NO success, will THEY continue heading out looking for a wave until they catch one.

    I'm not a millionaire so I don't know, but the saying is this: the first million is the hardest – the rest come much easier.

    Persistence after having success, gaining fame, fortune, and a reputation – and then crashing? That is one thing … Having none of those things – successes, fame, fortune, or reputation built – despite days, week, months, and sometimes years of trying — and STILL going out day after day to catch a wave is what separates those who will find success to begin with.

  2. Great point, Paul. It's even harder to keep paddling out without the memory of that first wave to sustain you. But that's what you've got to do. I've never heard of anyone who succeeded without trying.

  3. I'm on my way out there right now, so thanks for the encouragement! 🙂

    But I see it differently than Paul. Every wave is different. Every wave might kill you. Successful surfing is not about how many millions you made, it's about how well you did at Life, Learning & Challenges so far. The only way anything gets "easier" is by learning how to give up allowing fear to dictate your choices. And sometimes you've got to accept that you're on the wrong beach to start with 😉

    Apologies if I'm over-extending the metaphor…!

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