“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.” - Henry David Thoreau
I recently found this quote and it helped remind myself of why I opened a surf shop and named it Moment Surf Company. Prior to making this life changing decision, I was working at a job that was financially beneficial but left me with a spiritual and emotional void. Everyday consisted of finding the next deal or profitable opportunity. To become successful at this business, I had to always be looking forward and never slow down. I won’t lie, the financial success I was having felt real good for a while. In one year, I made more money than I had in the previous 10, combined! I quickly learned however, the more money you make, the more you are likely to spend.
It’s an evil Farris wheel of self-medicating. With more money comes the desire to acquire more stuff. You work hard so you want to reward yourself. “You’ve earned it” or “you worked hard for this” are quotes I told myself time and time again. The money would come in, but just as quickly, go back out. Around and around it went for over 5 years. That was until December 30th 2008, when the real estate market crashed and the money stopped flowing.
Lies and theft, all in the name of making money, started to be uncovered daily. Ponzi schemes, fake businesses, and false loans had been created to buy and sell real estate. When the market crashed and these financial manipulations were uncovered, not only the thieves who created them were ruined, but good people who unfortunately trusted the system were left with nothing. “A rising tide lifts all boats” likewise when it falls, it affects all of them. Everybody was affected somehow.
I was one of the lucky few. I hadn’t spent everything that I had made or leveraged myself beyond my means. Many of my clients had however, and were left with nothing. I watched the once leaders of our industry be financially ruined. People who I had helped build their financial portfolios, are now scrambling to keep some piece of security for the future. For some, the thought of losing everything they had worked for was too overwhelming. We had three clients in our office commit suicide because of this. One of which I had worked with on several occasions. A few days prior to his death, he told a friend “without all my success, who am I and what will people think of me”. Hearing his words hit me like a ton of bricks.
The American Dream is alive and well. However, how we choose to execute it is flawed. Once we reach our goal, we forget to stop and relish in our achievement and appreciate what we have. We quickly set new levels of satisfaction and strive to reach even higher levels of success. This recipe of achievement has been feed to us from a very young age. The idea of American success is based around wealth and the acquisition of items. From the movies and tv shows we watch, to the music we listen to, and the leaders we follow in our daily lives, we are taught that being successful means gaining financial wealth. The whole American economy depends on us thinking this way. The only way our country continues to work and be the leader of the free world, is for its people to keep wanting more. Regardless of the effect it has on our mental and physical health.
When the Dalai Lama was asked what surprises him most about humanity, he said “Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.” Reading these words at the same time as experiencing the real estate crash, I knew it was time to make a change. I wasn’t happy. It was time to stop looking beyond what was in front of me and live in the present. Nothing in my life helped me do this more than surfing.
“Never his mind on where he was or what he was doing” - Yoda
I had been surfing in Pacific City for many years and felt a strong connection to the town and people who lived there. Even having to make the 7 hour round trip from Bend didn’t stand in my way to getting into the water at least once a week. All the success and material goods I could buy didn’t come close to satisfying me like spending time in the ocean. Good waves or bad, it didn’t matter. My happiness was coming from something deeper than just catching waves. Letting go of the demands of modern day living, forgetting about what society tells me is important, and living for the first time in the present, opened my eyes to a more meaningful way of life.
“I was becoming rich in other ways than money in the bank” - Gerry Lopez
I quickly started to understand that the memories I was collecting were more important to me than financial success. An empty void that I had been looking to fill my whole life was suddenly overflowing with satisfaction. I realized that if I suddenly had 10 million dollars in the bank, I would be doing the same thing I was, surfing every day. So it was time to stop sacrificing my life to make money and miss days in the ocean to meet other people’s expectations. I wanted to live for the moment and what makes me happy. When the opportunity to move here full time and open a surf shop presented itself, I jumped at the chance. I quit my job, sold my house, and invested all the cash I had left into getting the businesses started. I was going to start living in the moment and figured there was no better name for the shop than Moment Surf Company.
After 8 years of being open, I still don’t feel like I have a job, it remains pure joy. I haven’t missed a swell and have memories that will be with me forever. That’s what I call being rich!
Words by Jeff Mollencop