Sheer size is the greatest rarity in any field. When it comes to surfing, one name springs to mind: Kelly Slater.
Slater won an unprecedented 11 world championships between the ages of 20 and 39 and was both the youngest and oldest surfer to secure the men's surfing crown. Constantly pushing the boundaries of the sport, he is one of those incomparable individuals who can claim Greatest Of All Time status. But as great as Slater and his fellow GOATs (Michael Jordan, Tom Brady, Lionel Messi, Wayne Gretzky, etc.) are, greatness is not limited to a few outstanding athletes or individuals. We can all embody our own version of it.
People like Slater show their vulnerability by sharing the lessons they've learned in the process. Let's be thankful for that. Those hard-earned lessons are like breadcrumbs that lead to success—a concept I picked up from Michigan State Football head coach Mel Tucker. Smart people grab as many of these breadcrumbs as they can and figure out how to apply them to their own lives and success stories.
So let's look at some of the lessons Kelly discussed in his recent Men's Journal Everyday Warrior podcast:
Lesson 1: Follow your passion
Kelly Slater has been surfing since he was five and it has always been a top priority for him. He gave up other sports to focus solely on surfing, even skipping soccer practice to hit the waves. It is this level of dedication and passion that has led him to success in the sport for almost five decades. The message: Find what you love and pursue it relentlessly. If you have a passion for something, let that guide you and be willing to make sacrifices to achieve your greatest goals.
Lesson 2: Prioritize your health and well-being
As a young touring surfer, Slater saw many of his idols drinking and partying before the competition—and paying the price of self-indulgence. This prompted him to reassess his own priorities and put an intense focus on his health, training and well-being, which he firmly believes has given him an edge when competing. The message: Take care of your body and it will take care of you.
Lesson 3: Keep moving forward
Slater has faced numerous obstacles throughout his career, including injuries and burnout. He didn't let these setbacks discourage him or weaken his incredible resilience. Instead, he keeps pushing forward, determined to break through whatever obstacles stand in his way. The message: Don't let setbacks define you. Stay positive, never give up on your goals and keep going.
Lesson 4: Believe in yourself
Success isn't just about talent and hard work. It's about unwavering self-confidence. Slater always knew he was capable of great things, even when others doubted him. Endowed with confidence and determination, he knew he could achieve anything he set his mind to with his tireless work ethic. The message: Total belief in yourself and your abilities is what separates champions from the crowd.
Lesson 5: Embrace change
Throughout his career, Slater has adapted to new board designs, riding styles and various other developments in surfing - which has kept him at the forefront of the sport. He was never afraid to step out of his comfort zone, to break the mold and try something new. That paid off. The message: Be open to positive changes and new ideas to keep growing.
Lesson 6: Focus on legacy and positive impact
Kelly Slater has always been aware of the impact he leaves behind. He's a proponent of sustainable and socially responsible practices in the surfing industry, although he's met with backlash for doing so. He launched a sustainable clothing brand, knowing it would be more expensive than traditional surf brands, while championing the bigger picture. His most recent venture, KLLY, a recyclable and eco-friendly footwear brand using algae-derived rPET and BLOOM foam, upholds his belief in sustainable products. The message: Strive to make a positive impact on the world, even if it means going against the grain - and let that be your greatest legacy.