- Player: Dawid Mocke
- Company: Mocke Paddling and founder of the Surf Ski School in Cape Town
- Claim to Fame: Creator of the Mocke PFD (personal floatation device) and four times World Surfski Champion
- Road to entrepreneurship: Left a successful corporate career to pursue his love for surfski paddling. At the time, the opportunity to become a professional surfski paddler didn’t exist. He decided to make it happen anyway.
- Visit: mockepaddling.com
Consistency is the essence of progress. If you put in the time, you’ll reach your goals and live your dreams.
Parallels between competitive sport and entrepreneurship
Competitive sport, especially at the high stakes professional level, teaches you very quickly to identify and maximise opportunities while the game is in play.
You must have a game plan and strategy in place, because when the flag drops, all the talking stops and it’s time for action, so you need to know what that action looks like.
But you need to be able to adapt, so that you are ready to utilise all of your skills, and to take chances. This also means identifying which chances are worth the risk, and which are not. At other times, especially if you’re in the lead, it’s better to focus on ‘safety first’ and not take unnecessary risks that could jeopardise your lead. But if you’re coming in second, and you have an opportunity that could get you over the line first, then you need to take it.
In my sport, our main racing is done by paddling downwind, and riding ocean swells and chop. Here, every swell in front of you represents an opportunity — except you can’t catch each one, or you’ll burn yourself out, both physically and strategically. You may even end up going the wrong way.
The same can be said of an entrepreneur faced with a myriad of opportunities — you can do ‘anything’, just not ‘everything’. You have to choose. I’ve learnt — in paddling, business and life — that there’s no use looking back. The opportunities lie ahead, you just need to choose your course of action.
Be competitive, but stay grounded, and keep it real
If you want to reach the highest level in your sport, you have to be fiercely competitive and do everything you can to get ahead of your opponent.
This often breeds huge animosity between competitors. I personally believe that it doesn’t have to be that way, and there are countless examples of the best athletes in the world who are great friends, but able to compete fiercely on the pitch. These are the athletes we should be emulating.
First, because they understand that competition only makes them better; second, because they don’t base their significance on performance alone; and third, because they are able to remain humble despite their success. They know it’s a privilege and can be taken away at any moment.
I have made a personal rule that as soon as my competitive edge impacts how I relate to another person, I’ve lost sight of what’s really important. Relationships always trump results, because relationships are forever and results are temporary.
Your results will always be improved on, your records will be broken and there is always another athlete waiting to take your title; but your relationships with your family, friends and other competitors last forever — good or bad.
I try to be on good terms with all my competitors, whether in sport or in business. Are you in business to win at all costs, or do you actually want to make the world and your customers’ lives better?
Entrepreneurship is about a dream; a dream of what could be possible
Dreams lead to ideas, and ideas are the fuel of creativity. That is the essential process of innovation. Not all entrepreneurs innovate; many (or even most) just spot a gap that needs to be filled and have the gumption to fill it. But that’s the foundation of how we create opportunities — for ourselves and others.
Looking back at my journey, I noticed that there were many people who wanted to learn how to paddle surfskis, but there was no way for them to do it. I saw an opportunity to do what I love and share the love of the sport simultaneously. This has resulted in me making a living by following my passion. I take the time to train, travel and compete in championships; which in turn leads to new opportunities.
Passion precedes purpose
Our talents lie hidden and we need to create opportunities to unearth them. The best place for you to spot opportunities is in the area that you are passionate about, since you’re already living in that space.
But a word of caution — entrepreneurs are naturally optimistic and we often inflate the benefits and opportunities and deflate the risks and drawbacks.
Remember that all success comes with a price tag and knowing exactly what you are paying, either in money, time or relationships, is essential.
Have the guts to go after opportunities
Many gung-ho types promote throwing caution to the wind, and there’s certainly a place for that, especially if you have nothing to lose.
But sometimes you do have things to lose, like your family’s future or a dear friendship, or even a business that is working very well — all these factors need to be evaluated and any strategy for going after an opportunity must make the ‘softer’ considerations as much a priority as the potential opportunity.
There’s no such thing as perfect. Not in competitive sports, life or business. The reality is that it’s never perfect and I think the most successful entrepreneurs are the ones who understand that, accept it, and are able to adapt. Personally, my biggest flaw as an entrepreneur is that I get too personally involved in what I’m doing and unable to let go. This has led many times to pushing rocks uphill instead of downhill. But I learn, I adapt, and hopefully I find ways to grow.
Focus on your strengths
There are many things I would change if I could go back. For example, I spent many years in my businesses wasting countless hours on tasks that weren’t my strong point and not asking for the necessary help.
I needed to learn to focus my effort on my strengths and not my weaknesses. But we can’t look back, we must look forward — because that’s where the opportunities lie, and so that’s what I do.