Surfers & Drivers

At a dinner party the other night I heard someone describe two categories of people: Surfers and Drivers. The five of us around the table took turns identifying ourselves as Surfers or Drivers. It was as intuitive as describing hair colour.

Drivers are linear thinkers. They wake up in the morning, decide what to work on, and get started. Each task is done in a straightforward, orderly fashion. Drivers are immensely valuable, and are the logistical wizards that organizations can’t live without.

Surfers are scatterbrained & significantly worse at linear work than Drivers. They get enthralled into their 2nd checklist item and forget about the rest. Surfers frequently feel shame or guilt because of their long list of incomplete and forgotten tasks.

Despite the drawbacks, Surfers have a unique talent. After a period of wading, a powerful wave of inspiration appears. The wave is unpredictable in both size and duration, but Surfers know when It’s Time To Ride.

This is where great work happens. The universe fades as the Surfer becomes one with the wave. Waves can be anything: new projects, new jobs, or even hobbies. Whatever the content, Surfers complete an unbelievable amount of work in a short amount of time. And it’s damn good work at that.

The problem with waves is that they can end before the work is complete. This causes the Surfer great shame, suffering, and guilt.

Why was I able to build 80% of the project in one week but I can’t even bear to look at it anymore?

That’s where Drivers come in. Not as a cleanup crew at the very end, but as a valuable teammate who can help get that last 20% complete, before the wave even has a chance to end.

Surfers and Drivers need each other to do great work.

Good teams understand the value of both. Bad teams don’t.

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