If you don’t actually get around to doing something new and different and just have a few drinks, some lie-ins and a bit of a laugh, you’ll end up going back home to the rut you were stuck in before you left. It doesn’t really mean anything unless you actually DO something, not just write about it, talk about it and dream about it.

I Can’t Do It

I don’t know what else to do.

I don’t know how to do it

I might fall flat on my face.

That’s what everyone thinks every time they try something new, something risky. We are deep in preparations to launch Soul & Surf Sri Lanka, our second full-time location, and even after 5 years of running Soul & Surf India with everything we’ve learned we are still worrying about those 3 sticky problems.

Prepare To Fail

When we drew a line in the sand on our old careers and lives the approach we took too was a bit of a scatter gun approach. There wasn’t one single thing we were 100% sure we wanted to do to earn a living, we knew that we wanted the time and opportunity to  do the things we came up with on our dreaminess – surf, yoga, travel, etc. – but realised there are numerous ways to achieve that and that some of those ways will work and some will fail.

So we built that into our travel, everywhere we went we committed to doing something which would earn us some money, even if it was only a £… making cakes and selling them in campsites as we drove through Europe, buying hats in Karnataka and sending them back home to sell in England, writing travel articles for newspapers and magazines, learning how to set up and market an online business (or two, both of which fell at the first hurdle) and then whilst we were still on the road, setting up a tiny surf & yoga retreat in Kerala, India.

The key thing here is that we knew that just by trying new things, ideas and projects doesn’t mean they will all work. By allowing failure, to some degree, and not letting it get us down, to look on it as a learning experience and the next step on the path to success allowed us to try a range of different things simultaneously and consecutively over the year we travelled. With the benefit of hindsight Soul & Surf would not be the success it is today if we hadn’t tried and failed at some of our other ideas because the skills we learned along the way have all helped us to create, grow and develop the idea that did work.

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It’s actually quite liberating to try something, to fail at it and realise you kinda enjoyed the process.


How We Did It

I don’t know what else to do. Neither did we, but we looked for opportunities wherever we went and we tried a few ideas out. We did a dreamline to work out how we wanted to spend our time, then we brainstormed ideas and businesses that ticked those boxes. We came up with loads of options but didn’t get paralysed by choice. Start something, start a few things, don’t worry if it’s not ‘exactly’ the right thing, you can always do something else later on or change it as you grow.  

These are both good reads if you don’t have a clue what you might do: Zenhabits  &  The Short But Powerful Guide To Finding Your Passion

I don’t know how to do it. We had never worked in hospitality, had no idea how to market, create or run a guesthouse and had no idea about the surf or yoga industry. We generally didn’t, and still don’t to some degree, know how to do it. By starting really small so the financial and personal risks are small and by offering our ‘product’ really cheap we could test, learn and tweak as we went until we had built something really great. Forget perfection. Forget the business plan. Be OK with not knowing everything.

I might fall flat on my face. Yep, you probably will… a few times. It’s actually quite liberating to try something, to fail at it and realise you kinda enjoyed the process. But you can minimise the risks by starting lean. Don’t pay for anything you don’t have to or until you actually get a sale, start at home, start by just marketing to friends. Do something that can make money as soon as possible (rather than a complex business plan that turns a profit 3 years down the line). Do something you enjoy doing, don’t wait for the joy to come once you sell a million X’s - when you do sell a million X’s you won’t find joy there, just the desire to sell another million. The worst that can happen then, if you do fall flat on your face, isn’t really that bad and you’ve learned something along the way and probably had some fun.

Ditch the Business Plan

One of the key things with all of the ideas we pursued is that we didn’t get bogged down with too much planning. If we had sat at home at a desk and drawn up a comprehensive 40 page business plans for each of these ideas we would never have got to the point of even trying one of them. The beauty of starting small on ideas that require little or no funding is that the planning stage can be as quick as you want them to be.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t stop and think about the how, the what, the when, the where and the how much of you ideas. Of course you have to, we did 1 page idea outlines and next steps, a 1 page marketing plan and a 1 page cash-flow projection. But as soon as you possibly can do something, make the first step and put it ‘out there’. Whether that is visiting a factory and buying some sample hats, putting a one-page website up to promote a product or service, contacting editors and offering them stories, or whatever it takes to make the first step.

I guess the thing that holds a lot of people back and the reason their idea never gets beyond the planning stage is the desire to have the full plan in hand before they begin. The task of completing just the plan itself and thinking of every eventuality is such a daunting task that they fail before they begin. Just to re-iterate I’m not advising to just dive in without a thought, but the most important steps to plan are the next steps. Then whilst you are doing those steps you can plan the next steps whilst reacting to the stuff you learn from actually doing the first steps. Since practicing this dip-your-toes-in-the-water way of getting ideas off the ground I’ve since read a bit about Agile software development and Agile business ideas and realised it wasn’t just me being impatient and slapdash but a bona fide movement.

You can read a bit more about these ideas here: What is Agile? & Business Agility

How did we dip-our-toes-in-the-water with Soul & Surf?

We decided we would rent a 4 bed house in Kerala for 6 months and set-up Soul & Surf  whilst we were still on the road, living on a beach in Bali. We designed and published a one-page test website whilst holed up in an awful hotel in Tonga. The weather was bad, the waves were non-existent, the next flight out wasn’t for another week so we launched Soul & Surf.

We learned what to charge and what to offer by A/B testing a load of different variations. We took our first booking whilst surfing in Nicaragua. Which made it real and meant we really had to make this happen now. There's nothing like a sale to spur you into action. We went from first having the Idea > Web Page > Sales > Opening within 6 months. Not enough time to properly work out that opening India's first commercial surf & yoga retreat was a mental idea.

And here we are now employing 30-40 people each season and finally beginning to earn a little something ourselves again, whilst living a lifestyle that has ticked off nearly all our dreamline boxes - the yacht Sofie wanted is still a little way off. And now, 5 years in to Soul Surf we’re just about to launch our second location in Sri Lanka this November.

Keep reading this post because we’re going to reward your patience with a hefty discount to come and stay with us and see what we’ve been up to.

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Soul & Surf Kerala

What Have We Learned Along The Way

  • Get over your fear of the unknown, ditch your financial security addiction,  given yourself  time and space for inspiration. But that don’t mean a thing if you don’t actually do something. Anything.
  • Start Right Away. Give stuff a go, embrace failure as much as success, don’t wait for perfection.
  • Start now, the rest will follow. 
  • Figure out the simplest way to start, and, well,  just start.
  • Don’t worry about taking a bunch of expensive courses or buying a load of expensive equipment or stock— just do it, do it small and learn as you go.
  • Don’t get bogged down in lengthy plans.
  • Does that mean you don’t need to plan? Well, you should, but don’t overdo it.
  • Never Stop Learning, and Never Stop Failing. 
  • Failure is not the end of your business. It’s just the beginning.

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