Get Out of the Grind – The Better Newsletter #13


I read an Outside Magazine interview with William Finnegan, author of the Pulitzer Prize winner “Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life,” where he was asked, “Do you have a favorite moment in surfing?”

To which he answered (in sum), “It’s the pause before the pop-up… that moment when you know you’ve got it… Man, there’s nothing else like it.”

Later, I attended an event where Bill (William) was speaking and was lucky enough to have a conversation with him. Here’s what I took away from our chat.

If you surf, you know that catching a wave results from a perfect combination of coalescing factors. You have to have the right skill, the right wave, the right conditions.

There can be perfect waves, but sometimes they’re too crowded or getting blown out by a cross-wind.

Then there are times when a much-welcomed match occurs between your skill, the board and Mother Nature. You’re in just the right place at just the right time.

In that peak moment when everything comes together in a state of flow; there is a flash of anticipation and appreciation that your hard work is about to pay off.

That is the pause before the pop-up. 


Sometimes we grind. Our work becomes hard, frustrating, mundane. We don’t have the skills, tools, or right conditions to create what we want. We’re tempted to give up and lose hope that our efforts will ever pay off.

Then there are those sublime times when everything comes together and we write or perform or present better than we know how. 

We combine the right idea, the right time and place, the right experience, and everything flows easily and effortlessly. 

Those “immense, glittering moments” (Bill’s term) keep us coming back, make it all worthwhile, almost like our “cosmic reward.”

Are you feeling the frustration of effort that doesn’t seem equal to results?

Spend 5 minutes on the actions below designed to help you create more “pause before the pop-up” moments in your life.

And when those moments happen, promise that you will look around, appreciate and imprint them so you can re-visit them in your mind as often as you want.


  • Grab a pen & paper (or your phone)… Reflect over the last year – Can you recall an experience (or many) of matched momentum where you performed better than you knew how?

  • Next time you feel frustrated with the grind – Come back to your list of “pause before the pop-up moments” and remind yourself that you’ve done it before. And you can do it again!

Here’s to being better.

Until next time,
Sam Horn

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