Some Thoughts by Jim Moriarty

Jim Moriarty is an avid surfer, entrepreneur and is the CEO of Surfrider Foundation.  Living in the Northern San Diego town of Solana Beach, Jim has more than 15 years management experience in corporate start-ups, specializing in e-learning, e-commerce, infrastructure software, and business-to-business ventures. He’s combined these skills with his passion for surfing and the outdoors to positively impact the places where he finds joy in his life. “Some Thoughts” is new series of written features on exploring what it means to live a stoked life by people like you.

The intersection between joy and purpose

When I think back on all the lessons I learned as a kid and since, I keep coming back to the idea of finding balance. If I had to distill this down further it could be defined as the idea of seeking balance between joy and purpose.

A few years ago, Rabbit Bartholomew told me something. We were sitting on the sand at Sunset Beach on Oahu recording a podcast (download here) and he told me the story of his first trip on the North Shore. The mystique and magnet of the North Shore had literally pulled him to Hawaii all the way from Australia. He landed in Honolulu and spent his entire savings on the cab ride to get to the North Shore… so he slept under the palm trees. Simple. He was drawn to Hawaii because of joy he received from riding waves.  

A few minutes later he made the point that the North Shore really hadn’t changed much in the last twenty years. We almost always hear the opposite, “everything has changed so much…” I stopped him and asked him to explain. He pointed to people like Peter Cole and Larry McElheney who had been the backbone of the “Keep Country Country” campaign for more than twenty years. He said the North Shore is more or less the same today as it was twenty years ago, still undeveloped and natural… it’s “country” because a few people acted. Purpose. When I’m on the North Shore the people I feel most indebted to are those who have spent their Saturdays over the past decades doing boring, unsexy but insanely valuable work to preserve that region.  

Rabbit’s story threaded the needle between joy and purpose. It sunk in as I sat there listening. 

The truth is that finding balance is not easy…it takes a bit of focus. It also requires saying no to short-term, personal gains.  

I believe we’re on this earth for a purpose. There is a reason we are here and that reason doesn’t revolve around non-stop, self-centered… taking. If we all just take then those who come after us will not have the same options we did. If taking is the goal this will be a very short story.

I love stories of early mountain climbers. They quickly came to the conclusion that if they hammered pitons into the rock face they would alter, perhaps destroy, the very climbing routes that attracted them. They figured out what they were doing was unsustainable; it couldn’t be repeated if they damaged the rock with each ascent.

They figured out how to thread the needle between joy and purpose.

We see similar challenges as surfers. If we travel to a far-flung region and leave plastic behind there is a really good chance that plastic will end up in the ocean. We know that unless we figure out a balance, how to live a life that isn’t just oriented around maximizing joy but also includes elements of purpose, we’ll be just like the early climbers. We’ll only focus on our joy, claim an ascent… and leave damaged goods for those who follow.

These are the same lessons our parents taught us. These are the same things we learned in grade school and Sunday school. It turns out this is one of those life lessons that should stick with is. How are you seeking to figure out the balance between joy and purpose?

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