“You know, this FISH! stuff works at home too!” — A reader of FISH!
Based loosely on the world-famous Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, the FISH philosophy seems so simple as to be naïve. Yet I find it profound. Life is so complicated. Yet seeing through the complex layers to simple practices one can actually practice is a true gift.
How could you thrive working from the crack of dawn until late at night every day in a fish market? Well, the fishmongers at Pike Place lived their way into doing just that. And if you’ve ever visited it – you’ve experienced the electric energy. My late husband Hal and I visited – and he caught a fish. It made his day and created a treasured memory! Check out this video https://vimeo.com/335348557.
The elements that brought Pike Place to such notoriety were distilled into 4 practices. A book about the practices, called FISH!, was written by Stephen Lundin et. al. in 2000. It has sold 5 million copies and been translated into 35 languages. Some have called it the greatest business book ever written. However the formula works just as well in education, health care and personal life.
Here are the practices:
- Play (fun and lightheartedness)
- Be there (living in the present moment and giving others our full attention)
- Make Their Day (a focus on engaging others in ways that lift their spirits)
- Choose Your Attitude (understanding that whatever attitude you are carrying with you right now, it is the one you are choosing)
These 4 are connected and reinforce each other.
Here’s a story about how one woman brought the FISH! practices into her life.
Inge was diagnosed with late stage cancer. Her doctor advised her to get her affairs in order. She asked, ”Do you mean…all the way to the funeral?” He said, quietly, “yes.” Stunned and numb she wrote letters to her children and started making funeral preparations. Driving to the funeral home to finalize her plans, she suddenly remembered the FISH philosophy. A friend had explained it to her: Play, Be There, Make Their Day, and Choose your Attitude. She realized suddenly what she had to do. She decided to choose, consciously and intentionally, the attitude she would apply to the rest of her uncertain future. She did a U-turn and drove home with a clear sense of purpose. She called the funeral home and left a message to cancel plans for her funeral. “I’ve changed my mind and I’m not coming,” she said.
She named her cancer “the Glob” and asked everyone around her to call it that, too. She felt she could take on a glob. The morning of her surgery, Inge woke up energized.
When Inge arrived at the operating room, she asked to meet with the surgical team. “I know you have seen what I have seen, and you have heard what I have heard, that I may very well die on the table,” she told them. “But my daughter is graduating with a master’s degree at the end of June. I am a single parent and I have to Be There for her. Also she is getting married in September and I have promised to walk her down the aisle and I am not backing out of it. I am asking you to not permit any negativity in this room. I am asking for energy. I am asking for laughter and a few prayers. I am asking you to operate on me with the attitude of improving my life. When you look at me during surgery, please see a lady who is walking her daughter down the aisle.”
Then Inge gave them a CD she had made with her favorite high-energy rock-and-roll songs. The last thing she heard before she went under was “Tutti Frutti” and a nurse laughing.
When Inge woke up, a nurse asked with a big smile if she was OK. “Of course I’m OK,” Inge said softly before drifting back to a deep, healing sleep. Inge’s surgeon stopped by her room a few hours later and she thanked him for doing a great job. He responded by telling her that he was confident that he had removed all of “the Glob” and her prognosis was very favorable. He also thanked her for the way she’d talked to his staff and that it had made a difference. She gifted him with the CD so he could use it in other surgeries. (Story thanks to FISH! For Life by Stephen C. Lundin, Ph.D. et.al.)
I challenge you to try out the FISH! philosophy for yourself.
Ask Yourself These COACHING QUESTIONS
- How might I be an instrument of lightheartedness?
- Do I explore ways I could bring fun to a task that is not usually fun?
- Do I give the gift of rapt attention freely?
- Have I reminded myself today of how good it feels to be listened to?
- Whose day will I make today?
- Am I open to having someone make my day?
- What are the attitudes I am choosing right now?
- What attitudes do I want in my life more often?