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6 Key Lessons Fishing Has Taught Me in Business and in Life


Apr 13, 2023
6 Key Lessons Fishing Has Taught Me in Business and in Life


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I’ve been fishing for as long as I can remember, and to this day, when I have some free time to myself or need to clear my head, I go out on the boat and settle in with my line. Growing up, I spent days out on the water with my father, making up some of my ultimate bonding experiences. Not only did it create a special memory for me and those who I shared the experience with, but it also helped shape me into the business leader I am today. You might ask, “How so?” Well, for starters, fishing requires patience, timing, skill, understanding and persistence; all of these are qualities you need as a business leader.

Just like fishing, business is a numbers game. You have to cast and continue to cast if you hope to get lucky enough to catch a fish eventually. Ultimately, even the worst polecasters will catch a fish if they wait long enough. The same goes for business. To achieve success, you need to build up your resilience and ability to stay put because the overwhelming majority of the time, you won’t catch anything — but you must not let that defeat you.

The secret to catching fish is having a constant eye out for change and being adaptable to that change. A return trip out to a favorite spot that once produced success is still no guarantee of another win. Nothing remains constant in nature, and you must continue taking risks and finding new strategies. Currents, temperature, tides and seasons are just some variables a fisherman must deal with. Only after these uncontrollable variables are accounted for do considerations of skill, equipment, patience and tenacity come into play.

I’m the founder of a public relations firm that I started during the pandemic, and I know that fishing was one of the experiences that shaped the skills that allowed me to be tenacious enough to create the business I have today. Here are the five lessons fishing has taught me in business and in life:

Related: 5 Things Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Fishermen

1. Patience

Sitting on a boat or the edge of the water, waiting for a bite, sometimes for endless hours, is a great opportunity to learn about patience and the time it takes to succeed. There is no such thing as fast-forwarding to success.

In fishing and business alike, patience is vital because success does not come overnight. It takes time to build a successful business, and setbacks and failures are part of the journey.

Leaders who are patient can navigate the ups and downs of business more effectively. They understand that it takes time to build a great team, develop new products or services and establish a brand reputation. Patient leaders do not make rash decisions based on short-term results; rather, they take a long-term view and focus on sustainable growth and development.

Moreover, patient leaders are more likely to cultivate positive relationships with their employees, customers and partners. They understand that building trust and rapport takes time and consistent effort. They are also more equipped to stop themselves from any impulsive reactions or responses. As a result, they are willing to invest time and resources in nurturing relationships and building a culture of mutual respect and appreciation. In turn, this creates a more loyal and dedicated team that is committed to achieving shared goals and objectives.

Overall, patience is a critical quality for success in fishing and business leadership. By being patient, leaders can weather storms, build sustainable relationships and achieve long-term success.

2. Learning to enjoy activities as we do them, as enjoyment should be found in the activity itself, not the end result

We, as a society, tend to put a lot of emphasis on making it to the finish line. But in fishing and business alike, the point is not always about the productive result. Sometimes in fishing, you work hard to go out to sea with all the right equipment and bait, but the fish just won’t bite — and you end up coming home empty-handed.

This also happens in business; you’ll put hours of work into a project or presentation to a client, but just because you put in the work doesn’t mean you’ll get success every time. This is part of business and a natural part of life. It’s important to learn to enjoy the process. Find the joy in doing the research and the work, and you’ll begin to take a more mindful and enjoyable approach as well as continue to hone in on your craft.

3. Just because you have some nibbles, doesn’t mean you’re going to land the fish

As I stated before, it takes time and patience to establish something worthwhile and so it is with fishing. Just because you feel a little nibble here and there doesn’t mean you’re going to land that big client right out of the gate. However, it does mean you are on the right track. If you never put your reel in, you will never catch anything. Like in business, the worst answer isn’t “no” — it’s never trying in the first place.

Related: Why Patience And Perseverance Are Two Of the Greatest Virtues

4. When you feel like you’re losing everything, the only mistake you can make is to not have your line in the water

In the times between the low tides in both fishing and life, you must not wallow in self-pity or loss. Instead, you must get your line and your mind in the water. Many people believe that they’re least likely to catch a fish during the times when the tide is low, but in contrast, that is actually the time when it’s stirring up the possibility of a good catch. Much like the act of fishing, in life, you must try new things and be fully alive, waking up each day to live your life to the fullest potential.

5. Many of us do things with expectations; fishing teaches you not to

In fishing, as in life, having unrealistic expectations can lead to disappointment and frustration. For example, if a fisherman expects to catch a large fish every time they cast their line, they will likely be disappointed when this doesn’t happen. Similarly, in business, having unrealistic expectations can lead to disappointment and frustration, which can negatively impact morale and productivity.

Having expectations can create a rigid mindset that can be limiting and prevent leaders from seeing opportunities or being flexible in their approach. When leaders have preconceived expectations of how things should be, they may miss out on innovative ideas or creative solutions that could drive their business forward.

6. The ocean teaches us a deep lesson about life

The ocean provides us with great nourishment and beauty, but it also can cause us to experience immense pain. Just think about what happens to the sea when a storm looms above.

That’s kind of how it is in the business world, too; it can be great and provide the livelihood we need, but it can also turn our lives absolutely upside down by creating excess stress and chaos.

Many of us are stressed out. Stress in the workplace is a global issue that affects workers around the world. According to the American Institute of Stress, work is one of the top sources of stress for American adults. In 2022, 83% of U.S. workers reported experiencing work-related stress.

The ocean provides us with a source of tranquility once we understand its nature as a provider and as a destroyer — as with the business world — we can find the balance needed to achieve.

Related: I Couldn’t Sleep. I Obsessed Over My Failures. Then I Found the Weirdest Cure — Flyfishing?

As you can see, fishing can be so much more than just a pastime. It can be the very activity you need to hone in on to create your biggest business goals. Fishing or similar activities are critical for a leader to experience because there is also value in having time when you are not connected and not reachable. It’s similar to being a plane with no WiFi. That’s when you can do critical thinking and give your brain a moment to recalibrate — “woosah,” as we say. If you are always on and reachable, you miss out on important “you time” that makes you a better and more collected leader.

True success takes time and trust in the process. So, grab some bait, line, and contemplate your next business venture!

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