Learning How to Fish: An Analogy

“Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime.”—Author unknown

Yesterday, I talked about putting more of your focus on the process you are going through to achieve a goal (such as getting a new job), and less on the goal itself. That old saying about teaching someone to fish is a prime example of the importance of being present during the process and learning the lessons that come from experiencing something.

Fishing reel and lineConsider this: The man (we’ll call him Joe) being talked about in the adage has a goal of getting the food he needs today to nourish his body. If you give Joe the food, that helps for today, but what about tomorrow? You’ll have to feed him then, too. And it just keeps going and going like that day after day.

So, you decide to teach Joe how to fish. That’s fine — you talk to him about the various types of equipment he will need, where fish live and their typical feeding schedules, and make sure that everything is legal by getting a fishing license. You take Joe out to the fishing hole to guide him on using the equipment properly, and he catches a fish. You congratulate him and go on your way, thinking all is well.

But, he shows up on your doorstep the next day, asking for food.

“What’s going on?” you ask. “Didn’t I just show you yesterday how to fish?”

“Well, yeah,” is Joe’s reply, “but all I cared about was getting the fish. I left the fishing hole after you did because I had what I needed for the day. Now I don’t know what to do today.”

See the problem?

Joe was so fixated on the end result of being fed for that one day that he didn’t bother to learn how he could fish every day and meet his goal of having the food he needed daily.

That’s sometimes the way that people approach their job search and career — they identify a goal, get to it by any means possible, and then promptly forget what got them there. That can get them by for a while if they do achieve their goal, but what if they find themselves in the same predicament of having to look for work or feeling stagnated in their career? What then?

Or what if the goal they had such a strong focus on is suddenly no longer an option? Sure, they may have been making progress toward the goal, but if they are so trained on the final outcome, how can they switch gears to consider another goal?

By changing the concentration from the goal to the process and learning the lessons that come from that experience, it’s much easier to transfer the knowledge to other situations that may come up on your career path.

I’ll pose the same question from yesterday: How have you used the lessons learned in the process of achieving goals to get you where you want to be in your career?

Image courtesy of kasperbs

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