Tips for Fishing and Living # 85

Tip #85:

There are two types of fisherman – those who fish for sport and those who fish for fish. 

Author Unknown

A fisherman friend of mine, up until his recent retirement, made his living by fishing commercially. His fishing happens to have been a clam business. He mostly sold wholesale. His livelihood was much like that of a farmer. His “farm” happened to be underwater where he seeded his “pastures” that grew shellfish for harvesting. He sold his “product” nationally, as well as, in various places around the world.

My friend’s always been passionate about his profession. I consider him a premier ecologist. He is astute to the finer details of oceans and of nature itself. This resulted from needing to constantly deal with changing weather conditions, water temperatures, ocean tides, and currents. He had to know what seasons are for sowing, for waiting, and for harvesting. Nothing could be rushed; and he’s been a realist in a profession with no room for sentimentality or idealism.

He is also someone who enjoys the solitude that comes with fishing. He revels in the silence from being out on the water, in motoring to and from fishing beds, and in the actual hauling in shellfish. When you get this stoic man talking you’ll find someone with a rich soul connection – a connection to nature and with creation.

Distinctions between sport fishing and commercial fishing are not necessarily huge or necessarily significant. Of course there are some, but both offer access to the possibility for fostering this soul connection – a connection to something larger than us. This connection can come about in either one; but it doesn’t happen automatically. It comes only from putting time into the rigors of the day-to-day practice of fishing. Neither one provides short cuts or quick ways to gain access. A certain wisdom from the connection with nature comes along in the practice, as well. Of course there are other ways besides fishing to acquire this connection.

Everyone’s life requires the necessary time-in to practice our day to day routines, rituals and disciplines. This is where our true self has the possibility to emerge. There is a two-fold requirement for this emerging of our better self:

  1. One needs to have an openness and a focus on the bigger picture, while also
  2. An attention to gaining enough required skills to carry out the essential details needed.

What is paramount is to first have a clarity regarding the WHAT. This is the Bigger Picture. It is the reason we are doing various things we end up choosing to do.

Our WHAT informs us; it’s our vision; our purpose. It’s also call it our life’s mission. The WHAT addresses questions like: “Why am I here? What is my purpose? What do I dream of or yearn to do?” Once we have answered these we then move onto the How? The HOW has to do with the steps we need to take to make our WHAT become a reality. Everything from here on is just details.

In other words mastery isn’t exclusively about methods or techniques, and nothing more. It’s actually about our presence – our awareness. Another way to say this is: it’s about our being intentional and fully conscious while we do what we do.

True leadership is not about great skills and techniques. Our usual ways of trying harder often keep us stuck in unimaginative and recalcitrant gridlock. The way out of this stuckness is by becoming a self-differentiated leader. This type of leadership cannot be cloned or copied as a role model. We can simply observe a self-differentiated leader’s presence and non-anxiousness. Then it is up to us foster our own capacities to be present and non-anxious.

Presence is always more powerful than whatever skills or techniques a leader may bring into a system or organization (or family). In fact, an anxiously driven leader will misuse or distort otherwise good skills and techniques causing harm and dysfunction.

Occasionally I’ll ask my clients if they are coachable. This can come across as arrogant on my part. But I do this intentionally to bring them up a bit short; to get them to check in and determine if they are open or not to doing things differently. We’ll often needlessly suffer due to some perspective we hold about an issue or situation, and we’re more committed to holding onto our perspective regardless of its validity, than we are about becoming liberated.

Dogmatic people are people who remain unwilling to see things differently when given new data and contrary facts/information showing them that they’re incorrect. Hate and contempt are often key ingredients to a person’s adherence to dogmatism. These two emotions harden and over time feed a rigidity of cognition and emotion. This is why they cannot be persuaded by debate or reason. Usually this only entrenches them into their fixed rigidity. It has to do with their need to form and preserve a common defense mechanism for protecting themselves by projecting their own shortcomings onto others. They will then scapegoat and blame others as they try to make their belief system the dominant one and an unquestioned reality. We do not need to look far to find this pandemic of dogmatism presently in our midst.

Edwin Friedman wrote a wonderful collection of fables, entitled: Freidman’s Fables. It is a truly great collection of fables:

One fable tells of a man who claimed he was dead. Everyone who knew this man was perplexed and didn’t know what to do with him. No one could talk him out his ridiculous way of thinking. One expert after another was brought in to dissuade him and get him to see that he was not dead. A philosopher, a scientist, a religious, and others as well, each came to help but none was successful in getting him to believe he was alive. Finally they brought a medical doctor. The doctor first examined him, and then he asked the dead man if dead people bleed. The man replied, “no, dead people do not bleed.” So the man allowed the doctor to make a tiny incision – a surface cut on his arm – as an experiment. If the man bled then he would agree that he was alive after all. The man consented. So the doctor made a small cut his skin and blood began to come out of the wound.

The man exclaimed, “Wow. I was wrong. Dead people do bleed!”   

Being certain is important, if one cannot be rigid. Being right seems to be our national addiction; perhaps our single greatest one. It far exceeding all the usual other addictions, be it: booze, drugs, sex, gambling, food, or pornography. It is often the fundamental issue between couples. Each one NEEDS to be right, necessitating each one having to make the other wrong. This is always a formula for disaster. Sometimes they hear my plea to give up “being right” as a defeatist stance, a sort of “so now I have to be wrong?” kind of thinking. The answer is “No!” It’s simply a different paradigm. It is choosing to be close and intimate rather than right. Both parties are right in their respective perceptions. One’s isn’t better, it’s just different.

Self-differentiation is not the same as needing to always be right. It’s about having a capacity to take stands; to believe in something; to know what you live for. If later one discovers they are not correct, the self-differentiated person is able to adjust and embrace this newer position. Self-differentiated persons are able to tolerate ambiguity; they can operate with the grey in life, where others must see things either as black or white. It further means these people value maturity over data, stamina over technique, and personal responsibility over empathy.

If we are someone who already-knows-everything we have no room for anything new. We’re unable to take in a fresh or novel approach to our dilemmas or conflicts. We have faulty perspectives and are in need of better ones, whether we know it or not. Our perspectives get embedded into an anxiousness that undermines our relationships. Allow me to repeat a helpful quote from previous writing: “Don’t believe everything you think.”

“Are you coachable?” is a valuable tool to open us up. The question can act as a physic can opener. It’s like asking us, “Are we so locked into being only one certain way and thus prevented from seeing any other possibilities?” Here’s an old joke to this very point:

“I once thought I actually made a mistake. Turns out I was wrong.”

We’re funny – or not-so-funny – in ways like the joke. It is sadder still when we don’t recognize this. We’ll hold tight to a given perspective even as we suffer terribly. It’s like saying: “I’d rather be right and miserable than happy and wrong.” We don’t have to say this, but it’s what we’re doing.

Sports fishers can remain fixed in their ineffective ways even as they continue to not catch any fish. They may eventually pack it in and tell people, “Fishing isn’t meant for me.” They can afford to do so if they chose. Sport fishers never need to face into a possibility that they may be making mistaken assumptions or have ineffective techniques. They can blame others or the situation, and never look at their own part of the problem.

The commercial fisherperson cannot afford to not look critically at what isn’t working. They need to consider their own actions or lack of actions into the mix. They have too much at stake to pass the blame on to others or to stay with ineffective operations. Commercial fishers are motivated to find a solution, including changing their perspective. Amateur fisher persons can go try something else.

One last joke:

A man goes ice fishing and after a few hours has not caught a single fish. About 100 feet away from him he spots another ice fisher who keeps pulling up one fish after another. So he walks over and asks the successful fisher, how is it he is doing so well?

The successful fish says: “uuu hvv doo knnp da wrrmms waamm.” He repeats this three times, “uuu hvv doo knnp da wrrmms waamm,” since the other fisher cannot understand what he is saying. Finally, the successful fisherman puts a hand up to his mouth and spits, and then says, “You have to keep the worms warm!”

What if we were to take on metaphorically what great commercial and sports fishers do? It would mean we give up blaming others and stop projecting onto others why things do not work out. What if we instead do the hard work required and we took on 100% responsibility for our life (even as an experiment)?  We can start by finding our own way to get solitude and a place to be calm and reflective. We can find our own source of wisdom and develop it into our capacity for presence and connection to our real Source. How might this pan out for us?

I contend this to be a powerful way to live. One payoff would be we’d do less moving about and onto our next ventures only to repeat many of our same old mistakes, poor patterns, and ineffective perspectives brought along from previous ventures, because we have yet become contemplative living people.

It’s really our choice.