It’s good advice on a lot of levels. Fish stories have been popping up everywhere I turn these days. Rather, “don’t be a fish” stories. Not that any of us aspire to be fish.
Until a few weeks ago, I wasn’t really worried too much about how much I might emulate a fish. Then two stories came to me within days of each other.
#1 Swimming in Circles
Micheal Meade tells an old but poignant story in his workshop “The Soul of Change” about a woman who buys a goldfish. After a few weeks she notices that the fish bowl needs to be cleaned. She does not own another bowl so she fills her bathtub with clean water to keep her new pet happy while she washes the small fish-bowl. She puts the goldfish in the tub and goes off to wash the bowl. When she comes back she notices something extraordinary. The goldfish continues to swim in circles the same size as the bowl despite the new possibilities the large tub offers.
#2 Don’t be a fish
A few days before I heard Swimming in Circles I taught a lesson that I had developed for a 3rd grade classroom. Note to self; never under estimate the wisdom of 3rd graders!
How to begin? Let’s start with Stop,Think and Act. Our school has a prescription when it comes to dealing with conflicts that children get into. It’s a three-step procedure for when someone cuts you in line or calls you a name (NOT APPLICABLE to insults involving Mamas). Imagine “stop-drop-and roll” for dealing with the Cooties. We coach kids to STOP-THINK-and ACT. I started the lesson with a discussion about the “THINK” part.
What does it mean to think? What are you supposed to do when “THINKING”? 3rd graders are a very literal group, so you have to explain these kinds of things. We decided that “THINKING” is the stuff you say to yourself, an internal dialogue that we called “self-talk”. We began to make up and practice some things to say to ourselves that might help during those moments of inevitable discord. We posted index cards with sayings and drawings of “self-talk” on the front board. Most were very practical, if not original. Then there was C’s card. I read it aloud to the class: “Don’t be a stupid fish”. I love this kid, he is completely sincere in everything he does.
ME- This sounds interesting, could you tell us more about your self-talk?
C- Well, my big brother is always teasing me. He never stops!!! I get sooooo mad at him. Then I get in trouble because I lose my temper. My mom says I’m just taking the bait…
ME- I see, don’t be a fish means don’t take the bait.
C- Don’t be a STUPID fish, it’s okay to be a smart fish, they don’t take the bait.
There you have it. The very best career advice I have received this month:
1. Stop swimming in circles
2. Don’t take the bait
In short “Don’t be a STUPID fish”.