Think Like a Fish

I was with a business client recently, and after our meeting I had a tour of their workplace where I unexpectedly came across a swimming pool… filled with Koi Carp fish! The conversation that followed was both fascinating and relevant to our previous conversations around business.

As I learned, these fish can grow pretty big… up to a metre long! But, these fish were nowhere near that big, and for a very good reason. You see, how big the fish grow is entirely dependant on the space available in their environment – the smaller the space the smaller the fish… hmm.

This is entirely applicable to our personal environments both in and out of work – when we allow ourselves to exist in a restrictive environment, our ability to grow is restricted by the lack of space to do so around us. But this isn’t caused by four walls of a fish tank – the four walls of our environment are comprised of other people’s limiting beliefs, negative comments and opinions, and the small mindedness of the people we surround ourselves with.

Sound familiar?

Ask yourself this; if I’m not growing as much as I would like, usually signposted by a stagnation in your ability to move towards the life you desire, why is that? The first place to look to is your environment. Who are you surrounding yourself with, and what effect are they having on your ability to realise your full potential? This is just as applicable in a business situation – if your business has stagnated and is struggle to achieve further growth then the first place to look to is the environment.

Do you have a cohesive team, or individuals serving their own personal and independent needs? Does everyone respect each other and make an effort to understand each others point of view, or is their an undercurrent of ‘office politics’ effectively poisoning the water in your fish tank?

The people you surround yourself with in business and in life are the key to the environment you find yourself in – whether that is one of cohesion and support, or one of poisonous negativity. Are the walls closing in or expanding? Are you?

Growth is one of the key human needs; without it we feel unfulfilled, dissatisfied and disillusioned. We need to feel like we are able to move forward, progress and improve. Else, what’s the point in living? We need to grow.

So, whether it’s in your business or your life, make it your life’s work to expand your four walls – expand the support and positivity in your environment so it can support you and those around you in your continued journey of growth.

I learned something else that was very interesting too; when you have a community of Koi Carp in an environment, they tend to use up the minerals in that environment which generally depletes them over time. However, because that community of fish have lived in the environment from day one, they have been able to adapt to the changing mineral levels as they’ve changed slowly over time and don’t even notice the change. It’s a bit like the difference between putting a frog in boiling water or putting it in cold water and slowly bringing it to the boil.

When you put a frog in boiling water it will jump out straight away – it recognises that environment is not a good place to be and gets out quick sharp before it gets eaten! However, put the frog in the cold water and gradually bring it to the boil and the frog will stay there quite happily, slowly dying in a state of ignorant unawareness, soon to be eaten by the eager diners.

Think about this carefully in relation to your environment – particularly in a business environment. You see the poison seeps in slowly. It starts when you hire someone with a bad attitude – or maybe when you start to slip into damaging habits with a limiting mindset. It starts with one thing… then two. These things on their own are generally not a problem, but the compounded effect of these over time creates an environment that suffocates the people within it. Viewed in isolation, these things can be easy to ignore because alone they can seem benign. This is why it’s so easy for these things to add up and create a poisonous environment over time – the compound effect is often hidden until it’s too late, and the damage is done.

Be aware of these small things, and make a special effort to notice them – deal with them promptly no matter how small and insignificant they may initially seem. Your success and ability to grow (you and your team) depends on it.

One of the warning signs that things have run away with themselves is when you find it difficult to attract the right people into your team – do those A grade players always seem to slip away from you after what seemed like such a great interview? Or maybe they start, but never last and you just can’t figure out why?

Think of the minerals in the fish tank, and the frog in the water. If you have a bunch of frog in the water from cold they will all stay in the pot until the water is boiling – but try and add another frog when the water is already hot and it will jump straight out. Similarly, try to add another Koi Carp into an already established environment of fish and it is unlikely to survive for long due to the lack of minerals and the shock to the system – it won’t have had the time to adjust like the fish who’ve lived there all along.

This is exactly what happens in your business and your life – when the water is lacking in minerals to support healthy growth, the fish in your team may have slowly become used to it and won’t notice that they slowly dying. The new-comers will though, and they’ll die quickly, leaving the business soon after starting, or leaving your life after dipping their toes in the poisonous water that is the environment of your life.

If the frogs in your life keeping jumping out of the pan, look to your environment first and make sure you do two things; ensure there is enough food and minerals to feed the growth of yourself and the people around you, and realise that your limiting beliefs are your walls and that you will only ever grow as big as these walls will allow. Expand your walls every single day – do this by stepping outside of your comfort zone every day, expand your mind, reduce your limiting beliefs and allow yourself and those around you to grow into magnificent fish.

If good people keep leaving – or never seem to get to you at all – then take a look at the mineral content of the water, and turn down the heat on your pot. Don’t chase after the right people, instead focus on building an environment that allows great people to thrive in your life and business and everything else will take care of itself.

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