In a recent trip up to Silicon Valley to visit my folks for a belated Mother’s Day, I passed a body of water that brought back many fond memories of my younger days when we would take family weekend trips to go fishing. I never realized, however, how much those experiences could have taught me about succeeding in life…had I paid attention then.
I always remember the excitement that went into the preparation before the excursion and the optimistic (often lofty) expectations of what great catches we would come back with.
It would start with the packing of the necessities the night before and all the items we would need to bide the time between the catching of the fish. Now, if any of you have ever gone fishing then you’ll know what I mean.
Fishing, involves a LOT of downtime and waiting for the fish to bite.
And even after a bite, there is no guarantee that you’ll catch the fish.
As a child, I never understood the GREAT lessons and values in life taught to me by these excursions my family would take to go fishing. So as I drove by San Luis Reservoir (which, by the way is SO big, I think it is the fourth largest man-made bodies of water in the U.S.!) it finally struck me how significant those experiences were in my life.
As with many things we experience in life…we are often asleep and miss the significance of each and every extraordinary event.
The Journey Before You Actually Fish
One particular trip stood out in my mind. Despite being only a pre-teen child at the time, it made such an impact that I remember it to this day. At the time, it was the frustration of the weekend that made me remember it, but I believe it took nearly a lifetime to realize it was more than that. It was around early spring and we had decided to use a 3-day long weekend to go fishing. We were more excited than usual about the prospects of having an extra day to catch more fish. We normally do a 1.5 day trip so the night before this trip was almost a sleepless one.
When the 4am hour came around, my sister and I were already up and ready to go. (Yes, fishing days start early) We rushed to grab our items we had packed the night before and ran out to the family RV and sat on pins and needles until our departure.
The entire road trip to the reservoir was cleverly filled by my sister and I with distractions we had planned from years of fishing experience. We had figured out that the more we distracted ourselves on the 1-2 hour road trip, the quicker the trip would be. We sang songs, played games, and ate a variety of different snacks the whole way there.
Soon enough, we were there! We packed away our distractions and rushed out to help our father unpack the equipment for our first day of fishing paradise. The predominant fish in San Luis reservoir is the very tasty striped bass so my sister and I were already bragging about the quantity and sizes of striped bass we were going to catch. Our father, being the older and wiser one, simply smiled and looked down fondly at us while we discussed our anticipated goals for the trip.
Now the way the reservoir is setup (if you are fishing from the shore) is that you have to first park a distance away from where you actually setup camp and fish. So even after parking, there usually is still a good half hour hike to the actual location where one could start fishing. And AFTER arriving, it takes about another half hour to setup the rods, reels, hooks, and bait before the casting begins.
Driven completely by the expectations of the bounty of fish that we were FOR SURE going to catch, even the half hour hike over rocky terrain passed quickly with both my sister and I overflowing in energy and optimism.
First order of business when we arrived at the location was to get the rods and reels together ASAP and get the first set of lines cast.
The Act of Fishing
What’s funny is that every time we go through this process, we don’t just cast and plant the rods on the rod stakes in the ground. Both my sister and I habitually hold the rod for a good 30 minutes or so hoping for that lucky immediate strike so that we could start our entire weekend with the big catch. Interestingly enough…it almost never happens. This particular trip was no exception. Slightly discouraged, we proceeded to stake the rods and distracted ourselves by helping our parents setup camp to make our day more comfortable as it progressed.
The sun rose and gently laid its fresh rays across the surface of the water. That in itself distracted us further from the lack of action on the bells of our rods. It was beautiful. My sister and I spent the better part of the morning quietly sitting at the base of our rods staring at the silver bells on the tips as if the more we concentrated on the tips, the higher the probability of us catching the fish.
The morning passed into the afternoon uneventfully.
We (my sister and I) started to lose patience and started looking for things to do. We ate, we threw rocks (to our parents dismay…apparently throwing rocks into the water scares fish), we pulled the rods in numerous times to check if maybe the bait had fallen off (that, of course, means that when it’s out of the water, there is NO CHANCE of catching any fish), we basically did all we could do to avoid facing the harsh reality that we weren’t getting what we wanted so badly.
By mid-afternoon we had already left camp to explore our surroundings looking for lizards, tarantulas, any kind of interesting thing we could find; you know, the typical things kids do when they explore. We would sometimes get into some petty argument over things that I can’t even remember. All I remember is that our parents would have to come by and break up the argument and then we would begrudgingly go back to our posts at our seemingly lifeless rods.
So let’s fast forward this story:
First day came and went…
Total Fish Caught on Day 1: Zero
We went back to the RV discouraged and ready to go home. Our father patiently responded, “It’s only been one day, we have two more days to catch up!”. Upon hearing those words of logic and encouragement, our spirits were lifted and we ate dinner then went to sleep looking forward to our first catch the next day.
The second day started off very much the same way. The only difference was that my sister and I became increasingly discouraged earlier and fought with each other even more out of frustration. Consequently, the second day came and went pretty much the same as the first.
Total Fish Caught on Day 2: Donut
By now, my sister and I were ready to give up and the hike back to the RV was full of complaints and negative, discouraging talk. Our parents were pretty quiet about the day as well and upon finishing dinner, we announced to our parents that we didn’t want to wake up early to go fishing on the last day and wanted to sleep in. We didn’t receive any protests from our father except that he said that he would go out first instead at the same early hour as the previous days and that should we feel inclined to join him, he would be in the same approximate area that we’ve been stationed at throughout the weekend.
The next day, as promised, we slept in and woke up to find ourselves alone in the RV. After taking our time eating some breakfast and playing with a few of the “distractions” we brought with us, my sister and I decided to head down to see what we were sure to find was a carbon copy picture of what we had already experienced the previous two days.
Can you see where this is going? Did you know that life always has its way of teaching lessons when we most need it? (I didn’t always know that…who knows HOW many lessons I’ve missed in my life!)
What my sister and I found when we finally arrived to where our parents were was a flurry of activity. The catch net that our parents were using to keep caught fish alive and fresh in the water was so full that they already had to store some of the earlier catches in the cooler they brought out. As we approached camp, our mother was in the middle of reeling in a sizable catch that my sister and I only bragged about catching prior to the weekend. Our reaction ranged from: bewilderment, to envy, to regret, to amazement, and ultimately joy because our parents each had 2 rods up and since my sister and I didn’t bother bringing down our rods (because we essentially had given up on the weekend), they generously shared a rod with each of us so that we could catch a few of our own as well. Lucky us!
We ended the day with more than what we ever imagined we’d catch in one weekend at the reservoir.
Total Fish Caught on Day 3: A LOT
Another Happy Fishing Trip
The 3-day fishing trip ended in high-spirits and despite the poor attitude and mental strength my sister and I exhibited at the time (give us a break, we were both on the cusp of our teenage years), all was good and the ride back home was a relaxing one filled with constant recounts of JUST the last day…unfortunately, nothing was mentioned of the earlier part of the trip. Why do I say unfortunately? Read on!
The Lessons (Get to the point already!)
Upon reflecting back on this story during my drive, I realized that it took YEARS before the plethora of lessons the greater cosmos offered that day actually hit me. In fact, I think the full breadth of it didn’t take hold until this recent drive up north. It took almost a lifetime of personal growth and maturity for me to FULLY GRASP and ACCEPT that which was so generously offered to me at the time.
So let’s break it down and see what lessons were hidden within this extraordinary event in my life:
(Feel free to re-read the story to get the full effect of each revelation…I did..oh an if you find more…let me know! )
The Philosophy of a Fisherman
Passion, Focus, and Desire are powerful tools within you. When cultivated and nurtured, it can give you the power to overcome ANY obstacle in life and catch ANY fish.
Was I thinking of anything else the whole time leading up to the moment I sat down and started fishing right before the weekend? Probably not.
Do I wake up at 4am wide-eyed and bushy-tailed on a regular basis? DEFINITELY NOT.
Would I normally enjoy an extra half mile to a mile grueling trek over unstable and rocky terrain lugging around heavy equipment right after almost a 100 mile road trip? Usually not.
My passion, focus, and desire at the time for fishing and making those big catches had me SOOO pumped that the normal inconveniences of life that would otherwise dissuade others became a trivial matter.
Our Greatest Challenge In The Quest For The BIG CATCH Is MAINTAINING The Passion, Focus, and Desire Within You
So yes, my sister and I lost a LOT of that during the course of the weekend. Whether or not it would have effected the outcome of the first 2 days, we will never know. We do know, of course, that life works in mysterious ways…I’m not going to bother to try and figure that out.
I will say that as my sister and I wasted our energy being distracted and directing it towards random tasks around our camp, it really did very little except chip away at our ability to be steadfast on our quest for “fish”.
How many times have you set out to accomplish something great, only to fall short of it because you got yourself distracted or your energy re-directed to the point where you just gave up? It’s ok…it happens to ALL of us. (Maybe me more so than anybody else!)
Patience is TRULY a virtue. The Fish Will Always Test It.
I don’t know how my parents put up with my sister and I sometimes. Can you imagine what would have happened if they had become caught up with our energy and lost patience as well? We would have all gone home early with a horrible taste in our mouths and many great lessons would have been lost.
In your path towards success, there WILL be moments where you have done ALL that you could have done for the moment and it becomes a matter of allowing your diligence to burgeon and materialize into the goal you’re striving for. Much like a baking a cake…once the ingredients are combined and it gets placed in the oven…you will simply have to wait and watch the fruit of your labor blossom. That of course is a different story…more on that metaphor in a different blog.
This leads us to the next lesson…
The Expectation for Instant Gratification Can Often Detract From Your Greater Purpose And Goal In Life…and The Big Fish Know It.
It’s like spending all your time and energy buying lottery tickets as opposed to investing it wisely for long term success.
While I sat there right after the initial cast hoping with all my energy and heart for that immediate score and catch, I built up my expectations so high on that gamble that just the fact that it didn’t happen, my enthusiasm was IMMEDIATELY effected.
Imagine starting with a full tank of gas in your car and then sitting in park gunning the engine for a good hour before the road trip, wasting precious fuel, and ultimately running out of gas before you get to where you want to go. That’s basically what happened to my sister and I each time we put all our energy into that lucky strike.
Here comes the whopper…
In a case study done by USC Marshall School of Business to find out what trait was most prevalent in successful people. It was found that:
Persistence Is The One Common Denominator Found In All The Greatest Fishermen
When all the factors are in place: Value, Purpose, Passion, Focus, Desire, etc. The one thing that truly separates an individual that succeeds in their life and the one that doesn’t is PERSISTENCE.
It goes without saying, had my father not PERSISTED in the systematic pursuit of achieving the goal of making a catch before the weekend was over, I seriously doubt that we would have caught as many fish as we did. (BTW, none of the fish caught went to waste…we eat all that we catch )
If my father didn’t go at the early hour he did all three days, he may not have had the opportunity to create an almost frenzy like feeding that occurred when a passing school of striped bass happened upon his baited hooks.
Now there are no guarantees in life (and this story doesn’t tell anything different) as there were plenty of times that the fish would bite and in the process of reeling in the catch, the fish would get away. However, there is no doubt in my mind that it was my father’s persistence that paid off in the end.
We can break this down over and over again but the lesson remains the same. Persistence is the key.
Once you develop a system for success for yourself, what WILL make you successful is that final glue.
Ready for the bonus?
As promised I am going back to address why it was “unfortunate” that none of the previous 2 days were even discussed on the way home. Now there have been trips where we really didn’t catch much of anything and, as with life, that does happen. Did that keep us from going back again? No.
What really was missed that day by all of us is that the destination or goal that we all set out for in life may not always present itself the way we expect it to…in fact, it almost never does. What makes it SO gratifying and amazing is this lesson that I am constantly reminding myself of on a DAILY basis:
It Is The JOURNEY To Success That Defines Your Success, Not The Attainment Of Success
It is through the JOURNEY that the SKILLS are developed, the LESSONS are learned, the MISTAKES are made, the LAUGHTER and TEARS are had, the EMPOWERED moments are shared, the INSPIRATIONS are experienced… Basically, EVERYTHING you would want in what everyone defines as SUCCESS. Ironically, it’s not the final destination.
Make your entire life a success…understand that there is no such thing as an ordinary event. Life itself is extraordinary and our teachers are everywhere everyday.
Just make sure you’re not sleeping when it happens.
Hope you enjoyed my post! Let me know your thoughts or share your “Fishing” story with me!