Fishing Lessons: Hook, Line and Sinker

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I tend to think about my everyday activities and what lessons I learn that I can apply to business. Over the past few months, I am fortunate to have been on several fishing trips, which I love! In fact, I even have a girls’ fishing group called The Happy Hookers!

Keep in mind, I live in New Orleans and have easy access to fishing from Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Borgne to the Chandeleur Islands cradling the Louisiana coast, and Cat and Ship Islands which are barrier islands in the Gulf of Mexico protecting the Mississippi coastline. Fishing is a way of life in Southeast Louisiana and Southern Mississippi.

So what lessons have I learned from fishing that will help me in business?

Get up early. You’ve heard that the “early bird catches the worm.” Well, getting up early to fish usually allows you to take advantage of falling tides when the fish are moving and feeding. Waters are usually calmer and the sun not quite as beastly. Being an early riser is a common trait among successful people for similar reasons. Research has shown that early risers are more optimistic (more bites) and conscientious (the right bait), translating to success (more fish). Have you often wished there were more hours in the day? Think of getting up one hour earlier to give yourself a “25-hour day.” And check out Chasing Sunrise out of Canada. It’s a campaign for early birders to try to get up at 4:30AM every day this October to see what they can accomplish. Pretty cool (for morning people).

Enjoy boat ride serenity. There is nothing quite so calming as the marsh coming alive with a sunrise. The ride out to favorite fishing spots is one of the best ways for me to be introspective, to mellow out, and to become one with God and nature. The quiet time in the early morning, witnessing the majesty of our world, sets the mood for the day. While I am not a morning fan, when I do get up early, I feel like I have accomplished more by 10 am than I do for the rest of the day. Efficiencies in silence are reap rewards.

Have the right equipment. No matter how good at fishing you are, the right fishing poles, line, bait and tackle make catching fish easier. On my last trip, our line was not strong enough so every time we hooked big (24-inch) redfish, our lines snapped. Until we changed the strength of the fishing line, we lost fish. As in business, without the right tools, we are hindered in doing our jobs well. Technology, hardware and software, and work environment are all critical.

Maintain patience. While fishing often requires patience (waiting for the fish to bite), it also requires being nimble enough to admit when the fish are not biting in your location. You’ve probably heard the saying “fish or cut bait.” It’s time to move on, change spots, change strategy. In business, we all face losses, whether clients, employees, or prospects. Rather than mire oneself in the loss, it is a time to try something different, pick up your pole, switch bait and move on. There are more fish out there just waiting to be caught.

Fish with someone better than you. Since I fish only a few times a year, it is easy for me to fish with people better than I am (most everyone is better!). Each time I go out, I learn something new. Whether it is fishing the birds which are feeding on trout or perfecting my casting alongside the marsh grass to watch for a school of redfish or becoming more adept at baiting my hook with a live shrimp or croaker, I am a firm believer in learning by doing. Back at the office, I try to be a mentor to young professionals developing their careers, but I also look to business contemporaries from whom I can learn.

Take a risk. I remember the first time I went 30 plus miles off the coast of the Baja Peninsula to go marlin fishing. The ocean swells were enormous, and the ride rough. Plus, the guide was not sure about having a woman on board, and he did not speak much English. Be that as it may, I was determined to catch a marlin. When it hit and I finally pulled in this amazing fish after about what seemed an eternity, I experienced one of the most exhilarating highlights of my life-a moment I will never forget. Without taking the risk, without going out of my comfort zone, I would never have accomplished my goal. It took me years before I took a risk and opened my own business, and to this day, I have never looked back.

Wear sunscreen. The sun is brutal along the Gulf, so fishermen should protect themselves with hats, shirts, eyewear and, of course sunscreen. Protecting one’s business is much the same, with different insurance policies that meet your needs. Some you might consider are property and casualty, directors and officers, business liability, business interruption, healthcare insurance and riders for valuables such as artwork and antiquities. Insurance agents are a great resource for evaluating your situation and advising you on a myriad of options.

Get your hands dirty. We do a lot of work with nonprofit organizations, and if you have ever worked with npo’s you know that everyone wears many hats. In the midst of events, for example, titles are neutral. Executive directors and board presidents set up booths and haul trash-no job is beneath them. Our PR firm is much like that-everyone is trained to do most anything, and we know that to be successful we all must pitch in and understand how to perform each task. This takes me back to the 24-inch redfish. My fishing buddy was not able to clean and filet these gigantic fish that day so I was on my own. While I was comfortable with smaller fish like trout, I had never tackled a bull red. It is amazing how helpful YouTube instructional videos are. While it was not easy, I fileted the fish by the hardest (with the right equipment); cleaned up the scaly, bloody mess; and sat back exhausted but proud I had done it. Of course, there is plenty room for improvement!

Relish the rewards. My fishing “mentor” is fond of saying that “Catching is better than fishing.” Nothing beats fresh fish for dinner-and the “fish tales” that go with the fishing trip. In business, take time to share your success stories with staff, clients and prospects. And remember individual praise. There is nothing more heartening than hearing from a client that he or she is pleased with our work, and applauding the strategists for their accomplishments means the world. These successes become a part of our brands. Take time to savor success.

Hook, line and sinker all play a part on business; let them work for you to help you land the big one.

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