Of Fish and Philosophy…

A few years ago, a book called Fish! Philosophy made a err…splash in the world of workplace motivation.

On a visit to Seattle in 1997, John Christensen, owner of ChartHouse Learning, observed fish sellers at Pike Place Fish Market tossing trout and salmon through the air of the market, providing high energy that energized many pedestrians passing by on their lunch breaks. They gave their complete attention to each customer and ensured each had an enjoyable visit.

Christensen noticed the actual work of selling fish was repetitive, cold and exhausting. It occurred to him that the fishmongers might not enjoy every part of their job, but they chose to bring joy to how they approached it. They also sold a lot of fish. 

And they sold a lot of books. And a lot of training programs. Just about everyone you met gushed about this philosophy on how to go about your work.

And then, like many other such flash motivations, it kind of died out. I don’t know if anyone today still goes by that paradigm, or even has heard about this method.

I don’t know in what context it came up, but today I was speaking with someone on my plans for reinventing the way we go about our tasks (again). Every 2-3 years, I tend to try to examine ways of how to get things done differently. This approach has led us to find new avenues of productivity, increased efficiency and discover new tools that make our work easier. On the whole, this approach kindled a journey of learning and new experiences.

I stand at that crossroad again. Starting January 2023, we will be working differently – significantly different from how we currently approach our daily tasks. I don’t know how many of these new methods will stick, and how many will fade away, but one thing is certain – a new journey of experiences and learning will be embarked upon.

I may have forgotten Fish! Philosophy on the way, but the teachings of the Gita resound from over five thousand years…

कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन |
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि ||

You have a right to perform your prescribed duties, but you are not entitled to the fruits of your actions. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, nor be attached to inaction.

And from the Kāvyaprakāśa:

यशोधिगन्तुं सुखलिप्सया वा मनुष्यसंख्यामतिवर्तितुं वा |  
निरुत्सकानामभियोगभाजां समुत्सुके वाङ्कमुपैति सिद्धिः ||

yashodhigantum sukhalipsayā vā manuśyasamkhyāmativartitum vā nirutsakānāmabhiyogabhājām samutsuke vānkmupaiti siddhih

Kavya Prakasha

Success itself is keen to fall in the lap of and embrace a person who is not very keen to be famous, or who is not desirous of attaining pleasure or happiness, or who wants to be the very best (in any field) but the one who performs his duties diligently and selflessly without any undue anxiety about the results of his/her action.

Action, and not anxiety on the results. And action can get monotonous…If you cannot change the action, change the method of the action. And do your best. And don’t worry about if it works, or not.

If it works, then continue. Else discard, and try another way.

It cannot get any simpler than that!