Secret Fishing Spots and Enduring Crisis

By David Robertson, IPLI Mentor & Member of IPLI Leadership Team and Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education at Warsaw Community Schools.

One of the things my kids and I like best about warming spring weather is Spring Fishing!  I really didn’t grow up fishing, but fishing has become a favorite pastime for my kids and me.

It’s a well known fact in the fishing world that you don’t share your best spots with other fishermen.  It makes sense, right?  If I keep my favorite fishing spot secret, that means more fish for me.  I’ve found that while this is a well-known fact amongst people who fish, it’s hardly ever followed.

Let me explain…

Recently, my son and I decided to spend a few minutes fishing on a channel at one of our local lakes.  It was one of the first warm days of the spring, and we really just wanted to get outside and spend time together more than anything else.  When we arrived at the lake, an older gentleman was packing up his gear to leave.  We began fishing as he packed up.  After a few minutes, he walked over to us and shared that he had done pretty well that day and caught several fish.  Next, he showed us right where they were biting!  He left, and my son and I moved over to the spot he shared with us.  About an hour later we had caught 11 fish!

This wasn’t the first time someone had broken the sacred rule of secret fishing spots with me.  In fact, all of my best spots were shared with me by someone else.  Maybe my experience is unique; however, I’ve also shared those spots with others.  I guess I’ve broken that sacred rule just as much as anyone else.

My experience this week got me thinking, “If fishermen aren’t supposed to share their best spots with others, why have people shared their best spots with me, and why have I felt like I should share those great spots with others?”

I have a few ideas on the answers to these questions and I think they make sense for leaders as well.

Joy of Sharing:

We can’t deny it; it feels good to share!  I know it helped that I had an anxious 8-year-old boy with me who loves to fish, but the gentlemen who shared the good fishing spot came across as genuinely excited to share.  I believe there’s an aspect to our humanity that causes us to feel good when we share.  For leaders, it’s easy to get caught up in our own success.  We have a drive to be the best, and that drive is good.  However, that drive is BEST when not only are we successful, but others are as well.  The best type of success is success that leads to good for ALL!

Appreciation for Hard Things:

Catching fish is not always easy!  In fact, it can be incredibly difficult.  It’s hard to know where the fish will be feeding, what kind of bait they will respond to, or how the weather might impact their behavior.  I believe part of the reason fishermen share more than they “ought” to is that they understand how difficult the task is.  If it were easy, I wonder if they would be so accommodating?

Likewise, for leaders, what we choose to help others with shows what we value.  When we choose to show others the way, we communicate that it’s the best way to go.

Someone Helped Us:

I believe most of the fishermen who have shared the good spots with me had someone share those spots with them first.  That’s what I did, right?  When someone asked where we caught our fish, I told them.  The point is, none of us would be where we’re at in life without the assistance of others.  All leaders can point to someone who helped shaped them into the leader they are today.  The fact is, we all depend on each other.

Sharing: Important all the time, critical in crisis:

I can’t help but consider these ideas in the lens of our current situation.  Our nation, our families, our schools, our business are faced with the crisis of the Coronavirus pandemic.  If leading is about sharing during “normal” times, it’s absolutely critical during a crisis.  As leaders, it’s our responsibility to take care of ourselves during crisis, and also take care of those we lead.  During a crisis, what normally works might not work in a given context.  Helping others along by sharing what you’ve discovered does work is critical.  It’s better for all.

So if you’ve found a good fishing hole lately, make sure you take some time this week to share it with others!