Fish Wisdom: Vital Lessons for Today (EP.156)



Most of us have heard the piece of wisdom pointing out that if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach that man to fish, you will feed him for a lifetime. Well, not so fast. In order for someone to want to fish for themselves, buying and maintaining the tackle, sometimes going out in the cold and rain, and occasionally spending most of the day and coming back with nothing, they must be motivated. Without motivation, they will still want the free fish. 

Now, let’s add one more level to using fishing as a metaphor for feeding humanity. Teach a man to teach others to fish, and how to motivate them, and you feed a nation.

Knowing how to fish is the how. Motivation is the why. 

That is the subject of today’s 10-minute blog/podcast.


America is a unique and exceptional nation. Part of the  equally unique and exceptional role we need to play in it is to understand what we need to do to help others to be personally responsible. Acting on that understanding is part of our personal responsibility to be our Brother’s Keepers

More and more prominent politicians are volunteering to give out free fish in return for votes. And these are expensive fish; healthcare, housing, a universal basic income (free money)–and the list grows as many of them continue to work to outbid each other. The debate moderators should be replaced by an auctioneer. They are even pushing to give away the fishing training, i.e., higher education. All of them are missing the motivation piece. 

And this needed motivation is coming under more and more attack as people are being told that they deserve things simply because they are human. “Here’s your free fish, human person. Don’t forget to come back tomorrow for more.” Not that long ago, people were motivated to provide for themselves and those dependent upon them because there was no other choice. Nobody was handing out much of anything. Today, we have choices. The choices that others lay out for us are not good choices, like which kind of fish do we prefer, and how best to catch them. They talk only about terrible choices, like wanting free fish or to go fishing instead. 

Pause to help the politicians with their message. “Reasonable access to healthcare and the other necessities of life is your right. And along with that right comes the responsibility to do your absolute best, not just show up and try. If you have sufficient need, we will tax others to give you the correct level of either temporary or permanent support.” There. Fixed it.

Let’s go back to the fishing example. It is clear that by fishing we mean taking personal responsibility. And by teaching, we mean everything from parental instruction to academic education to vocational schools. But this classic, oft-used fishing example misses the mark, because it leaves out motivation. Remember: teaching is the how, motivation is the why. No one will do the how until they know the why.

In the media, political debates and in our general discourse, how often do you hear the subject of motivation come up? Every parent has said, at least once, referring to at least one of their children, “He’s so talented. But there is no motivation!” Good parents will struggle to motivate their kids, with examples, rewards and consequences, introduction to possible mentors–anything that might work. Good teachers will also work hard to motivate their students. And great employers will do the same with their employees. 

Politicians run from any suggestion that their voter be held personally responsible, to be motivated to fend for themselves; not nearly enough people would vote for a candidate like that. Imagine “I want to give it to you free because you are human.” squaring off in a debate with, “If it is at all possible, I want you to fend for yourself, and to be your Brother’s Keeper.” The first candidate makes the taxpayers responsible for you and your brothers and sisters; the second candidate makes you responsible for both. Isn’t it our job to change things so that the second candidate will win?

For things to work, we must motivate ourselves, and help to motivate our brothers and sisters. 

Okay, Will, just exactly how do I do that? Fair question. For the answer, go back to the observation that teaching is the how, and motivation the why. And only the why motivates us. No why, no fishing. Without the why, the how is virtually meaningless. To find out your–or someone else’s–why, you can’t just sit there and ask what the motivation is. There might not be a ready, truly motivating, answer. Or it might be something like, “I want to make money.” If you probe a bit and ask why money is important, you might get, “When I was a kid, we were too poor to have anything but a ramshackle home that I was ashamed of, and there was certainly no money for college. I want my kids’ lives to be different and better.” Now we have a motivation that will drive someone through just about anything. The vital process of finding the why, in you or in others, reqiuires patience and a ton of listening married to open ended questions. This process will not always be immediately effective. But much good will come from introducing the subject, the need for a why, and getting the discovery process started.

Today’s Key Point: No one will do the how until they know the why.

Let’s restate the fishing example in a much-needed and complete, Revolution 2.0™ form:

  • Give a man a fish, and you will feed him for a day. 
  • Teach that same man how to fish, and help to motivate him, and you feed him for a lifetime. 
  • Teach him to teach and motivate others, and you feed a nation.

Join me, join Revolution 2.0 in doing this. In making it happen.

Segueing from the specifics of today’s topic to overall principles, the core, driving principles at Revolution 2.0, are:

  1. Personal Responsibility; take it, teach it and,
  2. Be Your Brother’s Keeper. The answer to the biblical question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” is a ringing, unequivocal “Yes.” There is no other answer.

And do it all in love; without love, these are empty gestures, destined to go nowhere and mean nothing.

If we apply those two core principles, personal responsibility and brother’s keepers, simultaneously, never only one or the other, we will always be on the right path. Depending upon what we face, one principle or the other may appropriately be given more emphasis, but they are always acted upon together.

The Founders, Revolution 1.0, were declared traitors by the British Crown, and their lives were forfeit if caught. We risk very little by stepping up and participating in Revolution 2.0™. In fact, we risk our futures if we don’t. 

Revolution 1.0 in 1776 was built by people talking to other people, agreeing and disagreeing, but always finding ways to stay united and go forward. Revolution 2.0 will be built the same way.

Don’t forget to visit the store. Fun stuff, including hats, mugs and t-shirts. Recommend other items that you’d like to see.

Links and References

Am I My Brother’s Keeper? (EP. 11)

Give a Man a Fish

As we get ready to wrap up, please do respond in the blog with comments or questions about this podcast or anything that comes to mind, or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. And you can subscribe to the podcast on your favorite device through Apple Podcasts, Google, or Stitcher.

If you liked today’s podcast, other podcasts or the site itself, tell another person. Each One Reach One will help spread the word about Revolution 2.0™.

Know your stuff, then act on it. Knowing your stuff without acting is empty; acting without knowing is dangerous.

Will Luden, writing to you from my home office at 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.

Will Luden
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One Response

  1. Domijana Reply

    What a fantastic read! Your ability to present ideas in a clear and concise manner is impressive. This post not only provided great insights but also sparked some new ideas for me. Thank you for putting in the effort to share this!

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