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The Fish

Once a upon a time there was an old dreary little fish market in Seattle. The employees didn’t want to be there. Few customers wanted to be there either.

Johnny, the owner, was hard to work for. He lost his temper easily. He came to work each morning dreading the day and left each night exhausted and unhappy.

One day Johnny looked in the mirror (metaphorically speaking) and realized he needed to change.

In the past Johnny had always just demanded results. But this time was different. He decided to ask his employees, “what do you want our workplace to be? What do we want it to be?” the fishmongers were amazed. No one had ever invited them to help create the workplace they wanted.

Then the littlest fishmonger, who was to young to know better said, “why don’t we become world famous?” they all hesitated for a moment. Then everyone said, “ Why not?” it was sheer inspiration.

All of them, Johnny included, committed to being world famous. Each fishmonger was free to live this vision in their own way. They agreed to coach each other, to help each other stay focused on their commitment. Even the newest employee coached Johnny like everybody else.

The fishmongers soon learned that they acted differently when they were ‘being’ world famous. There was no textbook or manual. They just knew the right thing to do at the right time. Things started to change…

Meanwhile, John, a young prince from a faraway land (actually he is a documentary filmmaker from Minnesota with a receding hairline, but he is a prince of a guy) was with his noble knight, Steve Lundin, on an island near Seattle. They were filming David Whyte, a wise prophet and business thinker who spoke to organizations about ‘bringing our whole selves to work.’

John, who was a cheap prince, spent the weekend in Seattle to save a few bucks on airfare. During his stay, a friendly local suggested he visit the Pike Place Market.

As John wandered among the colourful flower and fruit stands, he heard a commotion on the other side on the marketplace.

Like a child drawn to the Pied Piper, he followed the sound to a crowd gathered around a small fish market. He saw crabs and salmon tossed over the counter for wrapping. The crowd cheered each spectacular catch. The employees and customers smiled and laughed. The cash registers tang constantly. And there was joy in the village.

John saw how hard the fishmongers worked to serve people. The market was busy and noisy, with constant distractions, yet when a fishmonger served a customer, it was like there were the only two people in the place.

Selling fish didn’t look like this much fun at any of the other fish stands John had passed along the way. What made this place so different, so alive? He noticed a sign above the counter: World Famous Pipe Place Fish.

John asked one of the fishmongers, ‘What’s going on here?’

The fishmonger, a wild-haired young man by the of Shawn, had a question of his own. ‘Did you eat lunch today?’

‘Yeah,’ John said, wondering what the fellow was getting at.

‘How was the service?’

John shrugged his shoulders. ‘Okay, I guess.’

‘Did the waiter connect with you? Or did he just take your money?’

‘Connect with me?’ John had no idea what this guy was talking about.

Shawn looked John in the eye ‘This is our moment together, yours and mine. How may I serve you?’

John remembered something David Whyte said: ‘We spend more time at work than we do with our family or friends. Yet we leave much of our passion, energy and creativity at home. If we can’t bring the best of ourselves to our work, we’re saying it’s OK to be unhappy, bored or resigned for a big part of our lives’

Suddenly it all made sense. These fishmongers were living something that companies spent millions of dollars searching for every year. They had chosen to ‘bring their whole selves’ to work. John wanted this feeling in his kingdom (a small company called ChartHouse Learning). Surely others did too. He had to make a film about this incredible idea.

He worked up enough courage to approach the owner. John said he was a filmmaker, but before he could continue, Johnny said, ‘Where have you been? We’ve been waiting for you.’

So the young prince returned to the Emerald City with his noble film crew (that’s us). Later, after going through 40 hours of footage,322 pots of coffee, 216 boxes of donuts and one wrestling match ( involving the final donut), John and his merry band (that’s us again) unearthed a long-forgotten language. This language described the way the fishmongers worked…

These four principles are the foundation of FISH!!!





This language created new possibilities in organizations around the world. People reinvented what their experience at work could be. The passion and joy they discovered led to surprising business improvements. While people didn’t always live happily ever after, they did see that they had a choice in the matter.

Now it’s time for you to…

Catch the Energy & Release the Potential

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