Monday, 18 April 2016

Fish where the big fish are

As you'll have gathered by now I love exploring the hidden metaphor within the language we're using. The above tweet, and Facebook update, had me wondering what insight exploring the metaphor might provide. That is, what does 'going where the big fish are' mean metaphorically?

To get the most from this post it would be useful to spend a little time thinking about a situation you might be able to apply this situation to - finding more clients, dating, getting your book published, finding a new home. Any situation where you've not yet found what you're looking for. 

What would the benefit be to you of finding the solution? What would achieving that outcome give you? 

Now you've provided yourself with some motivation to read on lets get on with it.

I wasn't at #PSAUK /  #PSALive on Saturday, so I don't know where Matt Crabtree took the saying, nor the context in which the words were said. I'm just using it as a great example of how to notice your language, and to then look for the hidden solutions contained within the words. Recent posts have done this with other words such as 'stick in the mud', 'keep your head above water', 'going around in circles', and 'treading on thin ice'.

As with any metaphoric exploration, it's useful to put real life to the back of your mind. To fully immerse yourself in the metaphor - not wondering how it relates to real life, not yet anyway - and just keep digging, and get a sense of the richness of the metaphor. Richness, because if a picture paints a thousand words, then a metaphor paints a thousand pictures, and a million words can't help but contain the solution.

So where are the big fish? And how might that be in a different place from the smaller fish?

The definition of 'big fish' is contextual of course - big fish in a goldfish bowl are going to be much smaller than big fish in a pond, that are smaller than big fish in a lake, that are smaller than big fish in the ocean. So you do need to choose your water?
Although I already wonder if that's what Matt was talking about with the bigger fish being found in the ocean?

As I predominantly work with large corporate organisations I'm going to explore the big fish in the ocean. We would, I'm sure, get different insights if we explored the big fish in a lake or pond, and if you have time I'd certainly suggest you do that - if only because you'll get different insights. After all, in a pond you have more control over what the fish eat, and who has access to them, and just need to feed them well and they'll get bigger.

Once we've made the decision of what type of water the fish are located in, the question then becomes how are we defining 'big' - is it the longest, or the heaviest, or the most plentiful, or perhaps the biggest fish we can catch easily, or the biggest fish of a certain species or genus of fish?

Interesting that I've already jumped to aiming for the big'est or the long'est and not just any big fish! Something I'm sure we often do in life - ignoring the actual objective, and aiming for the best, and yet making it more unattainable at the same time.

I Googled 'big fish' and found this wiki of the largest fish. It identified the largest fish in each genus of fish covering:

As I looked at the list, and the characteristics of these fish, then it became apparent that we need to consider where in the world we are fishing - it's no use aiming for a particular big fish if it's only found in the seas off the Antarctic, if we have no way of getting there.
When exploring metaphors it's useful to follow the tangents your mind takes you down, because they're often where the nuggets can be found. I remembered a post I'd written some time ago about needing to look beneath the surface because:

"Less than 10 percent of all fish species remain. Half the coral reefs globally have died or are in sharp decline. Since the 1950s 300 dead zones - oxygen-deficient areas that can't sustain life - have appeared along coasts. Contaminated water is increasing disease worldwide, including cholera. Pollutants in seafood is sickening growing numbers of people. The human impact on oceans and subsequently on climate change is effecting the future of the planet." The World is Blue by Sylvia A Earle

In the context of fishing for big fish then we need to understand the sustainability of the water we're fishing in, and the fish we're wanting to find. You'll certainly want to ensure the effort you put in now will have the opportunity for continued fish in the future, not be a one off experience. Unless it's a particularly tasty or huge fish anyway. You may even need to think about how to clean up the water, and reduce the pollutants.

Effort required to fish is important - what boat do you need, what fishing equipment, how long will you need to be at sea, do you have the qualifications, or do you need someone to skipper the boat for you, or do you outsource the fishing, and just benefit from the catch once its landed?

Which raises a question I should have asked earlier - what are we wanting to do with the fish and how many do you need? One fish versus many fish will impact the solution, and certainly the effort you're prepared to put in to find it. Do you want to swim with it, eat it, feed it to others, put it in an aquarium, put it in a pond or spawning nets, or something else entirely? Remembering that a fish won't live for long if it's taken out of water!

If you're wanting to eat the fish - then some fish are poisonous - so how can you ensure you keep away from those?
I'm not suggesting any of this was meant when Matt said what he said. It's often the same when we say we're stuck in a rut or can't see the wood for the trees - we take the words at face value and move on.

I'm simply suggesting if you're using the words to describe a situation you're wanting more insight on, or are stuck about, then exploring the words more fully may open up your mind to finding the solution.

There's no right or wrong - Matt may have had a particular intention with his words, and so may I in this exploration, that won't stop you however from taking it in a different direction all together. The key is that the direction your mind takes you in, is the direction your unconscious believes the answer will lie. Trust that, and go in the tangents your mind provides, and continue to explore the metaphor.

You may realise you don't want to use a net to catch your fish, or a fishing rod
but dive for it yourself. For many that might mean learning to dive first.  
It depends on how many fish you're wanting to catch, what depth they can be found at, and how big they are.

The aim is to have some fun with the exploration - once you think you've had enough - why not go a little absurd (ok - a little 'more' absurd). Perhaps mix up the words you were using. In this instance it might be about:
  • Swim where the big fish are - which takes the exploration in a different direction
  • Dive where the big fish are
  • Sink with the big fish
  • Feed the big fish
  • Fish where the big shoals are
  • Fish for a shoal
  • Fish for a big shoal
Yes doing this may change the meaning Matt intended, but if swimming with the fish makes more sense for you, and enables you to take action towards your goal, isn't that what's important? 

Once you've fully explored the metaphor then it's time to apply the insights from the exploration to real life. Perhaps something came to mind whilst you were reading the above, or you may need to go back and consider how each point relates to real life. Just allow the one or two insights that might make a difference to emerge. Then decide what action you will take and when.

For me insights have appeared that suggest actions such as:

Be clear about

  • What you want
  • How much of it you want
  • Where you want it
  • How long you want it for 
  • Why you want it 
  • How you're going to achieve it 
  • How much effort you're prepared to put in

  • Size isn't everything 
  • It's not always about diminishing or obliterating another to get what you want 
  • Others may have the same objective 
  • Big things were once small things 
  • Be realistic - it's no use starting something that's impossible 
  • The amount of effort dictates the outcome 
  • And so on
That is, what actions came to mind as you explored metaphorically 'fishing for big fish'.

How might these actions help you to achieve your goal? 

I'd love to know how you got, and get on.

Alison Smith
Landscaping your Life
Using nature to inspire change - inside and out

There's more here on why metaphors are so useful when you're stuck, or unsure what direction to take, and are looking for solutions that have thus far eluded you.

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