Given the name of our company, it is obvious that The Angler is a play on words. Plays on words may seem like cheap or unsophisticated humor to some, but actually they are a great, simple way to keep flexing our minds to make associations and to see connections. Besides, they tend to make people smile, and that’s a healthy thing. Smiles and laughter relax barriers between people and groups and even those barriers and blockages that exist within one’s own body and mindset. That’s important when you want to innovate and grow. The “angle” you take to look at things makes all the difference in what you see and what you realize you need to do to be effective.
I am also drawn to the definition of “angler” (a person who fishes using a hook and a rod). I know many fishermen and women, and I realize there are 6 characteristics of anglers that mirror the qualities we find in serially successful innovators, intrapreneurs and leaders with a positive growth orientation.
- Casting among vast opportunity space. As I write this from my office, I look out at Lake Michigan and realize just what a big body of water it is, teeming with obvious things going on above the surface but even more so below the surface. Anglers go to lakes, rivers, streams, ponds and oceans teeming with below the surface dynamics, and they expect to make a catch every time. Why are they so optimistic? Because they are not random or limiting about where they cast and what they do. They are strategic and creative.
- Successful strategies and executions are often more subtle than obvious. Rather than one size fits all, the strategies of successful angling is made up of a lot of little strategic decisions and agile execution moves. Anglers make strategic decisions about which body of water to choose and where to stand to cast their line. They choose time of day, knowing the fish they want to catch and their behavior under various conditions. They also come prepared with a tackle box that allows them to execute with agility. They pick and choose various ways they believe will convince a fish to bite, or that will help them learn more about the environment and behavior of the fish. For instance, what you put on the end of the hook as incentive matters. It is different for different fish in different conditions. A good angler has learned that and is willing to be flexible and resourceful in their execution tactics.
- “Power within” resource use. Anglers are both economic and creative. For instance, in the category of bait, they may use raw hamburger, leftovers from morning breakfast, bread that everyone else finds stale and useless, worms in the ground, pesky flies. They see potential in things others may ignore or throw away. There is also an angler culture that exists, and anglers tend to share advice and stories about what’s biting where, impact of terrain, how to approach the infamous “fish that always seems to get away” and so on. They use networks and the culture, combined with other resources within their reach to win.
- Importance of relationships. In addition to tapping and sharing wisdom with other anglers, people I know who fish with a rod and a hook take a more individualized approach to their craft. They actually speak about each fish with a tone of respect and relationship. Whether the fish becomes that night’s supper or gets thrown back, there is something personal, mindful, and even ritualistic about it.
- Embrace the stillness. While anglers are known for sharing information and learning from others, there is also a stillness, a peacefulness, a stepping away from the noise and usual pace of life that all anglers cherish and use to their advantage. In fact, stillness is a simple rule of angling. Fish do not respond well to noise and aggressive splashing. Anglers know how to stay still and save the fish stories and power boating for later.
- It’s practical and a metaphor. “Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.” Almost every angler I know cites that quote from the movie “A River Runs Through It.” To them, the business of fishing is practical – literally putting food on the table and transforming a resource to meet a demand. On the surface, success can be boiled down to the measures “How many fish did you catch today?” “How big were they?” However, what sets anglers apart is that they appreciate the complexities and subtleties of what goes into it. The way they go about the art and science of angling applies to the way they see and go about life in general. They tend to stand out from the norm because, in a way, they, too, see and do things from a different angle.
Stay tuned for future installments of The Angler. They won’t always be about fishing, but they will always be about understanding what is below the surface and using the power within to see and act differently and grow.