There once was a village fisherman who happened upon a great fishing spot in a secluded part of the bay where he lived. This was important for him because fishing was how he fed his family and made a living. For many years thereafter, the fisherman prospered; the fishing was great and the fish he caught were plentiful and big. The fisherman and his family were well fed.
As the years went by however, things at his perfect fishing spot slowly began to change. First, the fish seemed to get tired of the same bait he always used. Sensing this, the fisherman tried something new and changed bait. Soon he returned to some of the same success he had originally found.
But then, even with new bait, things slowed down again. Not only was he catching less fish, but the fish he did catch were smaller. He had caught all the easy-to-catch big fish in this part of the bay. The prosperity he had found initially was becoming more and more difficult to replicate.
Growing ever more concerned, the fisherman finally sought the advice of a village elder. “What should I do?” the fisherman asked. Said the elder, “Things change. Life changes. Fishing spots change. Everything changes. If you continue to do the same thing time and again – if you don’t change – you will miss out. Life and fish will pass you by.”
“But I tried changing bait,” bemoaned the fisherman. “It only worked for a little while. The fish I catch now are so small. I am having a tough time feeding my family.”
“If you want to prosper,” said the elder, “you need to fish for bigger fish.”
The fisherman thought about what first had worked for him in the beginning, all those years ago. He remembered that he had spent quite a bit of time searching for a sweet spot back then. He had found other spots that were fine, but nothing special. He had continued to search. Then he had discovered his magic spot.
Suddenly he knew what he had to do now.
The problem wasn’t the fish or the bait, it was him. The next morning he set out again. But rather than be afraid that he wasn’t going to his usual spot to use his usual methods, he found himself invigorated by the challenge.
What he realized was that bigger fish lay outside the bay, in deeper waters out in the ocean. He knew that if he was going to find and catch those bigger fish, he would need to fish in unfamiliar waters.
So he turned the rudder away from the familiar and headed out to sea. Once there, it took some adjusting. His old fishing tricks didn’t work so well out here. But slowly, day by day, he refined his efforts. He got bigger fishing poles. Stronger line. Better bait.
And before long, he began to catch bigger fish. Much bigger fish. Fishing in deeper waters also meant he would not run out of fish to catch. He soon taught his children how to think bigger and look to catch their own big fish. And they did. In time, they too prospered, and in fact, the entire village prospered.
The moral of the story? You know the moral of the story.
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success.© Steven D. Strauss.
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