The other day, I posted a note on my office door as a reminder to myself that has been encouraging through my good days of work and ESPECIALLY through the bad.
The sign read: “Gone Fishing.”
Now, for most of us, the phrase “gone fishing” sounds like “gone on vacation,” but my sign actually has nothing to do with checking out of work. In fact, it’s all about being MORE INTENTIONAL about my writing.
One of my favorite stories has always been A River Runs Through It. The Norman McLean novella is about two boys who grow up fishing the rivers of Montana with their dad. As they grow older, it is clear that fly-fishing is a joy they share, and an art they approach with reverence. They head to the river before the sun comes up. They use their own flies. They practice their own disctinct rhythms of casting.
Yes, they sink beers along the river for later, but they are not there to party, they are there to fish with discipline and intention. They come before the great rivers with gratitude even on the days their efforts produce nothing.
When the brothers walk back up the river after a long, hot day of catching no fish, they find that a lazy drunk has stolen all of their sunken beers. The younger brother, Paul, quickly declares (with a laugh and a smile) that they need to hit the river again soon to “wipe this day off the books.”
There may be many ways to catch a fish in Montana, but there is always one simple requirement: you have to show up to the river and go fishing.
I’ve started to see this fishing metaphor as a big deal.
The Jesus dude from the best-selling book on the planet began his ministry with a band of fisherman, right? “I’m going to make you fishers of men,” he tells his crew. Rock star, Noel Gallagher, equates writing songs to catching fish. President Herbert Hoover called fishing a “discipline in the equality of men.”
It doesn’t matter what we do for a living: salesperson, professional athlete, musician, teacher, writer – we should all approach work a little more like fishing.
Our fast food, high-speed culture measures each moment by the pace and volume of immediate results. We want our fish on the hook, we want it now, and we want the bites to be timely and measured. And so we are all too easily discouraged when we don’t get quick and timely “catches.”
Meaningful work is usually a little wilder, untamed, and ill-timed than we often realize… The truth is – our work is much more like the great rivers and the fish that swim under them.
If your efforts “casting lines” on Monday equated to no fish and no cold beer, you’d be less likely to smile, laugh it off and plan the next day on the river… but that is exactly what the fisherman inside us requires. That is what the river demands of fishermen.
I’ve watched elite athletes have a bad day at the gym and show up the next morning at 6 am to “wipe that day off the books.”
The salesman knows a day with no closed deals just means hitting the river again early the next morning to cast lines.
The artist understands that even those days staring at a blank canvas, a blinking curser, or an old guitar necessitates one more day wading into that stream.
Yes, I’ve noticed the people who achieve meaningful work often change gears: they’ve learned to “tie new flies,” adjusted times and routines and some may even learn to cast with a different rhythm. But, they all have one thing in common… they show up faithfully to their river everyday to fish:
On the miserably hot days,
On the cold days,
In the sun,
And in the rain.
After days full of record catches,
And weeks where nothing even bites.
They fish sick.
They fish well.
They fish injured,
They fish at full strength.
But, they always fish.
They know the secret to joy and meaning in their work is to show up to the great river each day with gratitude and reverence and faithfully cast their line.
My “Gone Fishing” sign is a reminder that my work begins and ends with wading into the muddy water and casting faithfully each and every day.
No matter what you do for a living, remember that a river runs through it… and that river demands your intention.
So get out there with me today and lets cast a few lines.