Give Them a Fish

by | Apr 25, 2017

Most of you I am sure have heard the quote, “Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day.  Teach a man to fish, and he eats for the rest of his life.”

There is a very broad gray space between “teach them to fish…” and “they will eat for the rest of their lives.”

A fish can be considered a consumable, an end product, a one-time only deal.  A fishing pole can be called a tool.  Teaching a man to fish is education and training.  End product and tool are pretty clear concepts. Education and training are fairly clear to most of us also. The problem is there are a lot of factors between education and training, and doing it for the rest of your life.

I recently saw an offer to get 16,000 woodworking plans for $67. I decided the deal was worth it, even though it was obvious the seller was playing fast and loose with the term “plans.”  My guess is each description, like length of 2×4 to be cut, could be called a plan.  Probably between 500 and 700 different descriptions of woodwork projects are what I would end with.  Bearing all this in mind as a savvy consumer, this was still a good deal for me.  And I opened up my wallet.

My $67, however, got me zero, zip, nada finished products.  All it got me was the potential for using my skills… as someone who can read plans, my skills as a carpenter, and as someone who knows how to use tools and acquire materials.

And, oh yes, I almost forgot… someone who has the will and motivation to put in the hours and see the project through to its logical end.

There is a tendency for us to love the idea of learning something new; taking a course that will give us lots and lots of potential, and then we fall off when it comes to how much work remains after we pay for, and put in the time to learn the skills and acquire the tools.   There needs to be a bit more detail to the phrase “teach him to fish and….?” It could read more like  “Teach a man to fish and then give him the motivation to get up every day and get himself to where the fish are, cast the nets or drop the fishing line, and use the skills he learned to catch, haul, process and cook the fish for eventual consumption.”

There are many people who like the idea of learning something, and not quite so many who like the idea of applying what they learned, and even fewer who have a concept of the amount of work they need to do after they have  completed a “How to” course.

This one is similar but slightly different from “self-improvement course junkies”, where there is the syndrome of collecting courses, software, tools, and ideas and no real intent to apply them in the real world.  A young published author once said at a Steinbeck convention, “Discipline almost always trumps talent.” He went on to use the phrase, “Butt in the chair.”  In essence, it means you can have all the talent in the world, but if YOU do not apply it and do the work needed to share it with the world, all it really is… is talent with no audience to share it with.

One can spend $100,000.00 and more on training and education, and it is all dollars ill spent if you are not willing to do the work to apply the education, training, and experience in a way that benefits your fellow human beings.

And I have a few thousand wood working plans to prove it.


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