Sixteen years ago when I was just barely twenty, I was touring with a band known as Captive Free. We were out west in the Seattle area, discovering all kinds of sights we'd never before seen. We happened upon the Pikes Place Market on one of our days off and decided to go exploring. Among the many sights, smells and sounds that I can still recall about that place all these years later, one of my most favorites was the F!SH market. You could hear this particular fish stand from several yards away. The bustle of feet shuffling, the sudden roars of laughter from the gathered crowd, the predominant voice of a boisterous man cajoling individuals as they walked by, and even the sound of flying fish slapping against the linoleum at another failed attempt by a random person trying to catch it. Upon approaching the noise and edging our way to the front of the onlooking crowd, there they stood before us THE "fishmongers" - every day men and women wearing rubber boots, plastic aprons and gloves, surrounded by case after case of fresh fish on ice. And behind the counter were individuals who happened to be passing by and persuaded to catch a flying fish with the promise that if they caught it they could keep it for free. Naturally in any crowd, there are those eager and willing to accept the challenge, and for every 1 of those there were 5 of us content to watch - embarrassed at the mere thought of stepping into such a scene. To this day, I'm not sure, exactly, how I ended up behind the counter to participate in this little game of catch the flying fish, but I'm pretty sure one of my teammates had something to do with it (and if I were to dig deep enough, I bet I could find the picture as evidence). Either way, it happened, and I'll never forget the smell of that fish or the feel of it as it coursed through my hands and landed with all its cold and slimy girth at my exposed, flip-flopped feet. It all happened so fast I scarcely had time to feel the rush of embarrassment, but rather caught myself caught in the rapture of the moment.
I recall that memory with a smile, and what I particularly love about the recall of it is that I encountered these fishermen completely absorbed in their every day trade before I went on to hear about their philosophy, which for a time, took the world by storm. If you haven't ever even heard about F!SH philosophy or seen one of their videos, I highly encourage you to look them up, as it is well worth the time. The individuals working that fish stand are ordinary people, and by and large, they are working an uninteresting job of stocking, selling and packing fish. What makes them extraordinary is their vision, attitude and ability to inspire others to be interested in a market that would otherwise be overlooked. The fish market at Pikes Place market is tucked in between all of these textile shops with custom made goods and bakeries and coffee shops with yummy smelling treats. I have to believe the fish market just wasn't as exciting or alluring in such a scintillating setting. Until one day, the workers of the fish market decide, "Hey, what if we were to BE THERE, PLAY, CHOOSE OUR ATTITUDE and MAKE THEIR DAY?" And as I described above, I know from experience that they not only decided to make this their mantra, they actually live by it. Their ingenuity launched into something much bigger, it became this tool for engaging and inspiring individuals and organizations globally. They have made the 4 pillars of their mantra the hallmark of their success, and even in the presence of a rise in attention, fame and wealth, they continue to run their business in Pikes Place, stocking, selling and packing fish. They effectively remain true to who they are while leading and inspiring others to be a part of a bigger purpose.
Those fishmongers, the ones who got me, the shy one, to play along in their flying fish game, as well as lead organizations globally to bring energy, passion and a positive attitude with them to work every day, those are the kind of leaders I aspire to emulate.