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Learning to Fish

Estimated Lesson Time: 3 minutes

On the streets, for every economically disadvantaged person begging for money there are several people who help out by giving change. At home, for every dependent adolescent there is a loving parent catering to the child’s every need. In business, for every needy employee there is a caring manager just trying to help. There is an old saying by Lao Tzu, the father of Taoism, which says “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” Too often in life we ask for fish, and too often others give fish away. Within Mr. Tzu’s statement lie two keys to success.

Key number one: we must seek instruction over temporary assistance. An ambitious young gentleman knocked on the door to my home several years back. He was selling magazines through a company that “teaches economically disadvantaged young adults communication and business skills to help achieve success.” Needless to say, I had a great talk with the gentleman. Before we parted ways, and after I confirmed he had access to the Internet, I told him I would not be buying any subscriptions (I had no need or desire for magazine subscriptions, and any purchase would have simply been a handout), but I would be doing much more for him. I reached into my pocket and gave him one of my YearToSuccess.com cards, which has no other information besides, “YearToSuccess.com - Are You Ready for It?.” By the look on his face, I could see that he was disappointed, yet a bit curious. He may have thrown the card away, or he may have actually joined Y2S, I may never know. It is not always easy to accept instruction over more temporary, yet immediately gratifying forms of assistance, but in our quest for success, we must seek the instruction and graciously accept it.

Key number two: we must offer instruction rather than temporary assistance. I am personally guilty of “giving away fish.” When I sold my web hosting company in 2001, my wife and I gave away a significant amount of money to family and employees in the company. Just two years later, many of those to whom we gave the money were no better off financially than they were before the gift, and several were actually in a worse financial situation. Why? How could giving somebody a significant amount of money hurt his of her financial situation? There are actually many reasons such as poor spending habits, living beyond one’s means, and having a false sense of security. However, I believe the main reason is that giving someone money, or other material goods, hampers their desire to seek a permanent solution to improving their financial situation. The same holds true for doing anything for anyone where, with a little knowledge and persistence, they can do for themselves.

“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” Spend your life learning to fish, and teaching others how to fish, and you will sow and reap the seeds of success.


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If you like what you are reading, please consider these options in addition to this free course. They include a hardcopy of the book and an intensive course with action steps, assignments, and personal coaching from Bo.

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 Some discussion questions (some may not apply to this lesson):

  • Have you implemented this idea in your life? How has it been working for you?
  • Do you have any interesting stories related to this lesson? Do tell!
  • What do you admire most about this person? (success biography days)
    From the Course:
    Personal Development
    Year To Success
    Bo Bennett, PhD

    (3 ratings)
    Personal Development : Personal Transformation
    Offered by BooksToCourses.com
    $19.95 FREE
    n/a
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