Pike Place Market in Seattle is considered the grandfather of public markets in the US having opened in 1907. The Market was one of my stops on my recent visit to the States as I enjoyed the smells, the sites, the colors offered by the variety of vendors. One of the main attractions is the Pike Place Fish Market where one can literally see fish flying through the air. When a customer orders a fish or crustacean, an employee will throw the fish to the guys behind the counter. This not only entertains the crowd that has gathered to witness the flying fish but also provides a sense of fun, bringing smiles to people’s faces.
What we witnessed was that a group of fishermen have taken what could be a very boring job and have developed, a corporate culture philosophy called FISH which is based on:
1) Being there, i.e. being present with others. When being with someone set aside distractions and give your full attention to that person; 2) Being serious about your work but don’t take yourself too seriously and play, be enthusiastic about whatever you are doing. 3) Making another’s day, be thoughtful, kind, give thanks and recognition to others, make others feel good; and 4) Choosing your attitude, we all have our own issues and challenges but every day, in every moment we can decide how we choose to be.
Given my affinity and love of markets, and along with the other employees, we incorporated this philosophy into my workplace when I was Director of an HIV/AIDS NGO called the Alliance for Living. (I also introduced this to the National Trust in India). Ensuring that we could provide our full attention to People Living with HIV/AIDS and their families and that we could still have fun, being kind and patient; when walking in the door of the office being as positive as possible were all vital elements, if we were to perform our work effectively, with empathy and compassion.
I was happy to be reminded of the FISH philosophy, especially choosing one’s attitude and I thought about this upon my return to Nepal. I want to remain comfortable living in Nepal although I’m geographically far away from my birth family and friends who I’ve known for decades and the familiarity of the US. This takes on new meaning as my parents age, my grown children get on with their lives and everyone, no matter where they are living become absorbed in what makes sense to them. But, as a friend recently reminded me, it does come down to choosing one’s attitude, no matter what the circumstances might be.
It seems self-evident that as we choose to be positive it can help us to be present with others, to enjoy life, no matter how desperate our circumstances and be considerate and understanding of others on a consistent basis. It is an approach, although not easy as life can be difficult, that can only make things better for everyone.
On a much larger level implementing the FISH philosophy might ultimately mean creating more equitable societies, based on treating others with respect no matter what their life status, schooling or caste, color of their skin or political beliefs and listening to other’s stories with empathy and compassion regarding their specific challenges. Choosing our attitude to be positive might translate into being open to new ideas and ultimately alleviating poverty, disease and creating environments enabling a greater quality of life for more people.
As individuals if we can live by a positive philosophy, providing space for all of the diversity in life, we can come together to make great changes and cause our institutions to do the same. All we have to do is FISH.