Surprise Success Secret

“Just play. Have fun. Enjoy the game.”  Michael Jordan

We are idling past Boggy Point, the last public boat launch before Perdido Pass Bridge and entry to the Gulf of Mexico. Just a few minutes earlier, I had started the engines of Lil’ Luci, pulling out of my boat slip in Terry Cove for the beginning of our offshore fishing trip. It is a beautiful day in June and the seas are predicted to be pretty flat. The air is full of excitement! There are eight onboard for this trip. U.S. federal regulations have restricted snapper fishing to only 11 days this year, so with limited successive days, we are now on our seventh trip of the season.

Handing the wheel over to ‘first mate’ Blaise, and proceeding into what has become a standard procedure for all my offshore trips, I gather all the passengers into the cockpit area for a ‘mandatory summit,’ immediately beginning with this question: “Do you know the most important thing on this trip?”  Those who have accompanied me on past fishing expeditions know the forthcoming answer. After a couple of incorrect answers, I emphatically state, “safety!”  My routine dialogue then addresses all boat safety equipment – life preservers, life rafts, fire extinguishers and first aid kits. In an emergency, employing any of these devices could be the difference between life and death.

Pertinent questions continue . . . “What is the second most important thing?”  (The answer to this query seems more elusive than the first one).  It is also a question of critical importance often forgotten corporately within the companies and organizations in which we are involved.   In the middle of elaborate strategic plans and operational tactics, too often this one element is missing.

My grandson (and very sharp!), Kekoa, hollers, “catch fish!!”  Smiling at his answer, my response is, “That is important and we will list it as number three.”   Catching fish is a logical answer. After all, is not the purpose of a fishing excursion to catch fish?!

Kekoa’s answer reminds me of what we often attempt in organizations to which we belong. We have goals. And that is a good thing. With the currently mandated two-snapper-per-person limit and many watchful eyes reviewing our trip results (which includes members of our community marine condo association), I often think about specific goals. ‘How did you do today? Did you catch your limit?’  These questions, in ‘community chorus,’ will be targeted at me, the ‘captain’ of this snapper expedition, as we all gather around the fish cleaning table.

The modern-day definition for success in life is basically based on a list of what can be objectively measured.   We know if we have success (as measured and predetermined) on a snapper pursuit by assessing the number of snapper caught and dividing by the fishermen onboard. Any answer less than ‘two’ is less than the expected success. Does this sound correct to you? Perhaps you can think of similar examples within an organization in which you are associated.

While I do indeed like to catch the designated limit of conserved snapper, I have disregarded the notion that catching the maximum allowed represents the only definition of success.   For me, the answer I am seeking, the one that expresses the essential goal of our trip is . . . “have fun!”

My ‘fun cup’ is filled and overflowing! That fun includes the excitement of watching an 11-year old reel in a snapper for the first time in his life. (Of course, the bonus for me is that my grandson is the victorious angler)! That fun includes the drama of the inevitable ‘big one getting away.’  That fun also includes a team spirit that develops during the trip. We are all in this together. We help each other. We support each other. We find a way to catch fish.  If fun is the key measurement of this trip, we have triumphantly succeeded.

Fun is the surprise secret to success . . .

Surprisingly, the element of fun is often left out of best-selling self-help books written by some of the most recognized ‘success’ authors.  Have fun!  This important component did not escape the strategists of Southwest Airlines who sanctioned the rudiment of fun for their passengers as their mantra for unprecedented success within the highly competitive airline industry. If you need proof, just book a flight with them and watch the fun enjoyed by their flight and ground crews. Southwest discovered that the kind of success measured in the business world can be reached, in part, by implementing the component of fun.

In a recent Forbes article on success, author Steve Siebold emphasizes the importance of having fun: “Outsiders see big-time performers as super self-disciplined, self-sacrificing success-and-achievement machines. Yet a closer look gives a more accurate portrayal of what really drives these people: fun. Champions have more fun in their work than any other group. They take whatever time is necessary to choose a career path that encompasses their natural talents, abilities, and most of all, their passions.”

I love the term Steve uses to describe winners who have fun – ‘Champions.’ If you want to be phenomenally successful – like a champion – add fun to your formula.

Super Bowl champion Joe Namath once said: “When you have confidence, you can have a lot of fun. And when you have fun, you can do amazing things.”

As our successful excursion ends, we reach the dock with 15 snapper onboard, one less than the expected 16 for an eight-person team, but still a great haul.  And, the excitement memory included 110-minutes in battle with a 10-foot shark, surely a topic of exclamation for a long time to come during family gatherings.   We had fun!  By any barometer used to measure and define success, we had exactly that – a successful trip! We may have slightly missed the allowable limit, but we did not miss the fun.

Today, I plan on being stunningly successful!

Today, I will have fun!