The Biggest Mistake Business Owners Make (& What To Do About It...) - Think Like a Fish

How one simple shift in the way you think can change everything in your business for the better

By the end of this post, I truly hope that you to have one of the biggest “aha” moments you’ve ever have when it comes to growing and marketing your business.

I’ve written this as a fable. Like every good fable, there is a moral to the story. The power is in it’s simplicity and how blindingly obvious this is once revealed.

I promise you that if you truly embrace the lesson behind this, then you’ll kick yourself and wish you’d seen it earlier (it really is a real head slapper!).

A little bit of context…

(And maybe a peek at what’s coming…)

I’m often been asked about the reason behind the name of my company

I’ll admit, it’s not the most orthodox of names for a business. Though it does usually arouse curiosity when people first hear it…

“So… Think Like a Fish? Short attention span?”. (This was a genuine response by a guy I met at an event!)

Yet I believe deep down to my bones, that the metaphor that this name contains is one of the most powerful, yet most widely misunderstood and under-utilised marketing, business, (and I’ll even go so far to say) life lessons within it.

How’s that for a bold claim!!!!

If you have read my ‘personal story’, you’ll see where some of my values come from, where some of my world views originate.

The short version is that I love the human aspect of marketing. Understanding the psychology behind decisions. What makes people tick. What makes us buy. 

But could I come up with a name for my business that captured this, without sounding like an academic journal?

Could I f….!

Then by total accident, I stumbled on a blog post that as soon as I read it, I knew instantly that I would call my company Think Like a Fish.

For the life of me I cannot find the original site that I read this on, just a few similar. So I’ll paraphrase a little and add a touch of “artistic licence” in the attempt to clearly bring out the ‘big mistake’ and offer some ways to avoid it in the future.  

The Legend of Captain Jon Rade

(I think that the original story was written by the famous copywriter, Gary Bencivenga, though I’ve found it attributed to others, but Gary mostly, so I’ll give him the kudos!).

Captain John Rade has been a fisherman ever since he was a boy. What started as a hobby, went on to become a profession.

He is legendary in the comercial fishing world as he’ll catch big and very valuable fish everyday he goes out to fish. It wouldn’t matter how bad the weather is or if conditions weren’t ideal.

When others come home with empty nets, he always gets a fish.

When interviewed about the secret of his success, John said:

“It’s not really a secret. It’s pretty simple really.

I just do the opposite to what most other fishermen do.

You see, when most fishermen go out to fish, they think like fishermen. When I go out, I think like a fish.

In other words, I simply figure out what the fish want, then give it to them whether I think it’s right or not. That means using the right bait, using the right lures, at the right time and so on.

The big mistake most fishermen make is that they do the opposite.

They buy fancy big rigs, nets, boats, GPS, blah, blah.

All that gear might look fancy, but all a total waste if you don’t understand what the fish actually want.

This will be different at a particular times.

Or In the specific conditions the fish are facing today.

Or where the fish are in the life or mating cycle.

I see it time and time again. Most fishermen would rather show off to their fishermen friends about the size of their rods, rather than invest the time to care about the actual fish themselves.

Hell, I still to this day use a simple rod and reel, and I out fish all other commercial fishermen in the area over the course of a year. Yeah, they might beat me on a particular day. But I am so consistent, I know that I’ll always come out on top in the long run.  

Look, I understand why other fishermen do things this way. I get it. It’s much easier to go out and buy a fancy new piece of equipment and fool yourself that you’ve just bought yourself a shortcut to catching loads of big fish, first time you use it.

But that’s just self delusion.

So I guess that understanding this is at the core of why I catch so many big fish, everyday and have become world famous for it.

It’s because I figured out very young there’s no such thing as a short cut. To master something, you have to put in the work.  

Believe it or not, it’s hard studying fish.

It’s tedious at times. Even boring.

It’s easy to get frustrated when in the moment you can’t remember what to do and you lose a big one.

It’s easy to give up when you think you finally understand them, only for them to do something totally out of character so you go home with nothing.

I nearly gave up hundreds of times in the early days. But I loved it and knew I would be great at this one day.

So I studied fish. I read books. I observed patterns. I took detailed notes. I tried different things, kept doing what works, adjusted what didn’t until it stopped making sense to keep trying.

And I’ve been doing that every day for 33 years now. I suppose that’s another part of my secret, if you want to call it that.

As I said, it’s simple, but far from easy.

That’s why there’s few other fishermen in the world as successful as I am.

Whilst they’re busy thinking like a fisherman, looking for shortcuts or buying bigger rods…

I’m busy thinking like a fish”


What did you think?

Good story?

Have you figured out the lesson?

Are you still here?!  

Well I don’t think it will be a huge plot twist if you’re pretty on the ball…

All we need to do is swap a few words from Captain John’s line “when most fishermen go out to fish, they think like fishermen. When I go out, I think like a fish” to make it relevant to your business.

Swap “fishermen” for “business owner” (or whatever you like to call yourself)

Swap “fish” for “marketing/lead generation/sales etc.”

Swap “fish” for  “prospects”

What do we get?

“When most business owners go out to do marketing, they think like the business owner. When I go out, I think like a prospect.”

In other words…

People buy what’s best for THEM.

They DO NOT buy what’s best for you or your business.

They don’t care about you.

The sooner you start thinking like your customer, the sooner you’ll get what you want.  

How to avoid making this mistake ever again

The most successful businesses, marketing campaigns, products and services start from a perspective of empathy and understanding of their customers.

In order for you to emulate this success, you have to put yourself in your prospect’s shoes and be able to understand what’s going on the mind of your prospects, how they feel, how they think… etc

You have to leave your ego at the door.  It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but realise that no one cares about you or your business. People care about themselves, their problems, hopes dreams and desires.

Then turn that frown upside down. Now you can understand that people only pay attention to a business or marketing message because they believe it offers the solution to their big problems, can help them change, or just simply make them feel good.

Now you can be that business!

Why this is so profound

We as people gravitate to where we feel UNDERSTOOD.

And that’s rare today in any walk of life (how many arguments with people close to you have seen you or the other person shout ‘you aren’t listening’ or ‘do you not understand a word I’ve just said’?

I reckon that one of the first things that every human on the planet wakes up in the morning and thinks (usually subconsciously, or a variation of the theme, and whether we admit it or not), is…

“Will I, or what I do today, matter?”

It’s big. It’s deep.

It’s wrapped up in so much of our psychology, our biology, evolution and existentialism angst only we humans have.

That’s why it’s so important to “think like the fish”.

When you do, you can create the kind of marketing, business, service or product that really moves people at a deep level.

And your competition will never get close to you.

It’s simple to do this.

Show your customers you understand them.

Show your customers that you “see them”.

Show your customers that you just “get them”

But be very careful…

You can only do this from a place of genuine authenticity and real passion for your customers (and I’d say all people in general).

Then, and only then, will you trigger that biological sequence of events in the other person.  The release of brain chemicals (dopamine, serotonin, endorphins etc.), that are stronger than Cocaine.

This manifests in a person as a feeling of relief, acceptance and a genuine sense of connection.

  • They’ll be visibly happier.
  • Stand a little taller.
  • Be a little more of the person they want to be.
  • They will believe that they have the power to change, that it’s in them.
  • You will be seen in their eyes as the only person, business, service or product that they need to help them achieve whatever it is they want that you say you can deliver.

And you’ll have a customer (even a friend) for life.

So the next time you’re planning a marketing campaign, creating a business venture, or designing a new product or service, just remember the quote of captain John Rade…

“When most fishermen go out to fish, they think like fishermen. When I go out, I think like a fish.”

It changes everything for the better.

So go out and catch the Big Fish.

Don’t be the sad drunk at the bar talking about “The One That Got Away…”

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Adam King

Adam King is Captain of Think Like a Fish, host of The Client Catching Podcast. Today, Adam’s passion is helping service businesses, Advisors & Experts to build their own “Client Catching Ecosystem” that removes you from up to 90% of your marketing and sales process, instantly boosts your authority, while at the same time increases the quality of leads, appointments and clients that you attract and catch… All without spending a penny on advertising or adding more hours to your week!

  • […] to the full extent (not very creative), so if you are interested to read the full story visit this URL, but  after you have finished reading this blog. The moral of the story is to think as your […]

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