Two young gold fish were swimming along and they met an older fish, who said  “Morning, boys.  How’s the water?” One of the young gold fish looks over at the other and said “What the hell is water?”

Yamini Storytelling Goldfish


This was a story shared by the late, great David Foster Wallace a brilliant American writer.  Wallace said the point of the fish story is that the most obvious, ubiquitous, important realities are often the ones that are the hardest to see and talk about.

That is why the new kid on the block, has the bright ideas, or new recruits see so much opportunity for change or innovation.  So how do we in our daily environments make the invisible (water) visible?

  1. Get a mentor or a coach who can see what you can’t see
  2. Run your business issue past a friend or trusted advisor from a completely different industry.  If you are a scientist, ask an artist’s opinion.  If you are an economist, work with a poet.  Get someone who has a completely different perspective and discipline to you
  3. Cultivate the mavericks in your organisations, the rebels and the people who always play devil’s advocate – remember they can see the water, where most people can’t.  So no matter how irritating they might be, they have a valuable view point to contribute.

What are your strategies for seeing the water?  Please comment I love hearing from you.

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  • Reply

    What a great quote and interpretation. Love it Yamini and so valuable for people who are new to feel brave enough to point out the water

    • Yamini

      Thank you so much, Christiane – yes bravery in these matters is often sorely lacking. Takes courage and is perhaps a career limiting move to tell the CEO you differ. How refreshing it would be if leaders sought out the truth sayers in their organisation and listened to them no matter how unpleasant.

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