Lately, there seems to be a whole lot of people talking about retirement, often because their work is no longer engaging or appealing. Well, the other day, I heard a quirky story that sort of jolted me into thinking about how we need to keep ourselves challenged so our work remains fresh. I’m sure that the story has been changed a bit with time, but the version that I heard went something like this:
Around the turn of the century, a demand for cod swept the North American seafood industry, especially on the west coast. However, there wasn’t a good way to ship the fish all the way across the country from the northern Atlantic, while still keeping it fresh.
At first, vendors tried to freeze the fish and send it by rail, the fastest means of travel at the time. Unfortunately, freezing the fish usually left it mushy and flavorless.
Then, someone decided to ship the fish live by converting railroad cars into huge saltwater aquariums. When the cod arrived at their final destination, they were alive – so freshness wasn’t an issue; but for some reason, they still ended up being mushy and tasteless no matter how they were prepared.
No business owner likes to lose money when something is in demand, so after taking some time to study the cod, a bright entrepreneur discovered that the catfish is their natural enemy out in the wild. From that idea, the shipping process was altered again: when the cod were loaded into the freight tanks, a few catfish were placed in with them. Those catfish chased the cod all the way across the country as they rode the rails out west.
When the first shipment of these cod fish was distributed, they were perfect! They had the same flavor as if they had been caught fresh and prepared on the east coast, and they maintained their flaky, buttery texture even after days of travel. Essentially, the catfish had challenged the cod and kept them active and alert.
So, getting back to the idea of keeping our work exciting when others around us are getting mushy with boredom— who or what is the catfish in your life that keeps you challenged?