Are you a fish climbing a tree?

Are you a fish climbing a tree?

Albert Einstein said, Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by it’s ability to climb a tree, it will live it’s whole life believing that it’s stupid.

Al’s exactly right. Have you ever felt like a fish trying to climb a tree? I know I have. When I first arrived in New York I was plunged into work I was created to do. I was in the right place at the right time. I was able to be the guy on the bridge of the ship charting the course–eyes on the horizon. My days were spent casting vision and building a team. I was in my element.

But that changed. Gradually over time, the job became much more about what was happening right here under my feet and much less about what was happening out there at the horizon. Instead of spending my days thinking, planning and dreaming of the future, my time was consumed with the here and now. I became a manager of details; a fish trying to climb a tree.

Not only was the job no longer a good fit for me, I was no longer a good fit for the job. They needed someone with a passion for the minutia of the daily order. They needed someone with the skill of maintaining an even keel, no surprises. Nothing out of the ordinary. And yes, someone not only willing to color within the lines but able to do it very well.

I am not that guy.

One of the most valuable lessons I ever learned came from Dave Jewitt. I was meeting with Dave when I’d hit a patch of still air. I was caught in the doldrums with no hint of breeze in my sails. I wasn’t moving forward. I was listless and insecure.

Dave pulled out a piece of paper and told me to sign my name and gave me a pen. I took the pen in my right hand and signed my name. Then he told me to put the pen in my left hand and sign again. I changed hands and clumsily scrawled out my signature.

Now looking at the results of the effort he asked me to compare the two. The first version, with my right hand, was much easier, it was fluid and strong. I was able to do it efficiently, almost automatically with practically no thought at all. The left handed version was the complete opposite. It was a childish scrawl and barely legible.

Then he looked at me square in the eye and said, “Mike, the problem is that you’ve come to a time in your life where you’ve gotten the pen in your left hand. You weren’t born for the left handed stuff. You need to get the pen back into your right hand.”

Man, I still thank Dave for that lesson.

Do you ever feel like that? Do you feel like a fish trying to climb a tree? It’s not that you’re incompetent or stupid or unskilled. It’s just that you’re doing something you were never designed to do.

Maybe it’s time for you to take the big bold step of moving the pen to the other hand. Rarely is this decision easy or without it’s consequences. But when you step out of the tree and into your destiny, you’ll experience a freedom you could have never imagined.

It’s time to climb down out of that tree. You belong in the sea.

Related Posts


  • Hi Mike: This is very typical teaching in business circles, but it misses some nuance in relation to transformational faith. There is not one thing I am doing now that would have been “right handed” 10 years ago. In fact, one of the first things that happened after my conversion was for item after item to be removed from my right hand and placed squarely in the left with a nod and a Holy Spirit question “do you trust me to fill the gap between what you know how to do and what I want you to do.?” The more I said yes and proceeded without the skills or the momentum or the connections to make things happen, the more a new path was blazed for me. I fear that part of the reason Christian faith has so little influence in our culture today is that we are believing teaching, guidance and wisdom of management consultants (i.e. work in your skills) more than that of Father, Son and Spirit (I will give you the skills when and where you need them). Love to know what you think…

  • Joan,
    totally agree. There are times (I believe) when God throws a curve and has a totally different path (requiring different skill sets) than the one you’re on. I’m thinking now of Peter and Moses both of whom ended up doing something very different with their lives than what they started out doing. There is no doubt that God, the most creative force in the universe, calling the shots all things are most certainly possible.
    On the other hand, there are so many of us who, for whatever reason, got sidetracked in our early 20’s. Maybe it was marriage or parenting (not that those are sidetracks!) or a career choice to please someone else…we start on a path that either derails or at best distracts us from our true destiny. Sometimes we travel this road for a couple of decades before we realize that we’re not enjoying ourselves and we’re not cut out to do what we’re doing. It’s at that point that we really begin to wake up and yearn to get back to where we once were.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *