How A Philosophy Of Fish Can Lead To A Happier Work Life


Twenty years ago documentary filmmaker John Christensen was shopping in a Seattle market when he heard a loud cheer in the distance. He followed the sound to discover fishmongers throwing fish to each other and their customers in spectacular fashion. While it was clearly entertaining it became apparent to John that these fishmongers, despite getting up at ungodly hours and working long and physically demanding days clearly enjoyed their jobs as they went out of their way to please their customers. When John later returned with a crew to film the fishmongers’ story it became clear to him that there were four simple practices they used that could be adapted to create job contentment, customer satisfaction and increase productivity in any workplace and with that Fish Philosophy was born.

Fish Philosophy has since been embraced by businesses of all shapes and sizes with incredible results. Last week the PST Training Store’s Danielle Peters shared the Fish Philosophy with Study Gold Coast members over breakfast in the Gold Coast Student Hub.  The philosophy is underpinned by four principles:

Be There

Be emotionally and genuinely present in the moment for people. Maintain eye contact, listen to what they say and respond to them based on what they’ve just said, not with your own premeditated agenda. This sends a very powerful message of respect.  

Choose Your Attitude

Be aware of your behaviour from moment to moment and realise the impact of that behaviour. When workers realise it is their choice as to how they want to feel and the make a conscious decision to adopt a positive stance things change. Consequently, many employers are now hiring based on a job applicant’s attitude.

Make Their Day

This applies to how employers treat their staff, how co-workers treat each other and how employees engage with customers. The key attributes of this behavioural pattern are to value and recognise others; be genuinely selfless and make someone’s day. Delight people in meaningful and memorable ways by contributing to the experience of their day.


Be creative, enthusiastic and have fun. Embrace ideas and challenges with curiosity. This only works if there is trust within an organisation that is prepared to create a supportive environment allowing employees the freedom to be themselves.

Danielle says that there is ample evidence that happiness changes the way we perform at work and that a united team will always deliver better productivity, but individuals need to be accountable for their behaviour and their attitude. She’s adamant that the adoption of these four simple principles will improve workplace culture and give people the tools they need to make a difference while having fun!

The Importance of Self-Care

The second guest speaker at the breakfast was Jeril Thomas, one of the Student Support Officers in the Gold Coast Student Hub. Jeril talked about the importance of selfcare - physical (exercise), emotional (being aware of your feelings), psychological (embrace compliments with gratitude and without self-doubt), spiritual (the restorative power of nature to calm and heal) and professional selfcare (talking to colleagues, planning your day and reading self help books).

Jeril Thomas

Jeril shared numerous top tips from professionals in how they manage selfcare, including: 

  • Establishing a morning selfcare routine.
  • Reward yourself.
  • Speak to a therapist.
  • Schedule days off.
  • Forgive yourself. You can’t always be perfect.
  • Do something creative.
  • Make time for family and friends.
  • Remember self-love is not selfish.

In what became a very personal and reflective session about the importance of looking after yourself first and foremost Jeril left the group with this thought from Pema Chodron:

“Be kinder to yourself. And then let your kindness flood the world.”

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