Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Fish School Philosophy

Merry Christmas Everyone!

I did some musing about Fish School and purpose today. Some people said (and continue to say!) that we're a bit crazy - what is the purpose of training pet fish anyway? Isn't that a silly hobby?

There are a lot of concrete reasons I think Fish School has been a cool project - raising awareness of fish intelligence, making fish more interesting pets, bonding with my son, etc. More philosophically, I believe each of us is put on this earth to play multiple roles. For example, I try to be a devoted father to my kids, a loving husband to my wonderful wife, a hard-working employee for my company, and a loyal friend to colleagues and others close to me.

But in addition, I also believe each of us is endowed with a talent or gift, with which we each have the opportunity to fill a unique niche in this world. Not everyone is lucky enough to discover their special talent during their lifetime. But I think I may be one of the lucky ones. As silly as it may sound, I think my niche may be to invent and popularize the idea of pet fish training.

Some people (including my wife!) might say, "How trivial and inconsequential. Dean, you're a smart guy - can't you think of something better to do with your time and energy?"

My response to such comments is something like the following:

You never can tell when something seemingly trivial will have significant consequences. When Kyle and I dreamed up the idea of trying to train our pet fish to do tricks one Sunday afternoon while sitting around the house looking for something to do, we couldn't have imagined how far the idea would go. How could we have known that it would eventual land us with a Guinness World Record, a starring role in a TV Commercial, or capture the imagination of literally millions of people through media coverage like National Geographic Kids, Discover Magazine and the Good Morning America TV program? From what we've heard, including a report from our friends at PETA, we've opened a lot of people's eyes to issues of fish intelligence and fish welfare - and convinced at least a few people to stop eating them for dinner!

And with the new R2 Fish School Training Kit soon to hit the market, there will soon be a lot more people learning how fun and amazing pet fish can be. In this way, I hope to have a positive impact on the lives of both the fish, and their owners. Heck, as I write this there are quite a few people earning a living manufacturing many thousands of copies of the new training kits, allowing them to put food on their family's table.

Who knows, and as I wrote about recently, maybe the Navy will be convinced by the whitepaper they asked me to write, and come see that trained fish could be helpful in dangerous underwater situations, like mine detection. Wouldn't it be amazing if our ideas about fish training eventually help save people's lives?

In short, it is very hard to predict what ideas and activities will be significant. I think the best each of us can do is to take Joseph Campbell's advice and "follow your bliss", hoping that it will lead to something worthwhile. And if not, at least it will have been a fun ride along the way!

--Dean

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