A few years ago, on my talk radio show, I had the great privilege of interviewing John Yokoyama, owner of the world famous Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle.
People come from all over the world to watch the “fishmongers” at work as they toss the fish and joke and call out to each other. They are drawn to the Fish Market because of the fun, playful, boisterous and connecting environment that the employees have created.
From the moment you first step into the market you are instantly greeted by the lively energy. The vitality there is quite a contrast to the stagnant energy you might experience at most other places of business, where it’s not uncommon for salesclerks to offer barely if any eye contact.
I asked John how he had supported his employees in creating such a standout workplace. “At Pike Place Fish Market the entire crew has made a commitment to making a world famous difference to EVERY customer that walks through the door.
Making a world famous difference
And as the owner I have made a commitment to making a world famous difference to each and every one of my employees. See, many businesses look at the success that we’ve created and are eager to study how we’ve done that. They think it’s all about: choosing our attitude, having fun, playing and making our customers day.
But the way we consciously choose how to show up for our customers occurs as a natural result of the commitment we’ve made to living our vision of making a world famous difference and creating world peace for every customer and vendor that we come into contact with.”
During a station break John shared with me in a hushed confidential and passionate tone, “You know Leslie, I’ve realized that what we’ve discovered here at the fish market is how to express and live by a higher vision and purpose. This is no different than the vision and higher purpose expressed by great people like Gandhi, Martin Luther King or even Kennedy when he declared that we would put a man on the moon within a decade.”
My mind immediately recalled a passage from Nelson Mandela’s biography. Mandela had spent 27 years in prison on Robben Island for his resistance to the apartheid movement and after his release from prison went on to become the first president of South Africa.
In his biography Nelson writes, “The cell walls were perpetually damp. Many mornings, a small pool of water would have formed on the cold floor overnight. When I raised this with the commanding officer, he told me our bodies would absorb the moisture.
We were each issued three blankets so flimsy and worn they were practically transparent. Our bedding consisted of a single sisal, or straw, mat. Later we were given a felt mat, and one placed the felt mat on top of the sisal one to provide some softness. At that time of year, the cells were so cold and the blankets provided so little warmth that we always slept fully dressed…
I could walk the length of my cell in three paces. When I lay down, I could feel the wall with my feet and my head grazed the concrete at the other side. The width was about six feet, and the walls were at least two feet thick… I was forty-six years old, a political prisoner with a life sentence, and that small cramped space was to be my home for I knew not how long.”
I can only imagine the strength of commitment to a higher vision that it would take to spend 27 years in prison and be released without holding on to deep resentment and anger – and instead to be consumed with a burning desire to make a difference in the world.
While Mandela lived his life from a higher vision this kind of difference making isn’t relegated to the great names of people “who went down in history.” As individuals we too can make a commitment to a compelling vision that takes on a greater context, like making a powerful difference in the world, that causes us to show up in an entirely different way and makes a meaningful impact on our loved ones and in our careers.
A powerful, compelling vision will prevent you from being pulled off-center
When it comes to creating a better life and improving our financial circumstances it seems that we’re often pulled off center by the stress and daily demands of trying to get ahead, getting rid of debt or making more money.
Living from a higher vision and purpose does not mean, that we’ll be happy when things go our way, or when we’re making our ideal income or when we’ve obtained the perfect job. Instead it means that we choose to live from a higher vision and purpose regardless of our personal circumstances. James Allen, author of As a Man Thinketh, expressed this so well when he said, “Circumstance does not make the man; it reveals him to himself.”
By taking on a higher purpose and exciting future for your personal life you can show up in a more powerful way. But it needs to be a larger purpose that is created by YOU.
It needs to be the kind of purpose or vision that has you jumping out of bed with excitement about living your day or going to work. Once you commit to that purpose, it truly is a matter of making a choice every day, and several times a day, to recommit to “being and living” your vision.
I shared with one of my clients that taking on a larger vision for their financial life really is about a place to come from, not a place to get to. In other words, John Yokoyama had to “come from” rather than get to the place of being “world famous with his staff and customers.” Because he was showing up in a world famous way, Pike Place Fish Market rapidly became world famous.
By taking on a powerful compelling vision and purpose – you too, just like the great leaders and businesses in the world, can cause unprecedented and extraordinary breakthrough results to occur in your personal and financial life.