The situation looked grim for Johnny Yokoyama. The seafood
market where he had once been an employee but was now the owner
was more than $300,000 in debt and sinking deeper fast. In fact,
employee morale was at an all-time low, and the business was
almost as dead as the fish no one was buying.
Now fast-forward to today and imagine yourself in Seattle's
lively landmark, the Pike Place Market, overlooking Puget Sound
and the snow-capped Olympic Mountains beyond. As you walk closer
to the crowd gathered near the open-air center of this sprawling
bazaar you can't help wondering what all that laughter and
shrieking are about ...
... until you see a hefty two-foot long salmon flying over the
gathering and into the waiting arms of the young man behind the
counter — and the crowd goes wild!
Someone asks another rubber-aproned fellow for two pounds of
halibut. "TWO POUNDS OF HALIBUT!" the order-taker calls out. "TWO
POUNDS OF HALIBUT!" comes the reply, in unison, from EVERYONE
else on the fish market crew.
Tourists are snapping photos like crazy, even handing their
giggling toddlers up to pose with fish bigger than they are. And
every so often, someone leans in for a closer look at that giant
monkfish — the one there on the lower shelf, that
prehistoric-looking fish with a mouth as big as a saucer. But
that someone doesn't stay there long because one little tug on
the string that's tied to the fish's tail and hidden under the
ice makes that fish MOVE — and makes the curiosity-seeker
straighten up fast!
This is certainly like no fish market you've ever seen before.
Then you notice that in addition to all the silliness and
good-natured clowning, something else is happening here...
People aren't just laughing, they're buying fish.
A LOT of fish!
Now, in his life-changing 1910 forgotten classic, The Science
of Getting Rich, Wallace Wattles has laid out for us the basic
principles by which the Pike Place Fish Market crew has turned
what appeared to be failure into a stunning "World Famous"
success. No, they didn't have the book to guide them; they just
happened onto some of these principles in an instinctive way.
Their backs were against the wall and they clearly saw that
SOMETHING had to change.
Amazingly, they didn't focus on the obvious question, how can
we sell more fish? Instead, they imagined a thriving market
filled with happy customers and happy employees. And then they
realized that if visitors were to enjoy the experience, first
THEY had to change their own thinking and their own behavior.
Oh, you see those two dozen executive-looking types over
there, giggling like little kids? The ones wearing the matching
jackets emblazoned with their famous corporate logo? They're here
as part of a seminar on how to revitalize their customer service
Turns out the fish flingers have stumbled upon some "secrets"
that big corporations spend millions looking for. In fact, there
are now several seminars, a couple of training videos, and even a
best-selling book endorsed by some of the world's top business
and motivational speakers and authors — all aimed at
spreading this "fish philosophy" to other businesses.
So what exactly happened to turn a dark, dingy, dying seafood
store into the star attraction of a famous city's famous
Well, listen up to the four main principles as outlined by
Charthouse Learning Corporation's CEO John Christensen. Not too
long ago Mr. Christensen wandered into the Pike Place Fish Market
craziness just as I did (although I don't know if they hooked him
with that monkfish gag the way they "caught" me!).
Mr. Christensen is the man who immediately realized that there
was something special going on here that needed to be "world
famous." Here's what it boils down to:
1. "Play: We put more energy into what we enjoy, and
finding ways to "play" can lead to greater productivity and
creativity. Play is NOT about acting irresponsibly. In the
livable workplace, it is about finding ways to have more fun
accomplishing serious goals."
Now Mr. Wattles doesn't say anything about "play" at all
— and it's a little difficult to imagine it being taken
seriously back at the turn of the last century when the
"efficiency movement" was the darling of the industrial world.
But today we can easily see that a light-hearted sense of "play"
can be a major component of achieving consistent "efficient
2. "Be There: The glue in our humanity is in being
fully present for one another. Being there also is a great way to
practice wholeheartedness and fight burnout, for it is those
halfhearted tasks you perform while juggling other things that
wear you out."
"Put your whole mind into present action," Mr. Wattles says.
And when one of the fish market guys stops goofing and turns to
help a customer, that customer becomes the only other person in
the place. Don't you wish EVERYONE you deal with in the course of
a normal day had that kind of focus? (Don't they wish YOU did,
3. "Choose Your Attitude: When you look for the worst
you will find it everywhere. When you look for the best you will
find opportunities you never imagined possible. You have the
power to choose your attitude. If you find yourself with an
attitude you don't want, you can choose another."
Mr. Wattles says, "You must learn to see the underlying truth
in all things," and we know that our prevailing attitudes make
this either possible or impossible. If your attitude is negative,
you're expressing faith that what you do NOT want is on its way
to you. But as Mr. Christensen notes, if the attitude you have at
the moment isn't serving you — or anyone else — you
can always choose again!
4. "Make Their Day: When you 'make someone’s day'
(or even moment) through a small kindness or unforgettable
engagement, you can turn even routine encounters into special
memories. Few things are as rewarding and infectious as lifting
another person's spirits, and the act of serving others quickly
returns a feeling of satisfaction."
What a wonderful way to embody Mr. Wattles' advice always to
"give more in use value than you take in cash value." The fish
guys add value to every transaction in many ways: By letting the
customer know that s/he is important (whether s/he buys anything
or not!), by providing a light moment of entertainment (simply by
being themselves and not taking themselves too seriously), and in
countless other ways, large and small.
See, making money selling fish isn't just about selling fish.
And it's the same with ANY business. (And if you think you aren't
"in business" just because you work for someone else or some big
company, look at it this way: You ARE in business, even if it's a
one-person business with you as CEO, employee, and perhaps even
You can learn a lot from a bunch of fishy guys in Seattle, and
in a moment I'll send you off to do just that. But first, let's
wrap this up with a brief excerpt from the book, Fish!, a modern
"business parable" that teaches the valuable lessons at the heart
of the World Famous Pike Place Fish Market's stunning
"Let me tell you about my grandmother. She always brought love
and a smile to her work. All of us grandkids wanted to help in
the kitchen because Grandma was so much fun. In the process a
great deal of kitchen wisdom was dispensed. Us kids were given
something truly precious, a caring adult.
"I realize now that my grandmother didn't love dishwashing.
She BROUGHT love to dishwashing, and her spirit was
"Likewise, my buddies and I realized that each day when we
come to the fish market we bring an attitude. We can bring a
moody attitude and have a depressing day. We can bring a grouchy
attitude and irritate our coworkers and customers. Or we can
bring a sunny, playful, cheerful attitude and have a great day.
We can choose the kind of day we will have. We spent a lot of
time talking about this choice, and we realized that as long as
we are going to be at work, we might as well have the best day we
can have. Make sense to you?"
Makes sense to me! And if you agree, my friend, take a closer
look. See, what the Pike Place Fish gang intuitively discovered
is that if their situation was to change, first THEY had to
change. And so they did. They decided to turn their dreary and
unprofitable work into fun. Fun for themselves and for everyone
who steps into their world, whether they buy fish or not.
Ask Johnny Yokoyama what he's most proud of these days and
he'll tell you: "My employees and I made Pike Place Fish 'World
Then ask him what "World Famous" means to him, and you get the
real scoop: "It means that we never stop creating possibilities
— every day gives us the opportunity to grow, to learn
something new, to get better than we were yesterday. We are gonna
make your day!"
Why not make it YOUR objective to become "World Famous?" To
find ways to bring the same "sunny, playful, cheerful attitude"
to YOUR job or business — and to begin to revel in the
delight of seeing the very same kind of RESULTS, including the
ones you can take to the bank?
If the fish guys can do it, so can you! Here's where to learn
Meet the guys and gals, see and hear the fun, and get some
great seafood recipes, too!