Posted by: kevinliebl | October 25, 2009

Business Lessons From A Wise Old Fisherman

Joe Liebl Fishing in Minnesota

Joe Liebl

For those of you that follow my blog, you know that I write about my Grandpa Joe from time to time.  What stands out about Grandpa Joe is that he was one of the happiest people I have ever met.  He had a phenomenal sense of humor and could work a room of adults and/or children equally well.  One of the reasons he was happy is that he had a great passion – fishing.  He lived in Minnesota (known as “The Land of 10,000 Lakes”) and his world revolved around fishing.  As a young lad, I learned that everything you need to know about the world, you could learn from fishing.

One of the lessons he taught me was “timing”.  Fishing is all about timing.  You need to be at the lake, river or stream when the fish are hungry.  This is a lesson that most of us forget in business.  We launch products or introduce marketing campaigns and spend little, or no time strategizing whether the “fish are hungry”.  Never underestimate your target audience.

I, like most young boys, didn’t understand patience until I spent time with my grandfather.  Fishing is all about patience.  You can sit for hours without a nibble.  However, you are learning the whole time.  You learn from your mistakes.  You try different spots.  You try different bait.  You try different tackle.  In the end, you may hit big or you may walk away.  Yet, throughout the day, you learned a tremendous amount.  Don’t waste your efforts.  Learn something from every endeavor.

On the other hand, you also need to know when to walk away.  Only a fool will continue to fish in a spot that has no fish.  My grandpa, being an accomplished practical joker, would send people to fish a pond that had no fish in it.  They would come back complaining that they didn’t get a single bite.  The next day Joe would come home with a string of fish and claim he caught them from that pond, and his buddy would be back the following day – wasting his time again.  All the while, Grandpa Joe knew that the pond was empty.  He loved having a “victim” to play a joke on.

We all need to know when to walk away from a deal.  Customers, venture capitalists, vendors, partners and even employees will do the same thing.  They can string you on and become a resource drain.  You never hear “no”.  You simply get a stall-tactic, such as a request for more information.  I don’t believe they are as malicious as my grandfather.  However, I think of him often in these situations and realize that he was right.  You need to know when to walk away.

Finally, you need to realize that the “fish are biting right now” – as you read this.  I would always ask my grandfather, “when is the best time to fish”, expecting him to give me a sophisticated and complicated answer.  He would always say, “right now!”  There is never a better time to get started than right now.  Opportunities surround us, yet we become experts at finding reasons not to proceed.  Your customers have needs and are talking to your competitors right now.  The fish are biting.  Others are catching the fish.  Shouldn’t you grab your pole and get your fair share?


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  1. I really enjoyed this post! Great lessons from older generations if we would just take the time to listen and remember.

    • Charisse,

      Thanks for the feedback. Yes, our elders have great wisdom if we listen. It is too bad that they didn’t have blogs to pass on their knowledge and experience .

      Best Regards,


  2. I read your blog and am interested in having you on our Life Lessons radio show. This is a national show, 30 minute segment on You would call you in and answer a pre-set of questions.

    If interested, please email me at and my team will forward a guest prep sheet with proposed broadcast dates & time.


  3. Nice pieces of advice. I run a career blog and the key I point out is there is always people hiring and there is always opportunity. Don’t get hung up on one or two things, but put lots of lines out there and fish will bite.

    Keep writing. Fun stuff!

    Bill Morgan
    The Job Swami Career Blog

  4. Another great post. Wisdom is key!

  5. Nice post, Kevin. Good analogy for principles we all need to keep in mind.

  6. For what it’s worth, I just wrote a post using the fishing analogy. I’m not a fisherman, nor do I have ancestors who were ;-)…but I’m old enough to have common sense which is pretty helpful no matter what you apply it to in your life ;-).

  7. Terrific, little brother. Here I thought I had taught you all you know! You broke the code; I learned most of my wisdom from our grandfather and so did you! Your blogs are insightful and useful. Keep up the great work. I am proud.


  8. Hi Kevin,

    This is just fabulous piece of work. I am thankful to you for sharing it. This article is full of insights which one would require to fulfill his/her goals. It gives crystal clarity about the approach and methodology. Keep it up.

    Thanks once again.


  9. Thanks for a timely reminder of enduring principles for success.

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