Why Teaching A Man How To Fish Won’t Work Anymore

“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Oh, your least favorite quote when you were 9 years old. The exact line your teacher would give you when you asked why they couldn’t just give you the answers to your test.

It was worth a shot, right?

Looking back, the quote made sense. If we got everything we wanted without effort, if we were just spoon-fed whatever we requested, we’d literally just live for a day. It is absolutely essential to learn these processes ourselves. And of course, we have to fall in love with them.

This is one of the reasons why school exists. It exists for us to learn “how to fish” – how to make a powerpoint presentation, how to create a 36+ page business plan, and how to answer equations that barely even have numbers anymore (yes, those exist).

But today, with the advent of the internet, “how to fish” can be Googled. Literally.

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In fact, according to Google, there are around 624,000,000 pages on the internet that talk about “how to fish”.

Let me repeat that again. 624 MILLION pages. The information on the topic is waaay more than we need. Don’t tell me that isn’t enough to learn the art of catching fish.

We can learn how to fish. We can learn how to make a powerpoint presentation, a 36+ page business plan, or even answer a number-less mathematical equation.

Now the question is . . . why don’t we?


Every time you’re in a classroom, the atmosphere usually falls into two categories. The majority cares to listen, or the majority doesn’t care to listen. (In my experience, it’s a 30-70 split.)

This made me think. If we were coming to school to be taught “how to fish” and in effect “be fed for a lifetime”, then why the hell don’t we want to listen?

Who doesn’t want to be fed for a lifetime?!?!

Here’s what I realized.

Today, our problem isn’t the teaching part.

Resources for learning isn’t as scarce as it was before. In fact, it’s crazy abundant. If you can access Facebook, there’s no reason you can’t access Khan Academy. If you can access YouTube, there’s nothing stopping you from accessing something like Coursera. Hell, YouTube itself has full-blown University Courses if you just make the effort to look.

With that abundance of information, comes the abundance of choice. If you can spend 2 hours on Khan Academy, you can very well spend those 2 hours on Facebook too. The choice is on us, and most of time, we choose not to learn “how to fish”. Why the hell should a logical person spend 3 hours on a math problem when he can spend the same 3 hours watching cat videos, right? (No judgment there. I feel you.)

But of course, we need to learn how to fish. What we’re missing is the reason “why” we have to fish.

Most of us don’t have a purpose. A deeper “why”. We lack the heart. The motivation. We lack something to keep ourselves in-check and focused in an age where attention and focus is scarce and valuable because of all the distractions the Internet brings.

Not everyone is as self-motivated as that one friend you have that seems to be early in every single morning class. Most of us aren’t. Heck, most of us aren’t even wired to think of it that way. We see school as a vehicle, as a means to an end. 90% of the time, there isn’t any “purpose” or “why” attached to it. It’s just there, and you just know you have to finish it. You have to learn “how to fish”, because you want to be “fed for a lifetime”.

Knowing that is not enough.

I want to make the argument that teaching a man how to fish is not as important as it was before. You have Google. You have a phone to call up your best fisherman friend. The “how” is not the problem anymore. It’s the “why”.

We are transitioning to an age where teachers can’t only teach anymore. We desperately need them to help us find our “why”. Our purpose. Our reason. Our driving force. We need them to motivate us to learn “how to fish”.

Most importantly, we need them to care.

With the resources available to us today, I’m sure we can take care of the rest.

We just need that little push.

Like I want to say,

“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. Help him discover why he needs to catch fish, and you feed him and his heart for a lifetime.”


Fun fact: I wrote this on July 29, 2015. Never pressed publish. That was exactly 10 months ago. 🙂

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