Stop Relying on Luck for Leadership

I wish it were this easy for leaders: Fortune Teller Fish

As a kid in San Francisco, I traveled in a pack with other kids on my street, exploring our neighborhood and the ones surrounding it: Noe Valley, the Castro, and the Mission. Seeing where fortune took us.

A regular journey was hiking over the hill from 20th and Sanchez where we lived to 24th Street where we could get a bagel or a donut or a comic book or a cheap toy. 

My weekly allowance was 25 cents, and one of my favorite stores was Cathexis, where cheap and fun knick-knacks filled the shelves. One of them was the Fortune Teller Fish.


If it moved its head, you were jealous. If it turned over, you were false (a liar).

You didn’t want it to move its head and tail because if it did, you were in love, and that’s the worst possible fortune to receive as an eight-year-old kid.

Another dreaded result was a motionless fish. Because the instructions said that meant you were dead. What a waste of allowance!

What does the fortune teller fish have to do with leadership?

Two of the most common refrains I hear from my clients are, “I wish it were this easier” and “I wish this were faster.”

Yep. Me, too.

The Fortune Teller Fish worked for kids. Easy. Fast. And also fun and cheap. 

There are no leadership fortune-telling shortcuts. 

You don’t need the fish. You can start to define your own leadership fortune by asking yourself these three prompts, which map to the start, stop, and keep/continue methodology credited to Phil Daniels at BYU. 

  1. What do I want to start doing?
  2. What do I need to stop doing?
  3. What do I need to continue doing?

Start with these questions. Don’t rely on the fish, the magic 8 ball, a crystal ball, or whether a black cat has crossed your path or you’ve broken a mirror. That’s kid’s stuff.

So, while there are no leadership fortune-telling shortcuts, you can see I’ve taken this idea and retold the story with leadership lingo. Some of you have already received this in the mail if you’re part of my snail mail group. If you like getting mail in the mail, let us know. 

Share with me what you come up with on your road to awesome.