Most people think of “sharks” as individuals who work tirelessly, even ruthlessly, to reach the top of the food chain. It doesn’t matter what collateral damage they leave in their wake if they achieve their goals and become the “biggest fish” in their corner of the sea.
Walter Bond says it’s time to stop putting this type of “shark” on a pedestal: Their strategies rarely lead to lasting success. Instead, we should look to nature, where real sharks have much to teach us about becoming respected impact players in our own ecosystems.
Inspired by the behaviors of sharks (many of which go against their reputation as bloodthirsty predators), these “Sacred Six” principles provide a blueprint for operating with integrity and working toward consistent improvement in every area of your life.
1. Sharks never stop moving forward.
Some species of sharks need to keep water flowing through their gills to avoid drowning, which means they can’t stop—and they certainly can’t swim backward. They always seek progress. So should we. If you make a mistake but don’t change your behavior—or if you give up and stop swimming—you’ll never improve. Instead, fail forward. You can usually overwhelm a mistake with hard work. Just as forward movement gives sharks life, the progress you make will infuse you with renewed motivation and passion.
2. Sharks never look down; they always look up.
Sharks keep their eyes on the water ahead of and above them, ready to react when prey appears. They don’t waste their time or energy on what’s beneath them. Likewise, it’s important for us to keep our eyes—and attitudes—pointed in a productive direction. In most situations, your attitude is the only thing that can stop you. Your job is to focus on what you can do, not on what you can’t, and stay vigilant for opportunities.
3. Sharks are always curious and learning.
Sharks are always paying attention. In fact, many sharks don’t attack potential prey indiscriminately. They observe and investigate before striking to make sure it’s a creature they want to eat. If you aren’t growing and improving, something is wrong. It’s your responsibility to engage in self-reflection and self-analysis so you can begin to work on your strengths and weaknesses. Once you do identify a weakness that needs shoring up or a gap in your skill set, be decisive and relentless in addressing it.
4. Sharks respect their environment and recognize other sharks.
Sharks don’t typically perceive other sharks as threats and seldom attack one another. Some species even work together to take down larger prey. In other words, there’s room in the “ocean” for multiple leaders, mentors, and success stories—no need to feel threatened or intimidated by another’s accomplishments or position. Instead, strive to recognize the value that others bring to your team, and look for other “sharks” who might be able to elevate you. You can identify them not just by their job titles or notoriety, but by looking at their character, work ethic, and values. Pay special attention to sharks who influence others by proactively recognizing and coaching them.
5. Sharks are flexible.
A shark’s skeleton is made of flexible cartilage that enables it to change direction swiftly and efficiently. Sharks are highly adaptable. They can survive in warm, cool, shallow, or deep water, and eat many different types of prey. For humans, adapting to new situations can be extremely difficult, yet it is vital. It’s not your past decisions that define you, but your next decision. Often, the next “right” decision lies close to home; for instance, choosing to change your attitude or accept constructive criticism. The more flexible you become, the easier it will be to pivot and persevere when external conditions become challenging.
6. Sharks elevate their suckerfish to new levels.
First, a brief science lesson: Remoras, or suckerfish, attach themselves to sharks. In return for transportation, protection, and scraps from the shark’s kills, suckerfish eat tiny parasites that might otherwise sicken and kill the shark. In other words, both the shark and the suckerfish get value from this relationship. In the human world, suckerfish are people who need direction and guidance, and to have their questions answered with patience. The more energy you put into helping them learn and grow, the more value they will bring to your team. Eventually, they will become sharks themselves.
These principles aren’t meant to be worked through once and left behind. They are a mindset and a lifestyle. Continually revisit them as you “swim” into new spaces, especially if you aren’t progressing toward your goals. Whether the water is calm or turbulent, it will guide you toward growth, mutually beneficial relationships, and next-level results.
Walter Bond is the author of Swim!: How a Shark, a Suckerfish, and a Parasite Teach You Leadership, Mentoring, & Next Level Success. Walter is also a renowned business coach, motivational speaker, and former NBA player. His time in the NBA taught him the fundamentals every team needs to be successful, and today he shares his knowledge with global audiences to help entrepreneurs, business leaders, sales teams, and employees get to the next level. Walter has keynoted conferences in numerous countries for brands such as 3M, Hilton, and Allianz.
© YFS Magazine. All Rights Reserved. Copying prohibited. All material is protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this material is prohibited. Sharing of this material under Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International terms, listed here, is permitted.