Seattle’s Pike Place Fish Market may seem an unlikely business to gain international attention, but that’s exactly what happened after filmmaker John Christensen noticed the enthusiasm and energy that the fishmongers brought to their job. He decided to make a film about this unique business.

What Christensen learned was that the fish market had four simple principles that they put into action every day. One of those principles is so important that without it the other three don’t work.

It’s also an option we all have, but not everyone exercises it on a daily basis.

As one of the fishmongers explains, “My buddies and I realized that each day when we come to the fish market we bring an attitude. We can bring a grouchy attitude and irritate our coworkers and customers.

“Or we can bring a 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 here, we might as well have the best day we can have.”

That’s not just a nice philosophy, however. Everyone at the fish market looks for creative ways to demonstrate that a positive attitude makes the place delightful for workers and customers alike.

Fish fly through the air and crowds gather around the market that seems to specialize in performance art.

“In fact, we got so excited about our choices that we chose to be world famous. A day spent ‘being world famous’ is a lot more enjoyable than a day spent being ordinary.”

The simple secret of the Pike Place Fish Market is, of course, the realization that attitude is a choice. That’s not something I always believed.

In my early life, I thought that my attitude was a result of what was going on around me. If things were going well, I stayed pretty positive; if my plans weren’t working, it was cause to be cranky. Then I was led to one of the first personal development programs I ever heard of called Adventures in Attitudes.

This program was inspired by the psychologist William James who said,  “The greatest revolution of our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitude of their minds can change the outer aspects of their lives.”

I loved that idea, but found taking charge of my own attitude was not always easy. Just knowing that attitude is a choice—not a random emotional event—is the first step to taking charge of it.

If we don’t know or don’t believe we have choices, we don’t.

When it comes to our attitude, if we don’t exercise those choices, creepy, crawly, dark thoughts can move right in. While we can’t control how we feel, we can control how we think and act.

When we take personal responsibility for our attitude, situations may not change, but how we handle them does. And when we are serious about that responsibility, we refuse to let the behavior of others take control of our own attitude.

As my two-year-old grandson would say, “That’s huge, Grandma. Huge!”

If you want to see your business soar, decide that negativity, crankiness and unpleasantness are not options for you. After all, being in charge of an inspired business begins with being in charge of that way of thinking and behaving we call attitude.

“A man without a smiling face must not open a shop,” says an old Chinese proverb. It is not an exaggeration to say that the ultimate success of your business will be determined more by your attitude than any other factor.


A quick reminder that the Early Bird enrollment for the Joyfully Jobless Jamboree ends at midnight on Labor Day. There will be plenty of positive attitude in action in Austin on October 15 & 16. Don’t miss it.

One Response to “Exercising Your Options”

  1. Jane Snell Copes

    In honor of your fine thoughts, we made fish tacos for supper tonight. I thank my dad for his inevitably cheerful spirit, even when life was hard for him. It’s made a difference for me!

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