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.

On a dreary November morning, my friend and I walked from our Dublin hotel to the bus stop. An elderly man was waiting there so I asked him which bus we needed to take and what the fare would be. “Do we need the exact change?” I asked. He nodded and we began scouring  our wallets looking for coins, but neither of us had enough money for the fare. The man reached in his pocket and pulled out a pile of coins which he held out to us saying, “Ladies in distress are my specialty.”  If the sun had suddenly made an appearance, I don’t think it would have made us any happier than this unexpected act of kindness had. 


What do you think might happen to a business that was committed to making everyone’s day a little bit nicer? One business found out.


Several years ago, the owner of Seattle’s Pike Place Fish Market set a goal to become a world famous business. He decided that in order to reach this exalted status, he and his staff would master four unorthodox principles which included  Play, Be There, Make Their Day and Choose Your Attitude. The silliness and showmanship that resulted from this policy attracted huge crowds and impressive sales.


One day a Minnesota filmmaker happened by the market and was mesmerized by the energy  in this unlikely place. He got the idea to film them in action and have them talk about how they ran their business. That film turned into an enormously popular training film that companies around the world are using to inspire their employees. Several books explaining the simple Fish Philosophy have reached bestseller status. The Pike Place Fish Market isn’t only world famous; it’s a role model for running a joyful business.


Making someone’s day doesn’t require grandiose actions, but it does require being attentive to little things that can make life more pleasant or memorable. Any business can find endless ways to do this.


When my daughter Jennifer was in college, she worked at a variety of jobs including being a parking lot attendant, a job I considered somewhat dangerous because these booths were often the target of robbers. She refused to give it up because it allowed her to get in a lot of study time.


One evening a man drove up and asked if he might park in the lot for just ten minutes without paying. Although it was strictly against policy, he was so polite that she gave him permission to do so.When he left, he thanked her and said, “You must get hungry working here,” and drove off. He returned a few minutes later with a dinner of curried chicken, fried rice and a fortune cookie. Jennie was astonished by his kindness and accepted the meal with her thanks and a handshake. 


She never saw him again, but he left a deep impression on her. When she called to tell me what had happened, she said, “Now I want to go do something nice for a total stranger.” It may have been the best lesson she learned in college.


Start thinking of ways you could delight the people who support your work and then do something about it. A Japanese  proverb says, “One kind word can warm three winter months.” Don’t underestimate the power of this simple idea. The Fish Guys support you in doing so.