The Fearless Fish Out of Water, by Robin Fisher Roffer (Hardcover, 2009)|
(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you
want a hardcopy)
Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.
There's nothing wrong with conforming, at least in
some ways. In other ways, it's a huge mistake. Look at how many stupid
things are done to avoid being different. Kids smoke cigarettes due to
peer pressure, not stopping to think that those peers are not thinking
either. People go out to restaurants and suck down a day and a half of
calories at one sitting--because everyone else is. You could make a list
of the twenty dumbest things people do, and probably 15 of those are
done out of a misplaced "need" to conform.
We can look at "over-conformity" from a different
perspective than that of doing dumb things. We can look at it from the
perspective that too much conformity stifles your potential to achieve.
Roffer takes this other perspective in this book. What she's talking
about is embracing what makes you different and using that as a
This concept may violate what you read in many
career success books (talk this way, dress this way, etc.). And it may
conflict with the cliquish culture among some influencers in your
organization (what do you mean you won't golf with us?). But when you
stop and think about it, this concept is logical.
Consider what every company does in the
marketplace. It tries to show its unique selling proposition, a concept
marketers call "USP." What is it that differentiates you from the herd
(or in Roffer's metaphor, school) and makes you special?
I have come across some good works by motivational
speakers and others who advise to be true to who you are. They expound
on the virtues and benefits of this and that's good. What has been
missing is the same kind of thing presented from a business mentor
viewpoint. This is where Roffer comes in.
She doesn't have a formula or paint by numbers
process, so it's not a book that you can mindlessly follow. But it is
laid out logically. And if you read it and think over the concepts you
will find it contains much wisdom and insight. It also contains
practical tips, easy-to-follow guidelines, and useful exercises for
further developing and applying what you learn.
Her basic premise is that rather than "fix what's
wrong" with being different, use what sets you apart as a powerful force
for achieving your goals. People want to fit in. They want to be
accepted by others. You can be accepted without changing who you are.
You can be you without apology and without alienating others. Roffer
explains how to make that happen.
Most nonfiction books consist of ten chapters.
That's the standard formula. Roffer chose to write hers in seven
chapters. She could have chosen to "fit in" by adding three fluff
chapters, but her focus instead was on serving the reader. She had
material for seven chapters, so seven chapters it was. She had material
for seven chapters because she provides a seven-step process for
succeeding as the person you are.
She uses a fish metaphor throughout. She uses
examples, mostly from the entertainment industry, to illustrate various
points and concepts. Here are the chapters:
- Step 1: Go Fishing for the Real You.
Self-knowledge is a lifelong process. This chapter helps move that
- Step 2: Use your Differences as a Lure. This
chapter focuses on presenting what's different in a positive light,
rather than apologizing for it.
- Step 3: Find a Few Fish Like You. How to
create a support system, basically.
- Step 4: Swim in Their Ocean Your Way. I found
this chapter particularly interesting. My approach has generally
been to just stay out of the water (avoidance). Her approach relies
- Step 5: Put Yourself Out on the Line. Great
stuff here on self-advocacy, an area where many people go way
overboard and many others just don't get off the pot.
- Step 6: Evolve by Casting a Wide Net. Being
yourself doesn't mean being insulated from the rest of the world.
How do you strike a balance?
- Step 7: Reel in Your Unique Power. This
chapter looks at how to turn belief and courage into action.
This book has a few flaws. For example:
- The profusion of sentences constructed in
parallel. These always make a reader have to do mental flipflops.
- The persistent use of "flounder" where,
judging from the context, the author meant "founder." These are not
- Other grammatical errors, such as using a
modifier with "unique."
- Too many references to television. People
tend to be readers or television watchers, but not both. The reason
is physical, because the brain adapts to the particular use. A
knowledgeable medical examiner can identify which group an autopsied
person belonged in by looking at the structure of that person's
brain. Readers and television watchers really are that
different. So, many of her references were simply foreign to this
- The writing style lacked snap. One reason is
Roffer used many complex, compound, multi-clause sentences.
The flaws are form, rather than substance. But
they do detract from the reading experience. The message is good, and
the author knows what she's talking about. I think for anyone who feels
anxiety about fitting in, this book is a good investment of time and