Opinion: Goldfish in a bowl


In what is perhaps the ideal example of thoughtful resource management, goldfish are known to only grow as much as the appropriately supported capacity of their container. If kept in a cereal bowl on the kitchen counter, the tiny fish will remain just that – tiny fish. If they find their way into a much larger backyard pond, they might flourish into significantly larger creatures. Do we each find our own level of productivity and stick to it? If not, should we?

Anticipating the coming long winter, these waning weeks of summer have long been an impetus for humans to attend to various maintenance projects around home and hearth. The bit of chipping paint on the kitchen window frame, the broken downspout and the cracked footpath, all, in their own time, get attention, repair and restoration. Even with our own labor, we supplement our lack of experience, necessary tools, interest and motivation by outsourcing work to the skilled trades to finish our projects.

The sidewalk requires overhaul. The dutiful homeowner requests bids from a short-list of would-be contractors. Some show up on time to inspect the job.  Others arrive late.  Others don’t bother at all. Some will provide a quote as promised and with due haste. Others must be prodded into action. Still others disappear without remark.  One remains flummoxed by the approach of many to the sale of their wares. What is the formula to find a match from beginning to end? Why is it that almost all of us claim a desire to “get” the work, but so many, when actually offered a job, withdraw from attempting the task?

Perhaps, too, I am overly eager to review every opportunity, thinking little of my own physical and intellectual constraints in actually doing it. How does the goldfish decide he is big enough for his bowl?


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