Review: The Shark and the Goldfish by Jon Gordon

One of my 2019 New Year Resolutions was to read at least three books about business or books that will help with building a business. I’m a big reader so I didn’t really think that this resolution was going to be difficult. I just had to pick the right books to read, set a deadline, and go.

The first book that I read for this challenge was The Shark and the Goldfish by Jon Gordon. At first glance, this book looked like it would be a quick afternoon read (which is NOT why I chose it first). However, in reality, it turned out to be quite a heavy read with lots to digest. Like a lot of self-help books, you get as much as you put into it. If you read the entire thing just to say you read it, in a day or two you won’t remember a single thing. On the other hand, if you read it and apply it immediately to your life and spend the time to reflect then you will get quite a lot out of it, regardless of how long or short the actual text is.

I’ve read a lot of books that claim to help you improve your productivity, create positive habits, or increase your memory. All of them spoke to the reader as a wise old man figure that has all the answers and all you had to do was just follow their quick and simple recipe and you would end up just like them, the ultimate producer and positive habit-forming master. The problem with those books is that I usually unintentionally shut off while I’m reading them. It’s hard for me to trust someone’s method right off the get-go, let alone believe that there is just one simple method to change what seems to be the problem that a lot of people have. I want to see data, academic research articles, and lots of anecdotes. This could be why I’m so skeptical of things in life.

To be honest it’s an adult bedtime story. But it’s a refreshing one. And yes, there are pictures.

However, this book isn’t like those books at all. Gordon has his own formula but it’s embedded deeper into the story. To be frank, it’s an adult bedtime story. A story with a plot that is very simple but has such a greater meaning behind it and such a larger message that will likely stay with you longer than you think. And yes, there are pictures.

He didn’t need to sell me, or any of his readers, on a method or cure. The way he presented the story made it a book of simple reminders, not a book of learning big new ideas. I think that in itself is a refreshing look at dealing with change.

The tag line of the book is “Positive Ways to Thrive During Waves of Change” and I’m pretty sure the pun was intended. I’m constantly dealing with change in my life and in work and I think that I can always improve my ability to adapt to change and actually be successful with this constant, yet inconsistent change. Usually, I’m under the impression that it is difficult to prepare yourself for change, but I’m slowly realizing that you can in fact not only prepare but also lead others through those times. The true leaders are the ones that take care of their team through those changing times and don’t just think about how the change effects themselves.

Everyone has change that they must adapt to at some point in their life. Everyone in their own right is equipped to deal with it and usually respond very differently.  However, not very many adults need to be taught how to adjust or adapt, they just need some gentle reminders of the lessons they’ve learned in the past. That is what this book really is, or at least what I took away from it.

Everyone can always improve how they adapt to change, but what is most important is that we all already have the ability to do so. This book is a subtle reminder of those lessons we’ve learned in life. 

The story follows a small goldfish that has been released into the ocean and for the first time must survive on his own. In other words, the goldfish is going through the ultimate life change. He immediately meets a shark that teaches him not only how to eat for the first day, but how to adjust to living in the ocean.

The fact that the fish is named after a derivative of his name “Gordy” was not lost on me, and I really appreciated it. So many times I’ve read books that read as if the person who wrote it doesn’t need the advice he or she is giving.

Gordon gives practical advice throughout this book in a way that made me relax, take a deep breath, and look the change that I was dealing with directly in the eye. I don’t think the intent of the book was to win a Pulitzer or to win an award for best new strategy for adapting to new circumstances, but rather a book to make you realize that you have everything you need to deal with any problem that you face and that it is your choice to either sink or swim (now it’s my turn for the puns).

I was tempted to post pictures of the book pages in this post, but I think that not only would that be an infringement on his copyrights but it would give away too much of the book. It wouldn’t do the story justice and would be a sad spoiler for those who hadn’t read it. Since I had borrowed the book from the library I took a few pictures of the main ideas and pictures with my phone and keep them in a place that I can get to easily. He even reminds you in the book that these lessons need to be relearned or rehearsed sometimes. Learning it once doesn’t mean you’ve learned it forever.

I’m embarrassed to say that before this book I had never heard of Jon Gordon. However, afterward I looked him up and he has quite the empire. Not only does he have dozens of books, but he is a regular public speaker and motivator for some of the biggest companies in the world. Obviously, I wasn’t the only one that got something from his little book, nor was it his first or last book.