I just had a great visit over dinner with internationally renowned Nike shoe designer and friend Tinker Hatfield. He went from world-class pole vaulter to budding architect to joining Nike in 1981, and has been designing shoes for more than 30 years.
Tinker told me that he has people from all over the world contact him wanting to find out how they can also become a top shoe designer. I told him that sounded like all the anglers out there wanting to “catch the big one.”
Tinker laughed and said, “They all want to succeed – but do you know why most of them fail? It’s not because they’re not qualified, talented or can’t get the breaks. It’s because most of their lives are in chaos.”
Not what I was expecting, but Tinker is renowned for his acute insights.
“The big problem we have today is that people are so overwhelmed by all the information that’s coming at them 24/7. They can’t sift through it all and they just can’t focus on what they need to. The deluge of raw information spewing out of our cellphones, the digital world, social media, TV, radio and YouTube for starters is like trying to drink out of a firehose. Add the stress generated by living in crowded cities with heavy traffic and you’ve got folks who are totally scattered. Our brains aren’t wired to deal with it all. If you can’t cope, how can you focus on anything that takes total concentration and lots of patience to succeed? There has to be an internal oasis where you learn to listen to your own voice and develop the critical instincts you need to trust to be able to succeed.”
This made me think about the instincts good anglers develop and the singular focus it takes.
“I’m also finding that folks are becoming more information gatherers and processors than individual thinkers,” Tinker said. “Knowing about something almost never translates into experiential success. However, it has become the norm to collect data as if we really understand it. That has led to more confusion as well as avoiding making decisions since you’re never through getting more info.”
I realized I’m seeing a lot of anglers doing this, but never put it into such succinct words.
“I think that when we grew up that there was more doing and less talking,” Tinker said. “You can somehow keep the main thing the main thing when you don’t have so many stressors and voices. The world has made our lives chaotic if we’re not vigilant.”
“Being ruthless and compartmentalizing and separating out the junk from the critical has become a key and unique ability I’ve had to practice,” Tinker concluded.
Tinker suggested that serious fishing takes calm, patience and focus – the very attributes he considers to be key. Those attribute also run counter to the current culture.
We are being assailed by voices around us every second. It is overwhelming and disconcerting. Interestingly, when most anglers feel scattered we instinctively feel the need to get on the water.
Shut off the noise and focus on your fishing and what you’re learning. Be quiet, your inner fishing self is trying to be heard.
Never give up!