The following story is re-versioned from an original co-authored by Chris Brady and Orin Woodward and it’s called The Wealthy Fisherman.

Once upon a time, there was a young lad who worked in a sports shop. He was in his second year of university and he – like many university students – was facing a constant struggle to pay for his tuition, food and lodgings.

One day, an older man came into the shop he worked in and spent thousands of pounds on the very best fishing gear for a fly-fishing trip.

The lad helped him out of the shop, arms laden with stuff and the older man led him to a brand-new Rolls-Royce. On impulse, the lad said ‘Sir, do you mind if I ask you a question?’

‘Of course not’ replied the gentleman.

Nervous about asking such a personal question, he said ‘How do I get to be where you are financially one day?’

Wondering at first if the lad was being serious, the man carefully considered his answer.

‘First, define what you really want in life. Second, find someone who has accomplished that exact lifestyle and learn from that person how he or she did it. Third, go do exactly what he or she did.’

And with that, he climbed into his £200,000 car and drove away.

CAVEAT: No-one is entirely certain of the origin of this story. The original authors of the article have suggested it was told to them by a man who claimed to have been the young lad working in the sports shop and who used the advice he got that day from the wealthy fisherman to go on to success at the highest level. That said, it may just be allegorical.

The fact is that it’s hardly relevant whether or not the story is true, the underlying truth is that the principle stands up in its own profundity.

After All This Time, Have We All Simply Got It The Wrong Way Round?

At one point or another in our formative years, we were all asked the same question – ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ – and we’ve all used the following equation to come up with an answer:

  1. Determine what you’d like to do.
  2. Learn how to do it.
  3. Allow it to define your results in life.

But, and this is a very big BUT. In fact if you’ve got a moment, it’s a forty-three storey BUT with 24-hour porterage, six lifts, a Starbucks and a huge neon sign on the roof saying BUT in 10-foot high letters…

…the wealthy fisherman taught the young lad in the sports shop exactly the opposite.

  1. Define the life you would like to have.
  2. Find someone who has that life and learn everything you can from them how they did it.
  3. Do it.

While most of us fall in to the category of Do, Learn, Define, the people at the very top of their game flip it – Define, Learn, Do.

What Does Define, Learn, Do Actually Mean?

When you break it down, it’s deceptively simple.


Run the equation exactly how you’d like to. What’s the end goal for you? Financial security and a globetrotting lifestyle? A happy and healthy family? Giving back to the community? It can even go as far as how you’d like to be remembered.

Ultimately, the list is endless and each of us will have a different end goal but very few of us have ever stopped to seriously think what it might be. The late American educator Steven Covey said ‘Begin with the end in mind’. Define how you’d like to live, right to the very last detail. Pay attention to the talents you have and be in tune with any calling you feel tugging at you. If you can package all these elements together into a clear vision, you’re ready for step two.


Now this is the hard bit. You need to find someone who has the life you’ve defined. On the whole, successful people are keen to help those who want to climb the ladder and look kindly on those coming to them for help or advice.

Stick with it, you’ll find someone. LinkedIn is a great place to start because skills are delineated into sections so you can define who to talk to with quite clear parameters but once you find someone, the lessons you will learn will be priceless because they think and act differently. There’s a reason they’ve achieved stellar results and it’s your job to find out how.

We think and act like the people we surround ourselves with.


It’s time to take action. No-one likes or respects the person that does half a thing. Whatever your ‘define’ is, attack it with absolute focus and determination. Stay persistent and – even though it’s a bit of a tired cliché – keep your eyes on the prize.

Approval will come from those you’re trying to emulate, not from those who don’t understand what you’re trying to do in the first place and remember, most people will think you’ve got it the wrong way round…

Define your life, learn from those who have come before and then do what they did.

One day, a kid in a sports shop will ask you how you did it and you’ll be able to tell them.

For more information about how to reach for the stars, please contact us today.

Jules Peck – owner, Vital Minds Business Training

T: + 44 7931 325 642




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