The Stupid Fish Climbed A Tree and Our Unique Abilities

Updated: Nov 16

The Return To Fit Podcast: The Stupid Fish Climbed A Tree & Our Unique Abilities

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Episode Description:

Welcome to the twelfth episode of The Return To Fit Podcast!

In this episode, we discuss the power of focusing on your strengths and features the lessons and warnings from the story: The Stupid Fish Climbed A Tree!

Links Mentioned In This Episode

Episode Transcript:

What are your strengths? What are you the best at? What makes you stand out as the individual that you are? If you don’t have immediate answers to these questions then you’re listening to the right podcast.

Hello friends and welcome to the Return To Fit Podcast where each week we discuss health topics ranging from essential mindset skills to fitness & nutrition, and more. I’m your host Coach Sabin. And I’m excited about today’s episode: The Stupid Fish Climbed A Tree

We’ve all read or heard this quote: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” While it’s often attributed to Albert Einstein, he isn’t on record for actually saying this. And it doesn’t matter because the quote makes a lot of sense.

Story Time! Use your imagination with me for a minute. Imagine this fish comes up to the surface and sees these kids climbing in and out a tree by the water. The fish yells out, “hey, what are you kids doing.” The kids reply, “climbing this tree. It’s tons of fun. Come up here with us!” “Okay,” says the fish. It flops out of the water, and flops back and forth as it works its way a short distance on land to the base of the tree. It then proceeds to flop against the tree a few times before realizing it can’t climb trees. Out of breath, the fish flops back into the water. Meanwhile, the kids are roaring in laughter, “The stupid fish can’t even climb a tree.”

Discouraged, the fish becomes determined to climb the tree. It watches the tree for the next few days, seeing other people and other animals climb the tree. The fish notices: They have hands, feet, and claws. They can grip the tree. I have fins, how can I climb that tree? Then it decides, I will leap high out of the water and land in the tree. It practices leaping out of the water again and again and again. Eventually, it can get quite high, but not enough to land in the tree. Next to the tree is a bit of a hill that the fish can make it to. “If only I could leap from the hill into the tree. It’s much closer and much higher than from here.” The fish then practices leaping from land, but stays at the shore close to the water. It becomes frustrated because no matter how hard it tries, it cannot leap high enough. The kids from the other day see the fish hopping and leaping on land. When they learn what it’s trying to do, they laugh at it again…. “The stupid fish can’t even climb a tree.”

Just then, there’s a huge flash across the sky and the crack of thunder soon follows. A heavy rain begins; the kids run off, complaining and soaked. This makes the fish grin, but it's also scared of the storm and gets back into the water. It continues to rain hard until the next day. Not only is the water level higher, but at the top of that hill is a large mud puddle. The fish is energized and excited. If it can land in the puddle, it can leap from there into the tree. After a couple practice leaps, the fish readies itself. With all its focus and energy, it takes a great leap out of the water and… splash! It landed in the puddle! Filled with glee it takes a few moments to recover and readies itself again. Another great leap and… thudump! It lands in the tree. “I did it! I finally climbed the tree! Not so stupid now!” Thought the fish. It looked around to see if the kids were nearby and as it did, it saw a big round ball bouncing towards the tree. It landed with a heavy splash in the puddle the fish just left. “Oh no! That was my way back to the water. No matter, I’ll just have one of the kids put me back in the water when they come.” It waited, thinking they’d come get their ball any minute. They didn’t. As it waited, the fish started finding it harder and harder to breathe. Scared, it started debating just flopping down, though it was equally scared of getting hurt on the way down. Then the fish was startled by something brown and fuzzy right up in its face. “The Stupid Fish Climbed A Tree” said the bear before gobbling up its dinner.

The Fish’s last thoughts were of home, the family it never started, the life it never lived. It climbed the tree, sure, but it didn’t even like the tree nor did it enjoy the process it took to get into the tree. It regrettably got so caught up in what others thought of it, that the fish wasted its life doing something it never really wanted to do in the first place. It’s unique strengths and abilities never fully realized, the Stupid Fish Climbed A Tree.

The point of this story, even if the fish could or did climb the tree, it made no difference in how it was perceived. Letting others, whether its society, friends and family, or your boss and coworkers, tell you what you should and shouldn’t be able to do is really stupid.

The human race is made up of individuals. We are diverse, we are unique, and we are beautiful. We all have a set of strengths and things that make us us. I believe that the true beauty of the human race is that our differences complement each other in a way that our collective strengths overcome our individual weaknesses and make us the most formidable creatures on the planet. While the politicians and the media want to divide us and seek to trick us into thinking we’re way more divided than we really are, I want to urge each and everyone of you listening to this podcast to be more vocal about how incredible and unique the human race truly is. Seek out those who are different from you and watch yourself overcome any weaknesses.

In my opinion, the tragedy of the human being, the individual, is that most of us have no idea what the heck our strengths really are. If you put someone in an interview and ask them what their strengths are, you’ll get silence as they try to figure out a good answer. I’ve been there before and now I know… It shouldn’t be that way.

Why? Your life changes when you understand your strengths. You become more confident because you know you are good at these things. You can align your daily activities so that you spend more time doing the things you’re good at. This leads to a happier, more gratifying life. You can spend less time doing things that don’t align with your strengths, it’s easier to let go of those things.

What about weaknesses? Being blind to your weaknesses can be a serious problem, no doubts about it. But how often are we really? The results usually speak loud and clear.

If I go to fix the plumbing of my apartment… two things will happen. One: My landlord is going to be pissed. And Two: I’m going to realize in a very expensive way that plumbing is not one of my strengths.

Another example I heard some time ago, I can’t remember where, but let's assume we should dedicate time to our weaknesses.

Say we’re in charge of Usain Bolt’s training. After doing some basic assessments we aren’t surprised to find out that he can run some really fast sprints. But we also find out that he relatively struggles with long distance running. In order to improve his cardiovascular endurance and long distance running, we develop a program that focuses on improving his 5k time. He makes decent, measurable improvements in his 5k time and cardiovascular endurance. Great work, right? Wrong. He goes to the World Championships and has his worst finishes in his incredible career. We’re promptly fired.

He’s not meant to run 5ks or have great cardiovascular endurance. He’s meant to cover short distances really really fast. His career depends on it. Focusing on his weaknesses would be a catastrophe.

Discovering my unique strengths (along with defining my purpose and values) really helped change my life. Instead of depression driving my life, I took the wheel. I became happier, motivated, and resilient. I still struggled, but I was already struggling to go nowhere. Now I struggle to fulfill my purpose and pursue my goals in life.

Today is your day to accept this truth: You have awesome, unique strengths that are special and you can change your life by getting more aligned with them.

To get started, it takes some time and self-exploration. There are resources to help you here and I’ll get to those in a minute

Before I do, I just want to warn you this: Avoid becoming The Fish! In the end it falls on you to make the final call on what your strengths really are. The resources I recommend are guides, not absolute authorities. If you accept their feedback as fact, you’re in the same boat as the fish climbing the tree. If you read something that makes you scratch your head and wonder, feel free to disregard it.

There are three resources I’ll share with you, these are the same three resources I share with my clients in the Return To Fit 4Women and 4Men Coaching programs. You can learn more about these programs at our website They’re Opening again very soon! Again that’s and you’ll be able to find this link in the description of this episode. Our coaching programs are a six month, client-centered program where you focus on your fitness, nutrition, and mindset building skills and developing habits that will stay with you for life.

Also in the bio you’ll find the links to these three resources the first one being You can go to and take a free assessment which will rank you on 24 different strengths and provide a little information on each one. This one is the least time consuming, but also the least helpful. At least relative to the other two.

The next one is You might have seen on social media profiles people list four letters with a dash and a fifth letter after the dash. Those letters refer to a specific personality type based on the Myers-Briggs, uses a framework similar to that. Again you’ll take a free assessment that’s a bit longer than the previously mentioned one. The time investe pays off, as you receive a lot more information in terms of volume and depth. You’ll be assigned a personality type, code, role, and strategy as well as a ton of additional resources… all for free. My results were: Turbulent Architect, INTJ-T, Analyst and Constant Improvement.

The third one is by far the most beneficial process. It’s also far more time consuming and intimate as it requires getting several other people involved and answering questions about you. It comes from Dr. John Berardi’s book, The Change Maker, and it involves a concept called Unique Abilities. You contact 5-10 people that you’re close with, ideally a mix of professional and personal contacts. You have them answer five questions with the first things that come to them when they think about you. Before reading their answers, you also come up with your answers to those questions and a few more. Finally, you identify common themes among all the answers and write your Unique Ability statements. Like I said, it’s far more time consuming and intimate, but it is such an amazing and rewarding process. Best of all, it comes down to you to write your statements out that clarify your strengths. Not some auto-generating computer program.

Which one should you do? Whichever one you’ll see through until the end. I did all three. You can too.

Just don’t be the stupid fish that climbed a tree.

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