Teach a Person to Fish

When I was entering 4th grade, my parents bought their first house, which was my primary home through high school.

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Seeing my childhood home on Zillow today, the landscaping is greatly improved, but the front looks much the same. Growing up, I spent a lot of time in the basement. It had the only TV in the house, fake wood panels, cinder block and wood shelves with my parents’ college text books and novels, a laundry room with a 1/2 bath, and whatever stuff my brother and I were playing with at the time.


Two signs hung on the basement walls. For different reasons, I remember them both vividly.

The one over the bathroom toilet said this:

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As an adult, the message is clear. But growing up, it meant different things to me at different ages.

The other sign was a proverb.

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I read and thought about that proverb often over the years. It is so simple – yet so profound, powerful, and true. That proverb influenced my views on the world and helped me determine how I could make the greatest difference in it.

I noticed over and over, when people did not follow that proverb, long term success proved elusive. Be it economic policy, parenting style, management strategy, relationship attitude, or any other aspect of life, that proverb always provides sage wisdom.

With my children, I believe my job is to help them on their journey to becoming strong and decent people. I let them struggle at times, not because I do not care, but because I do. Learning to become self sufficient is the only way they can become independent. They should want to be with me, not need to be with me. I want them to be more successful and better than I am in every way that matters, including happiness. That drives my parenting style.

I get more joy and satisfaction from knowing Rising is providing an outlet for people to “fish” for themselves and their families, than I do from any pride in myself. Providing a great place for people to work, grow, and excel is something I relish.

With charities, I always ask “are they solving the problem permanently (teaching people to fish) or temporarily masking it (giving people a fish)?” Candidly, I struggle to support organizations if they are not working towards a permanent solution to the problem.

Recently, Rising team members held an internal fundraiser to support the Greater Chicago Food Depository, the Milwaukee Hunger Task Force, and Feeding America. As a company, Rising matched our employees’ generous contributions. With unemployment soaring, food banks are seeing a dramatic increase in demand. For the first time in their lives, many people do not know where their next meal will come from. They are lining up outside food banks hours before they even open. People are in dire need and the money we donated will help people in the short term.

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But what about the long term? People are in need because they were “banned from fishing.” As a country, we will not be able to “give a fish” our way out of the economic hardships resulting from COVID-19. The longer the national shutdown continues, the number of people in need will grow while the number of people with resources to assist will dwindle. The pattern needs to be reversed. Every day someone is prevented from fishing, the livelihood of that person, their family, and society overall is jeopardized.

The best thing I can do, and the best thing I feel society can do, is provide people with as much evidence-based information as possible about the virus. That way, when restrictions are lifted, people are knowledgeable and comfortable taking the necessary steps to provide for themselves and their families. From what I’ve observed, the panicdemic surrounding COVID-19 has proven to be far more destructive and dangerous than the pandemic itself. Only knowledge can offset fear of the unknown, which is why I have found such a pressing need to write about and discuss the status of the COVID-19 outbreak. I just want you all to know my perspective as I write these blogs.

Stay safe, stay strong!