Reillys mother was sick and tired of saying that Reilly was the laziest person she’d ever met and that he’d amount to nothing if he didn’t discipline himself. She was of a generation whose entire belief system was predicated on the belief that the secret to success in any endeavour was hard work and discipline. She put hard work and discipline squarely ahead of innate talent, aptitude and even divine supplication.

And she was mostly right. Reilly had an aversion to hard work and discipline. 

Within one week of beginning secondary school Dan Smith, Reillys biology teacher, had bestowed on him the moniker of ‘Doing Nothing.’ 

What confounded Reilly however was that his mate John Walsh was the laziest person he knew. 

Christened ‘Doing Nothing At All’ by Dan Smith, Walsh nonetheless came near the top of his class when it came to exams; was an elite sprinter on the athletics team; and lived the most relaxed, carefree and jovial life of anyone else that Reilly knew.

The question that perplexed Reilly was how was it possible for some people like Walsh to perform so highly with little apparent discipline and how was it that others, who worked inordinately hard failed miserably in their endeavours.

He might never have explained it save for the intervention of his Uncle Stiofáin.

He’d arrived early one Saturday morning in May and announced to Reillys mother that he’d take Reilly away for the day and put SMÁCHT* on his fishing. Despite the mother’s protestations about another distraction from his studies she reluctantly relented and Reilly was liberated from a day of looking at books.

Stiofáin was the best angler on the Corrib by a country mile and Reilly was soon to learn why. To begin with he had a typed checklist for stacking the boat and preparing to go fishing called ‘A Place for Everything and Everything In Its Place.’ He explained to Reilly that an aircraft pilot would never countenance flying without a checklist. It was the same for a professional angler.

Before they launched the boat Stiofáin asked Reilly.

‘What would make this a great day Reilly?’

Reilly didn’t have to think twice.

‘Oh, to catch loads of fish Uncle Stiofáin and a few whoppers.’

‘Reilly, the one thing we can’t guarantee today are the number and quality of the fish we’ll catch. There are some days I’ve caught dozens of fish including specimens and many more days when I’ve caught nothing. Fishing, like life, is a great leveller and source of humility. Sometimes, if we have high expectations and we don’t achieve them it can leave us feeling dispirited and demotivated. Far better Reilly to focus on what you can control.’

Reilly was clearly disappointed and a tad disenchanted.

‘So are you saying Uncle Stiofáin, having goals and high expectations are a bad thing.?’

‘Great question Reilly. Goals are magic but there are three different types of goals or measures, and it’s vital to understand the difference between them. The first of these is what are called outcome goals or measures. These are focused on achieving a result like catching a fish, or passing an exam, or dare I say it, getting off with a pretty girl! 

‘The second type of goal or measure, and much more powerful, are what we call process goals or measures. These focus on developing systems and routines and habits that underpin the achievement of your outcome goals. 

‘The third and most powerful goal or measure is what are called identity goals. These are the real game changers. These are the goals about what you believe about yourself and the world. With outcome-based goals or measures the focus is on what you want to achieve. With identity-based goals or measures, the focus is on who you wish to become.’

‘Therefore Reilly, your goal today is not to catch a fish, it’s to become an accomplished angler. Your goal at school on Monday is not to pass your exams, it’s to become a scholar of renown. And your goal at the disco is not to get off with any old girl, it’s to become a highly attractive and irresistible person. When your focus shifts from ‘what’ to ‘who,’ the ground moves.’

‘And Reilly, when you decide the type of person you want to be, prove it to yourself with small and tiny wins.’

Reilly was still processing this information from Stiofáin and quietly proclaimed.

‘I intend to become a great angler.’

‘Now you’re sucking diesel amhac. And what type of person would you have to be to become a great angler?’

‘Like you Uncle Stiofáin.’

Stiofáins only concession to fashion and ostentation was a pair of polarised sunglasses to enable him better see beneath the water when he was dapping flies. He put them on now to conceal from Reilly the tears of pride and joy in his eyes.

‘Let the games begin’ he mumbled sheepishly.

That day they tried four different types of lure, and not to much avail. They began trawling baits and caught three small perch. Then they switched to trawling flies and Stiofáin caught a nice two pound trout on a Sooty Olive fly. Then they tried dapping mayfly but there wasn’t enough wind.

As the day was drawing to a close Stiofáin took in the dapping rods and opened a box called Bricín. He impaled two live bricín on a brass mount and trussed them delicately with red thread and handed the rod to Reilly.

‘Now Reilly, we’ll try an old family heirloom that’s been fished successfully in the Narra’s for centuries. 

Reilly had a heightened sense of anticipation but it lost its edge after a few minutes of no action.

He would never again forget the next experience. The rod dug explosively into the left side of his abdomen momentarily winding him. The reel hissed and screeched like a mad banshee. He looked behind and he saw the fish break water forty yards away and descend with renewed vigour and velocity.

‘It’s a fresh run spring cock salmon, fifteen pounds weight if it’s an ounce,’ said Stiofáin quietly and calmly as if they’d been catching salmon all day long.

The reality dawned on Reilly. He had a specimen fish on the end of his line and he wanted at all costs to get him in the boat. Imagine the kudos from this! Already he felt the adulation of his friends, and in particular his enemies, as they saw his spoils of war. In fact, he’d get him stuffed and displayed over the fireplace where everybody would see it and know what a great guy Reilly was.

‘Will you bring him in Uncle Stiofáin please. He’s too big and powerful for me and I’ll surely lose him.’

‘What’s your goal for the day? asked Stiofáin evenly.

‘To become an angler as great as you. And to make small wins today.’

‘Then keep the tip of the rod up at all times and give him plenty of line if he looks for it.’

It took Reilly twenty seven minutes to land that fish. On three occasions they’d had him at the net but on each occasion the salmon summoned a fresh impetus of energy and seared away to the depths of the lake. When finally, Stiofáin netted the fish and laid him on the floor boards Reilly never experienced such savage beauty.

Gently Stiofáin unhooked the bricín from the salmons mouth and asked Reilly to hold the fish. After a moment he took the fish back and carefully placed him in the water with his head pointed downstream. The salmon appeared listless and lifeless before the fresh water entered his gills and he gradually resuscitated. 

Then he released him. Let him go. Back to the golden depths from whence he’d come and where he was returning to. 

Reilly was apoplectic.

‘Why did you let him go? He was my fish. I’ll never catch as big as one as that again. I hate you.’

Stiofáin never uttered a word.

It’s called different things in different cultures. The Jews refer to it as Bar Mitzvah. The members of the Sateré-Mawé tribe in the Brazilian Amazon call it simply ‘The Bullet and Ant.’ 

In Reillys family it’s called SMÁCHT. 

It was the day he came of age. Things would never be quite the same again.

The following morning Reilly was at Stiofáins house in St Mary’s Road before even Stiofáin was up. 

The journey of becoming an angler had truly begun.

For ever afterwards, as he ghillied for the good and the great, he would reflect on what Stiofáin taught him about SMÁCHT that day.

LEARNINGS.

  • Most of us aren’t born lazy. It’s simply that we haven’t found something to motivate us yet. If you have the motivation you need, discipline is no problem. If you lack motivation, discipline is always a problem.
  • Stiofáin would often say that the line which separates winning from losing is as fine as a razors edge, and so it is. He called it ‘smacht’ and Reilly would later bastardise it in the name of design by calling it ‘SMÁCHT.’ In addition to meaning discipline, control and shape, SMÁCHT is also an acronym for six components that make the application of discipline easier and more enjoyable. These are systems; mindset; actions; communications; habits; and time. This story deals with the first two of those with more to follow in subsequent stories.
  • The first requirement of SMÁCHT is motivation, not necessarily hard work. Find something you are passionate about and you will instantly eliminate laziness, lack of discipline and all those other odious phrases that appeared on our school reports. Reilly was lazy until he discovered fishing. And a mentor. And success. 
  • Systems are important. For everything in business and life there should be a place for everything, and everything in its place. Systems make discipline possible and easier.*
  • There are different types of mindsets to goalsetting. Most goals are outcome based goals such as being a certain weight or delivering a specific profit return. The problem with them is that you have no control over them. Far better are what are called process-based goals. These are what Joe Schmidt used to refer to when he’d say ‘if you focus on the process the score will largely look after itself.’ The ultimate game-changer however are what are called identity-based goals. These focus on what type of person you want to become. The first question therefore to ask is ‘What kind of person do I want to become?
  • And the second question is ‘who is the type of person that has achieved what I am aspiring to achieve?
  • Why do you think Stiofáin let the salmon go?

QUOTES.

To have more we must become more. You can have more than you’ve got because you can become more than than you are.’

— Jim Rohn.

‘The idea so excited me I began that evening.’

Tim Robinson when it was suggested to him to do a map.

A Jesuit priest once said to Tony O’Reillys mother.

‘If your son doesn’t develop discipline he’ll end up selling newspapers.’

O’Reilly later responded with his customary wit.

‘He was right.’

QUESTIONS.

  1. Who would you like to become?
  2. Who do you know that has achieved what you want and what is it that they do?
  3. Why did Stiofáin let the salmon go? (I’d really welcome your responses to this)

*’Smacht’ (pronounced smocht) is the Irish word for discipline or control. When a Micheal Ó Muircheartaigh would describe Joe Canning putting ‘smacht ar an sliotar’ he’d be referring to Joe controlling or mastering the ball. Wonderful word with no equivalent in the English language. 

(Thanks to a former Matron in Cahercalla Hospital in Ennis who taught me, and so many of my clients, this gem thirty years ago, long before we ever heard of Lean Thinking.

Pádraic Ó Máille teaches SMÁCHT to business owners who are eager to grow and become more. He’d be happy to discuss the programme with you on 087-2647817 or at p@omaille.ie