Tough Economic Times: Lessons From the Tank

Tough Economic Times: Lessons From the Tank

By Bob VandePol, MSW

COVID-19 challenges many areas of our lives in many frightening ways. It threatens the health and safety of ourselves and loved ones, forced us into social isolation and resulted in radical shifts in education and work.

For many of us, the crisis has also brought on immense economic stressors. Many business owners have suffered sudden devastating financial losses. These losses have stemmed from a combination of the shutdowns, reduced demand for goods and the cost of implementing new COVID guideline practices. Some have been unable to work at all while family expenses continue to pile up.

For many, it has been increasingly difficult to maintain hope.

Perhaps the strange story that follows can provide perspective to focus, both on the step immediately ahead of you and the desired end result.

When trouble rears its head, persistence and determination are key

Years ago, my son had an aquarium dominated by a highly aggressive Oscar fish named Jaws. Suffice it to say, Jaws was not a vegetarian. Each Saturday, 30 fresh “feeder fish” were poured into Jaws’ tank and introduced to a lethal game of Hide & Seek. (I know, I know, nature can be gruesome.)

As the buffet dwindled one Saturday, a single speckled goldfish successfully eluded Jaws not just for the entire day but the entire week. His survival was due to a combination of quickness, nimble elusive moves and strategic use of the tank ornaments to his advantage. As we cheered him on enthusiastically, the little rascal survived one week after another. Eventually, it grew too large to be considered food and had to be moved to a bigger tank.

This courageous pet, which earned the name ‘Darwin’ (think about it), has become the object lesson of much life advice. “Never give up.” “Don’t be paralyzed by fear.” “Attack big projects one step at a time.”

In other words, STAY IN THE GAME!

As we negotiate the challenges of these uncertain times, let’s take heart from little Darwin’s story.

Maybe someday we, too, will find ourselves survivors suddenly in need of a bigger tank.


Bob VandePol, MSW serves as Executive Director for the Pine Rest Employee and Church Assistance Programs which provides Critical Incident Response services to business, organizations, schools and universities as well as faith communities.

Active as a keynote speaker, Mr. VandePol has published and been quoted in business and clinical journals, co-authored book chapters addressing workplace response to tragedy and has been featured as subject matter expert in numerous video training series. Mr. VandePol can be contacted at 616.258.7548 or bob.vandepol@pinerest.org.

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