Lessons in Leadership: Integrating Courage, Vision, and Innovation for the Future of Sustainable Fisheries

Don’t Worry, Be Happy: Learning to Let Go

Craig Paukert

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781934874608.ch26

As I reflect on my evolution as a scientist, at the beginning I never considered being a leader—I simply liked being outdoors and working in the fisheries field. I loved science. I loved fish. I loved trying to understand why a fish population was stunted or not growing, the age of the fish that I caught, or why I caught them in a particular bay and not in other areas of the lake. My curiosities about fish and their ecology and behaviors led me to obtain my B.S. in fisheries, wildlife, and conservation biology from the University of Minnesota. From there, I served as a creel clerk, collecting data from anglers, and a fisheries technician for the Minnesota and Wisconsin departments of natural resources. At this stage of my career, I was happy with my job and my life. I was young and single, in the outdoors daily as a result of my job, and had no supervisory responsibilities—life was stress and anxiety free.

As I continued my academic pursuits by earning an M.S. and Ph.D., also in the fisheries field, I realized that I spent less time working outdoors and more time being in the office, where I analyzed data, read and wrote a lot, and took on limited supervisory responsibilities. After graduate school, I had to dedicate even more time to being in the office, where I took on additional budget work, proposals, writing publications, and more supervision. In general, I worked with people—students or other professionals through societies (e.g., the American Fisheries Society) and governmental or academic committees—rather than fish. However, I was still very happy and relatively unstressed, apart from feeling the anxiety of securing any permanent employment after graduate school!