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

A Few Kernels of Wisdom from my Cache about Living a Life of Meaning through Example, Inspiration, and Service

Tom Lang

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781934874608.ch43

The work we do as fisheries professionals matters—it has meaning. No matter what your role or position may be, if you are reading this, then I am betting that the work you do contributes to supporting fisheries conservation. I don’t claim to know the meaning of life, but I do think that living a life doing something that has meaning is a big part of it.

My mother, Susette Lang, always told us (I was the fifth of six children) when we were kids that she didn’t care what we did when we grew up, even if we were ditch diggers, just as long as we were happy. I would put my Mom to the test when I was working at a BBQ restaurant in high school and U.S. farm-raised catfish was added to the menu. You see, as the athletic high-school employee, I was the grunt moving the boxes, each stamped “U.S. farm-raised catfish” from the truck to the freezer. After several trips, and reading each box, I suddenly realized there must me be something in this world called a “catfish farm.” When my shift ended, I headed home with visions of ponds as far as the eye could see, teeming with catfish for me to readily catch day or night. When I got home, I quickly announced to my mom that I wanted to be a catfish farmer! She didn’t have any clue what that was (neither did I, really), but she passed the test and told me to go for it.

To “go for it” meant first going to the guidance counselor at school, who gave me a weird look when I told her what I wanted to do with my life. She got out her big binder of careers and found “fisheries scientist.” When I asked for a copy, she ripped the page from the binder and handed it to me, saying “Take it. No one has ever asked for this one and no one will ever again.” Thinking back, I realize that, to me, being a leader includes having the courage to follow your heart and doing what you believe is right, regardless of the weird looks you may get.