Escaping the Fish Tank
December 2, 2016

This past weekend, after a day of exploring Chicago, I found myself at a hip underground lounge called the Punch House. I sat at the bar alone, as I often do, enjoying a cocktail and the mellowed electronic music.  

The lounge was lit with an orange hue, had cushy red leathered stools and tatted bartenders.  Its signature feature was a giant fish tank located directly behind the bar.  The tank stretched six feet across and had a neon green glow that mesmerized me like a helpless bug eyeing a mosquito lamp.  

Inside the tank there were six different types of fish.  Most of them floated sluggishly around the coral plants, but there was one fish that refused to stay still.  This yellow-finned fish scurried back and forth tirelessly along the front wall of the tank.  

I sat at that bar for over two hours that night and he didn’t stop. Not once!  I didn’t know what to make of him.  

A small part of me wanted to be proud of this fish.  Here he was swimming busily about while his fellow fish floated lazily along the tank’s floor.  He seemed strong, even determined.      

But overwhelmingly, I felt sorry for the fish.  He used all of his energy turn after turn, hour after hour, and to what end?  From what I could tell he would do this the rest of his life and then sadly die in this tank with his lazy companions.  He was forever trapped to the confines of the tank and he didn’t even know it. 

As I sat there fixated on this scene I kept thinking, why did this strike me so deeply?  Why did I care about this silly fish?  

The truth is, I think I saw a bit of this fish in myself.

Am I also swimming back and forth aimlessly only to end up where I started?  Are my efforts on this blog and other business ideas all for not?  Do I too live in a tank with glass walls all around me?  

Some days it feels that way. Every time I think I’m about to take a step forward I’m stopped dead in my tracks. When I feel I’m on the verge of a breakthrough, another setback pops up. With every new idea comes another version of failure and I end up right back where I started.

This thought that I too am trapped is a terrifying one. And one that crept into my head that night as the alcohol swirled in my glass and that fish scurried back and forth.

But I can’t believe it.  I have to believe there’s more beyond these glass walls that appear to contain me.

I need to keep swimming.

I need to find a crack in the glass.  

I need to keep faith and be resilient.

I have to unlock the ocean of possibilities that I know surrounds me.

View More Posts



By Brendan Barca ​​The Alcoholics Anonymous program has had a history of curing those with addictions. Throughout the world, it's helped alcoholics, drug addicts, and compulsive gamblers turn their life around. One of the program's famous slogans is "just for today."...

read more
The Priority Matrix

The Priority Matrix

When I was in sales I made one mistake over and over again. I would complete tasks in order of immediacy rather than in order of importance. If a prospect emailed me asking for information, I would email them back instantly thinking I had done a job well done. But I...

read more

Download Your FREE

Lifestyle Design Workbook

Prioritize the Essential. Eliminate the Noise. Take Back Your Life

Download the workbook now to discover the 5-Step Method to (re)design your work life

Download now