River Hours

I’ve spent a lot of my life on the river, trying to catch fish. Honestly, there have been plenty of days I don’t succeed. Some days are worse than others. When the scenery is beautiful and I get skunked (don’t catch any fish) after a full day of trying different approaches, locations, and tactics—those days aren’t so bad. But the 20-degree days spent chasing steelhead trout in icy water are painful. On those days, and so many others, I fell short of my goal: I didn’t catch any fish.

Inevitably, when I return home, my loved ones ask, “How was it?” After a tough day, I’ve responded in two different ways:

Option A (how I used to answer): “Aw man, the fishing was tough! Conditions were bright and it’s a tough time of year. Thanks for asking.”

Option B (how I answer now): “Aw man, fishing was tough! But hey, got in some good river hours.”

River hours is a mindset I’ve picked up along the way. It has a simple premise: Time spent failing now puts me closer to success later.

River hours in fishing looks like 8 hours on the water without any fish. But, if I put that experience to use, it’ll get me much closer to a fish the next time I’m out on the water.

River hours at work looks like time spent with little to show for it. I was recently chatting with Max about his upcoming book, Do Better Work. He mentioned one morning where he wrote for four hours and felt like he got nowhere. His next writing session will be that much closer to the perfect words because he’s grown from river hours.

How are you spending your time? Does anything feel like it’s failing? These might be your river hours. If we choose to learn from our failure and keep our chins up, the next time we’re in deep water, the fish are more likely to bite.

Have a great week,



Conner Burt is COO at Lessonly. If you’re looking for Max’s note—a weekly message from Lessonly’s CEO about learning, leadership, and doing Better Work—sign up below to subscribe via email. No spam, we promise!

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