SOL2015 March 1 - Are You A Jellyfish Or A Salmon?

While sitting in Adelaide airport today, waiting to fly home to Melbourne after presenting for A.L.E.A. (Australian Literacy Educators Association) on Saturday, I overheard a couple talking. Their discourse was amicable, but one of them wanted to take action while the other was quite content to sit and wait. They were discussing flight connections. ‘It’ll be fine. Don’t worry, it’ll be fine. Let’s just wait and see,’ said one.  ‘But I think we should go and ask, said the other.

The different perspectives they adopted, reminded me of a recent discussion that took place at home when we assembled with friends for dinner.

It all began with a question. Are you a jellyfish or a salmon? It was explained that jellyfish people tend to be chill-out types. They are inclined to float through life. They allow life’s current to take them where it will. It’s destiny for them. They do not exhibit any appreciable desire to take the helm and steer the ship of life in any particular direction. They give the impression that floating about is just fine. Things happen around them and they are not that flustered or disturbed by such events. The flow of their days remains pretty much unaltered and they appeared content for that to continue into the foreseeable future. They are not boat rockers. For them, floating and drifting are fine. Let it be. Let it be…

Salmon people are the antithesis of jellyfish folk. They frequently find themselves driven by some inner force to swim against the natural flow. They seem to thrive on challenge and readily embrace new situations. For Salmon people, life requires some element of risk or uncertainty from time to time. They strike out in pursuit of some pre determined goal, striving to exert a measure of control over the direction their lives are taking. They are explorers and their destiny is in their hands, they believe. They are prepared to swim upstream when others are floating contentedly downstream. Dodging bears is all part of the game.

I think I am a salmon. 


  1. Alan, you now have me thinking about the jelly fish and salmon in my life...I am definitely a salmon too! I appreciate the way you connected the airport observation to the dinner party conversation so seamlessly. Thank you for sharing this...making many connections to fixed mindset and growth mindset too!

  2. Hmmm. What about a third option? A Loggerhead Turtle, who survives on the beach and swims the world, only to return (well, the mama, anyway) to the nesting ground to start a new brood of explorers? Or is that just a salmon with a hard shell?
    Peace, my friend. May the bears be lazy when we swim past.

  3. I think I alternate. Lately I seem to be much more salmon than jellyfish. Is that because I'm getting older and seeing the long river ahead and the limited time I have to swim it? Hmm ... I'll be thinking about that one all day.

    Nice to be back on your blog, Alan.
    -- Stacie

  4. I like the Loggerhead Turtle option, I think. How about a starfish who floats, holds on and is resilient enough to regenerate body parts?

    Looking forward to your daily reflections, Alan. You make me laugh and think. An amazing combination.

  5. I am a's exhausting work.

  6. Interesting question, will pose this to my middle schoolers, already predicting who will say what, and some will do like the commenters, find another choice! That says something too, doesn't it? I'm a salmon, rarely content to let things "be". Thanks, Alan!

  7. Alan! Looking for "old friends" as I begin this 5th year of slicing. So happy to find you again. My first instinct was that I am a jellyfish. And I am in my real life. But I think I turn into a salmon in my school life....can one be both?

  8. My sister' hairdresser calls people butterflies or muffins. Butterflies glean what they can wherever they are. Muffins just sit there.

  9. You always post thought provoking pieces that stretch my pondering moments. I think I need a third option, but don't know enough about sea creature to hazard a guess as to which I would be. Looking forward to your daily posts.

  10. Alan, I love your posts and look forward to reading them this year again. Me...I am both, alternating...depending on situation and need. Right now, I am not particularly embracing my salmonness and it will be necessary to drive me into my next completion. Your posts are thought provoking and fun.

  11. Your title immediately captured my attention. I had to read it. I just had to know which one was me. Well, I am most definitely a salmon. Even after 26 years of teaching I am still bucking the system. I seek out every opportunity I can to extend learning for my students and me. I am never quite satisfied with "good enough." This will be a wonderful conversation starter for my 6th graders tomorrow. Thanks for sharing this insightful look at people.

  12. I'm a hybrid. Clearly at the airport I'm all jelly fish, especially when it comes to rules and regulations. I am the one that obeys. Not Tuvia!
    As for taking the lead when it's serious, professional work related, tech projects, then I say salmon, but then knowing you, that was probably your intention- to throw this idea out and just see where we take it.
    Thanks and here we go!

    1. I had a problem Alan putting in my blog link but it's me, Bonnie

  13. I'm not sure if I'm one or the other, but if I had to choose, it'd be salmon.

  14. Hello Fellow-Salmon Friend,
    I'm glad you are writing this month. I'm glad to be reading this month. I love the way you work the words, making them tell your story.

  15. Of course you are a salmon. I admit that I am too. It is hard work, but we have no choice. I look forward to reading what words you work with this month!


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