FISH! Lessons from the Dancing Traffic Cop

Published On: May 31, 2023Categories: Blog

Have you ever heard of a man named Vic Cianca? If the name doesn’t ring a bell, don’t worry: he’s one of the many unsung heroes of the world who make their communities just a little bit better by virtue of being themselves.

Vic Cianca was a traffic cop in Pittsburgh who was beloved for his, shall we say, unique ways of directing traffic every day on the job. Rather than just standing there, pointing the way with his arms, he truly made the job his own–from pretending to fall asleep when distracted drivers failed to move, to pleading with traffic to keep going, to even using legs and other limbs to direct cars, Cianca turned this one intersection into his own Jester’s Court every day he worked.

He even gained some notoriety for his antics: not only did everyone in the city love him, but his passion and humor even made it into the hit 1980’s movie Flashdance, where he served as inspiration for Jennifer Beals’ would-be dancer. Sadly, Vic Cianca passed away in 2010 at the age of 92, but the way he approached his job can still inspire how we approach our own, every day of the week.

Play gets us through the day 

Directing traffic is, let’s be honest, not the most fun job in the world. It’s loud, repetitive, tedious, and almost entirely thankless. As much as Cianca’s goofiness inspired the world, it’s likely that he was doing this as much to keep himself entertained as he was doing it to brighten the spirits of those around him.

That is to say, Cianca took a fairly mundane job and made it extraordinary by engaging in a deep-rooted sense of Play. Not only in the colloquial sense of the word with his games and antics, but also in the FISH! Philosophy sense: In order to get through each day, Cianca approached his job with an open mind and a willingness to think outside the box with his approaches to directing traffic.

When we’re feeling unmotivated, burnt out, or otherwise worn down, engaging in Play can help re-energize us and bring back that spirit that drives us to do our best work. By looking at our daily routine and asking ourselves how we can approach things differently, we can find new, exciting, and more effective ways of tackling difficult and otherwise demoralizing problems.

Be There and Make Their Day, especially during the hard stuff 

Nobody loves (or even likes) being stuck in traffic, and nobody loves a traffic cop. Even though these workers spend every day trying to make things flow a bit more smoothly, just the sight of one can send you into despair, as it means you’re about to be stuck bumper to bumper no matter what.

And yet, when Cianca was in the streets, people smiled. They laughed. They stopped thinking about the annoyance of the bustling city traffic, even if just for that one intersection. Cianca’s passion and humor could Make Their Day, and by simply Being There, he gave them something to look forward to even during an otherwise frustrating commute.

It’s easy to brighten peoples’ days when things are already bright and sunny. But being able to make someone’s day is often much more difficult when someone’s struggling or unhappy. By consistently Being There for our team and our coworkers, by being emotionally available and listening actively to them every time we engage, we can find opportunities to make their days, especially during the really rough stuff. 

Passion is an attitude we choose

While it’s never possible to truly know someone’s internal motivations, we think it’s likely that Cianca was less passionate about directing traffic than he was passionate about living life, a passion which was so all-encompassing that he decided it needed to be brought into his day-to-day job. In our minds, it’s clear that Cianca was practicing Choose Your Attitude every day–after all, he could’ve come in and done his job like every other traffic cop, but he didn’t: he chose to bring that passion into the streets each and every time.

For a lot of us, we feel as though our jobs are divorced from our passions. To us, passions are hobbies that fill time on evenings and weekends, and work is just something we get through each day to fund those outside passions. But passion isn’t just an interest in a particular activity; it’s a zest with which we live our lives.

Whether we bring that inherent passion into our workplace is a choice we make; we don’t have to love every part of our jobs, but if we can bring that inner spark that inspires us into the workplace every day, we can make each day just a little bit better for ourselves and those around us.

Ideas to Reflect On:

  • What drives and motivates you? What’s that internal spark that brings you joy? How can you bring that spark into the workplace, even during mundane tasks?
  • When you’re feeling unmotivated, how do you recapture that drive? How can you use Play to think outside the box and find that motivation again?
  • How do we show up for our colleagues, even when the going gets tough? How can we avoid being a “fair weather friend” to our coworkers?

Whether you work in business, education, or healthcare, FISH! offers accessible, intuitive solutions to empower your workers, bring your team together, and avoid the symptoms of impending burnout. We invite you to contact us today at 800.695.4534 or to speak with our cultural specialists, who will help you find the right FISH! Philosophy solutions that will nurture your organizational culture and motivate your team!

Want to Implement FISH! in your organization?

Are you a leader?  Do you train others?  Do you want others to be leaders?

Charthouse Learning, the creator of the world-famous, award-winning, FISH! film is offering an in-person, 2-day workshop, interactive Train-the-Trainer lead by our Senior Trainer.

During our time together you’ll learn how to:

  • Share the motivation and foundation of FISH!
  • Introduce the FISH! film with the four practices.
  • Present the invitation to apply the practices in everyday interaction with others.
  • Build a sustainability and reinforcement program to transform the culture.
  • Pick up tips from other FISH! Philosophers and develop a strategy to embed the practices into the DNA of your culture.
  • Create an energized organization that is the “first choice” for employees, faculty, staff, leaders, and customers.

Plus, you will learn how to create a workplace where people choose to “be and bring” their best self everywhere, every day.

At the FISH! Train the Trainer you will:

  • Dive Deep: Discover The FISH! Philosophy – full of “A-ha!” takeaways and perspective-shifting realizations.
  • Transform: Make the four FISH! practices – Play, Be There, Make Their Day and Choose Your Attitude – an essential part of your professional and personal skill set.
  • Discover: Learn practical ways to apply the FISH! practices to improve teamwork, service, leadership, retention and performance.
  • Develop: Brainstorm strategies to embed The FISH! Philosophy into the DNA of your culture, strengthening your mission, vision and values.
  • Collaborate: Learn and laugh with like-minded folks from across the globe.

Click Here for More FISH! Train the Trainer Information

FISH! Executive Briefing

You have probably heard about the Culture Shift in the news. Organizations are struggling to find talent, employee morale is low, retention is a common goal and customers are dissatisfied with buying experiences.

These are all symptoms of an underlying challenge leadership is faced with every day, regardless of the industry. You can look for temporary relief or an overall, long-term cure.

Join us for a 60-minute webinar on the world-famous, award-winning FISH! practices.

Click Here for More FISH! Executive Briefing Information


Whether you work in business, education, or healthcare, FISH! offers accessible, intuitive solutions to empower your workers, bring your team together, and introduce Play into your organization. We invite you to contact us today at 800.695.4534 or to speak with our cultural specialists, who will help you find the right FISH! Philosophy solutions that will nurture your organizational culture and motivate your team!

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