What Are You Working For?

fishing and business

So many people spend their whole lives working toward things they really don’t even want. Many times we do things or work toward things just because we can. And we never stop to ask why. But with a little clarity, we find that the fulfillment of our real needs and ultimate joy in life is a lot closer than we think. This short anecdote captures this beautifully. Are you the businessman? Or the fisherman?

The Businessman and the Fisherman

An American businessman took a vacation to a small coastal Mexican village on doctor’s orders. Unable to sleep after an urgent phone call from the office the first morning, he walked out to the pier to clear his head. A small boat with just one fisherman had docked, and inside the boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish.

“How long did it take you to catch them?” the American asked.

“Only a little while,” the Mexican replied in surprisingly good English.

“Why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?” the American then asked.

“I have enough to support my family and give a few to friends,” the Mexican said as he unloaded them into a basket.

“But… What do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican looked up and smiled. “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, Julia, and stroll into the village each evening, where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life, senor.”

The American laughed and stood tall. “Sir, I’m a Harvard M.B.A. and can help you. You should spend more time fishing, and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. In no time, you could buy several boats with the increased haul. Eventually, you would have a fleet of fishing boats.”

He continued, “Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the consumers, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village, of course, and move to Mexico City, then to Los Angeles, and eventually to New York City, where you could run your expanded enterprise with proper management.

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, senor, how long will all this take?”

To which the American replied, “15-20 years, 25 tops.”

“But what then, senor?”

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right, you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions.”

“Millions senor? Then what?”

“Then you would retire and move to a small coastal fishing village, where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, and stroll in to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos…” [Four Hour Work Week]

[photo credit]

4 comments Add comment

Tony M. September 21, 2010 at 7:16 pm

Great post, really timely. Thanks for sharing.

Brian September 21, 2010 at 9:31 pm

Like this story a lot… an eye opener…

P. W. September 22, 2010 at 9:30 am

I’m not a businessman. I’m a business, man.

Sharon September 4, 2012 at 4:37 am

Love this story! I heard this in a homily one Sunday not long ago. Thanks for sharing! :)

Previous post:

Next post: