A smartly-dressed enterprising tourist is taking photographs when he notices a shabbily dressed local fisherman taking a nap in his fishing boat. The tourist is disappointed with the fisherman’s apparently lazy attitude towards his work, so he approaches the fisherman and asks him why he is lying around instead of catching fish. The fisherman explains that he went fishing in the morning, and the small catch would be sufficient for the next two days.
The tourist tells him that if he goes out to catch fish multiple times a day, he would be able to buy a motor in less than a year, a second boat in less than two years, and so on. The tourist further explains that one day, the fisherman could even build a small cold storage plant, later a pickling factory, fly around in a helicopter, build a fish restaurant, and export lobster directly to Paris without a middleman.
The nonchalant fisherman asks, “Then what?”
The tourist enthusiastically continues, “Then, without a care in the world, you could sit here in the harbor, doze in the sun, and look at the glorious sea.”
“But I’m already doing that”, says the fisherman.
The enlightened tourist walks away pensively, with no trace of pity for the fisherman, only a little envy.
Source: Anecdote concerning the Lowering of Productivity
in Heinrich Boll (author), Leila Vennewitz (translator)
The Collected Stories of Heinrich Boll, pages 794-796
TWO OTHER VERSIONS OF THE SAME STORY
A boat docked in a tiny Mexican village.
An American tourist complimented the Mexican fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them.
“Not very long,” answered the Mexican.
“But then, why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more?” asked the American.
The Mexican explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.
The American asked, “But what do you do with all your time?”
“I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evenings, I go into the village to see my friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs…I have a full life.”
The American interrupted, “I have a degree in business management and I can help you!”
You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat. With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers.
Instead of selling your fish to a middle man, you can negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant.”
“You can then leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles, or even New York City! From there you can direct your huge enterprise.”
“How long would that take?” asked the Mexican.
“Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years,” replied the American. “And after that?”
“Afterwards? That’s when it gets really interesting,” answered the American, laughing. “When your business gets really big, you can start selling stock and make millions!”
“Millions? Really? And after that?”
“After that – and this is the best part – you’ll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, catch a few fish, take a siesta, and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends!”
The rich industrialist from the North was horrified to find the southern fisherman lying lazily beside his boat, smoking a pipe.
Why aren’t you out fishing? said the industrialist.
Because I have caught enough fish for the day, said the fisherman.
Why don’t you catch some more?
What would I do with it?
You could earn more money was the reply.
With that you could have a motor fixed to your boat and go into deeper waters and catch more fish.
Then you would make enough to buy nylon nets. These would bring you more fish and more money. Soon you would have enough money to own two boats…maybe even a fleet of boats. Then you would be a rich man like me.
What would I do then?
Then you could really enjoy life.
What do you think I am doing right now?
PONDER AND CONSIDER
- Is there enough balance in your life between doing and non-doing, work and rest?
- Know where you’re going in life … you may already be there.