THE FISHERMAN

Once upon a time there was an investment banker.  He lived in New York City, was phenomenally successful, and made a ton of money.  But his life was busy, noisy, and very stressful.

So, once a year, he would leave the city and go down to a small coastal village in Mexico.  For two weeks he would rest, relax, and allow himself to be rejuvenated.

One day he was standing on the pier just before lunch, looking out to sea, when he noticed a small fishing boat coming in to dock.  He thought this was a little strange, because most of the fishermen used to stay out late in to the afternoon so they could catch as many fish as possible, before coming in and preparing the fish for market.

Curiosity overcame him.  So he walked over to where the fishing boat was about to dock.  Looking into the boat, he saw just one fisherman and several large yellow fin tuna.

“How long did it take you to catch those fish?” he said to the fisherman.

“Not very long,” the fisherman replied with a smile.

“Is there something wrong with your boat?” the American asked.

“Oh, no,” the fisherman said.  “In thirteen years I have never had a problem with the boat.”

The American was a little perplexed, so he asked the fisherman, “Why don’t you stay out there longer and catch more fish?”

The fisherman smiled again and said, “This is plenty here for my family right now.  Some of the fish we can eat, and the others we can sell or trade for the other things we need.”

“But it’s not even lunchtime.  What do you do with the rest of your time?”

“In the morning,” the fisherman explained, “I like to sleep late.  When I wake I fish a little, mostly just for the pleasure of fishing.  In the afternoon I play with my children and take siesta with my wife.  In the evenings I have dinner with my family.  And then, when my children are sleeping, I stroll into the village, where I sip wine and play guitar with my friends.”

The American scoffed and said, “I’m a Harvard MBA and I can help you.” 

The fisherman was a little skeptical, but nonetheless he obliged and asked, “How?”

“You should fish longer every day,” the American counseled, “late into the afternoon.  This way you will catch more fish and make more money, and you can buy a bigger boat.  With the bigger boat you will catch even more fish, make even more money, and then you can buy another boat and hire another man to work the second boat.”

“But what then?” the fisherman inquired.

“Oh, we are just getting started! With two boats you’ll catch even more fish and make even more money, and before you know it, you’ll have a whole fleet of boats and every man in the village looking for work will come to you.”

“But what then?” the fisherman asked.

“Before too long, you can cut out the middleman, sell your fish direct to the cannery, and make more money.  As your fleet of boats continues to expand, you can build your own cannery.  And before you know it, you’ll be able to leave this small coastal village, move to Mexico City, and manage your expanding enterprise.”

“But what then?” the fisherman asked.

“Before too long, you can cut out the middleman, sell your fish direct to the cannery, and make more money. As your fleet of boats continues to expand, you can build your own cannery. And before you know it, you’ll be able to leave this small coastal village, move to Mexico City, and manage your expanding enterprise.”

“But what then?” the fisherman persisted.

“Well then, you can begin to ship your fish to different parts of the world. Down into Asia and Australia and up into North America. And as demand grows for your fish, you can leave Mexico City, move to Los Angeles, open a distribution plant there, and begin to ship your fish to Europe and every corner of the globe.”

“But what then?” the fisherman asked again.

The American continued, “By then your business will be one of the great ventures of the industry. You can move to New York City and manage your empire from the epicenter of the business world.”

“How long will all this take?” the fisherman asked.

“Twenty-five, maybe thirty years,” the banker explained.

“But what will I do then?” the fisherman asked.

The American’s eyes lit up like a Christmas tree. “That’s the best part,” he said. “When the time is just right, you can go down to Wall Street, list your business as a public company, offer an IPO, and make millions and millions of dollars.”

“Millions?” the fisherman asked.

“More money than you ever dreamed you could earn in ten lifetimes,” the American explained.

“But what then?” the fisherman asked.

The American did not know what to say. He had reached his climax. He was stumped. But then a thought crossed his mind and triggered an idea, and he turned once more to the fisherman and spoke.

“Well then, you could move to a small coastal village. . . . You could sleep late. . . . You could fish just for the pleasure of fishing. . . . In the afternoons, you could take siesta with your wife. . . . In the evenings, you could have dinner with your family . . . and then you could stroll into the village and sip wine and play guitar and sing songs with your friends. . . .”

Source | Matthew Kelly, Off Balance
(Hudson Street Press, 2011)

CONSIDER THIS

Who do you identify most with, the fisherman or the investment banker?

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THE FISHERMAN WHO KNEW HOW TO LIVE

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 Bollpages 794-796

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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!”

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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.