The parable of the Mexican Fisherman and the American Businessman

Written by Timothy Ferriss, the four-hour workweek never fails to leave thoughtful references that provide an impact worth remembering for a lifetime. In this instance, I like to share what I found on page 252 of the updated and extended edition.

Tim shares:

An American businessman was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied, “only a little while.”

The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish?

The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.

The American then asked, “but what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, Maria, and stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life.”

The American scoffed. “I have an MBA from Harvard, and can help you,” he said. “You should spend more time fishing, and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, and eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middle-man, you could sell directly to the processor, eventually opening up your own cannery. You could control the product, processing, and distribution,” he said. “Of course, you would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then Los Angeles, and eventually to New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

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

To which the American replied, “Oh, 15 to 20 years or so.”

“But what then?” asked the Mexican.

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

“Millions – then what?”

The American said, “Then you could retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you could sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, and stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play guitar with your amigos.”

The takeaways from this one-page story alone have provided much clarity:

  1. Live a simple life.
  2. Don’t wait till retirement to enjoy your time with your family and friends.
  3. Proceed in a way – where you find enjoyment in spending your time doing what you love.
  4. Find balance between the two entities ‘enjoy the perks that the fisherman experiences’ with ‘the mindset to invest my time and energy of what I enjoy doing’.

I hope you find value in this post and for that reason do let me know what you took away from this story in the comments below.

Life Advice

Abhishek View All →

I am a writer and a graduate engineer working in Leicester, UK.

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