The Fisherman & The Businessman

The Fisherman & The Businessman

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One of my favourite books is The 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris (Amazon link UK, US).

I try to read it at least once a year to remind me to keep doing things my own way. Inside this book there is a nice little fable about a fisherman and a businessman which goes quite well with a blog post that I recently wrote on The Ultimate Shortcut to an Ideal Life. This story really helps articulate the long way round that some of us create in life when we set up and run a business for the sake of running a business. Enjoy the story…

The Fisherman & The Businessman

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.”

If the above topic, or indeed any of my blogs are of interest to you, then contact me and let’s talk! Drop me an email at

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  1. I love this fable. What do you think of it?

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  3. Conrad Jessop says

    The problem with this is that labour-intensive jobs such as fishing, brick-laying, plumbing etc. all take a huge physical toll on your body over the years. So whilst the man in the fable is living the good life just now, given that he is living very much hand-to-mouth it necessitates that he will have to work for the rest of his life. It presumably becomes less fun and easy going to do all the heavy lifting and manual work involved with fishing when you’re 75 and are suffering from the initial stages of arthritis.

    Unfortunately, in today’s world it’s sensible for individuals to look for less physical jobs which also provide things like sick pay, health benefits, pension contributions and a level of disposable income that makes saving for a rainy day possible.

    That probably doesn’t make for as good a fable, though…

    • It does make a good fable, you just didn’t it. When that guy becomes old, his children will be doing the same thing and would take care of him instead. The reason why it’s difficult nowadays is because businessmen always want to make money out of everything, and majority of people think this is a good thing. That’s why the best things in life are no longer free because people always wanted to feed their greed. The story is telling us to stop the greed of always wanting to satisfy physical needs over spiritual needs.

      I’d like to share a true story told by a priest who was going to a remote provincial area in the Philippines for a certain reaching out mission. The priest was travelling together with a group and they have to travel on foot together with a guide. As the group was travelling, they passed a place with lots of banana trees. Since banana trees are rarely found in the city, the group including the priest took dozens of bananas that there were only a few bananas left. The priest saw that their tour guy only picked 3 pieces of bananas. The priest wondered and asked the guy, “Why didn’t you get more?”. The tour guy answered, “So when other people pass by this area, they will still be able to get some bananas when they get hungry.” Lesson, moderate your greed!

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