Stories are powerful.
This little story made an indelible impression on me when I first read it several years ago, and still makes me think about what matters most. It is filled with timeless life lessons and is an inspiration to slow down, reassess, and reflect on what we truly want in our personal and professional life.
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, señor.”
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, señor, how long will all this take?”
To which the American replied, “15-20 years, 25 tops.”
“But what then, señor?”
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 señor? 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.”
The fisherman was puzzled, “Isn’t that what I am doing now?”
What Can We Learn
1. HAPPINESS IS IN THE JOURNEY AND MINDSET, NOT THE DESTINATION
It is so easy to forget that we are not human doings, rushing everything with end results. Some people wait all week for Friday, all month for their next holiday, all year for summer, all their career for retirement, all life for happiness.
Happiness is about consciously designing our next way forward whilst enjoying every single day and being grateful for what we already have. Remembering that there is a clock ticking and that this is not a dress rehearsal and there is no reason to put off living.
2. SELF-WORTH AND SELF-FULFILMENT DOES NOT DEPEND ON NET WORTH
In the Story of the Mexican Fisherman, a small boat provided a beautiful life. In my experience, I saw some of the happiest people on earth living in the simplest conditions in remote places in the world.
One example is in the North East of Brazil where I took the pictures illustrating this article. In the state of Ceará, a few hours away from its capital Fortaleza, are some stunning fishermen villages with kilometres and kilometres of desert beaches. People there live very simply, most often grow their own fruits and vegetables, have their own chickens in the backyard and catch kilos and kilos of amazing fish and lobsters every day in some of the simplest boats on earth – the Jangada, a traditional fishing boat made of wood and which anchor is a big stone. Cows walk on the beach along with the inhabitants, who sell coconuts or grilled corn cobs whilst fishermen back from the sea sell their amazing findings. I never saw so many stars (including shooting stars!), beautiful sunsets and moonrise, and most importantly so many smiles and happy people anywhere else in the world.
Surely, money enables freedom and having the means to create certain experiences that might increase our happiness. However, we should always remember that our self-worth and self-fulfilment does not depend on our net worth.
3. PRESENCE AND GRATITUDE: TRADING OUR EXPECTATIONS FOR TOMORROW FOR OUR APPRECIATION OF TODAY
In this fable, it seems that the Business Man, who is only focusing on growing his Business and his future plan of retirement, and who has access to much more information than the Mexican fisherman, has however very little gratitude for the present.
Regardless of your ambition and drive for success, don’t spend your life waiting to start living.
There is nothing else than now. Life is the moment we are living right now. Today is almost the most important day of your life. It is the only time when we have any power.
It is not the years in your life, which provide for a good life, but the life in each year.
Don’t live your life waiting for the week-end or that next vacation, hoping for a better job, dreaming of true love or more money, or thinking that when the children grow up or when you lose weight or when you retire – thinking that then and only then you will be happier.
4. SPEND TIME WITH YOUR LOVED ONES
The wife, children and amigos were all an integral part of the fisherman’s life in this fable.
Be thankful for your loved ones and those dear to you, take the time to give them a call or visit them rather than simply sending a text or email. Creating and collecting priceless memories with your loved ones.