Fishing for a Full Life
The Parable of the Mexican Fisherman
I once heard a tale about a fisherman and a businessman. There are many versions of the story, but the message remains the same. The message will make you think about your priorities.
An overworked American businessman was vacationing in a small fishing village on the Mexican coast. As he walked along the beach, he saw a fisherman with a small boat. As the fisherman pulled his boat onto the beach, the businessman noticed several large tuna in the boat.
The businessman complimented the fisherman and asked how long it took him to catch the fish. The fisherman replied, “Only a little while.” The businessman asked, “Why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more?” The fisherman replied that he had enough provide for his family.
The businessman then asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?” The fisherman replied, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, and stroll to the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my friends. I have a full life”
The businessman scoffed, “I have an MBA and could help you become more successful. You should spend more time fishing and with your earnings you could buy a bigger boat and catch more fish. As you catch more fish, you can buy more boats and eventually have a whole fleet. Soon you will be able to open your own cannery and eventually move to Mexico City where you will run your expanding enterprise.”
The fisherman asked, “How long will this take?” The businessman replied, “20 years.” “And then what?” asked the fisherman. The businessman laughed and said, “Then you sell your company and make millions.”
The fisherman asked, “Millions? And then what?” The businessman replied, “Then you could retire, move to a small coastal fishing village where you could sleep late, fish a little, play with your grandkids, take siestas with your wife, and stroll to the village each evening to sip wine and play guitar with your friends.”
As I’ve traveled the world and observed how people live, I have come to question my priorities. I value hard work, earning a respectable income and giving to those in need. But sometimes I feel like we live to work rather than work to live.
When we meet people, the first thing they ask is “what do you do for a living?” If you instead ask anyone what’s on their bucket list, you won’t hear them say, “I want to spend more time at work, create another report and send another email.” No, they want to travel the world, seek adventure and fall in love. Why then are we so focused on our careers, our success, homes, cars, and status?
Maybe we need to change our definition of success.
Earl Nightingale defined success as “The progressive realization of a worthy goal or ideal.” If you believed this to be the true definition of success, how would you measure your life thus far? How would you reframe your goals?
Like the fisherman, I want to be able to say, “I have a full life!” The moment I lose that feeling, it’s time to reevaluate how I am spending my time.
How do you relate to the characters of this story? What do you feel is the right balance between work and enjoying life? Share with us below.