The Investment Banker and The Mexican Fisherman

by Stephen Mills on December 9, 2009

Fishing Boat

Some of you have probably heard this story before.  It contains a lesson well worth considering.

An investment banker stood 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 banker complimented the fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The fisherman replied, “Only a little while.”

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

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

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

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

The investor scoffed, “I am an Ivy League MBA and could help you. 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.
The investor continued, “And instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would then sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution! You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then Los Angeles and eventually New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

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

To which the banker replied, “Perhaps 15 to 20 years.”

“But what then?” asked the fisherman.

The banker 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. Okay, then what?” wondered the fisherman.

To which the investment banker replied, “Then you would retire. You could move to a small coastal fishing village where you would 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 your guitar with your amigos.”

What do you think?  Leave a comment and join the conversation.

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{ 57 comments… read them below or add one }

Gordie Rogers December 9, 2009 at 8:08 am

I’ve heard it before. It’s pretty cool and makes sense as long as the poor fisherman doesn’t get really sick and needs an expensive operation.
.-= Gordie Rogers´s last blog ..Lifestyle Design – Three Ways To Know You’re Ready! =-.

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Stephen Mills December 12, 2009 at 12:23 pm

Hi Gordie, you are correct. But he is more likely to get sick in the rat race is he not? Thanks for your comment.

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Gordie December 13, 2009 at 8:43 am

That’s a good point! :)
.-= Gordie´s last blog ..Why Deadlines Are For Deadbeats. =-.

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Lance December 9, 2009 at 9:10 am

Hi Stephen,
I remember the first time I read this, and it really put things in perspective. I love the story! It helps to remind me that I should focus on doing what I really “want” to do…now. Besides, the future is no guarantee anyway…

So good to read this again, thanks!
.-= Lance´s last blog ..Frank and Me: A Legacy of Mentoring (Giveaway Post) =-.

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Stephen Mills December 12, 2009 at 12:22 pm

Hi Lance, thanks for stopping in. I’m glad you enjoyed the reminder :-)

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Ideas With A Kick December 9, 2009 at 9:18 am

Ha! I know this story and it inspires me every time I read it again. This is in my perspective, the result of a world in which people need too much security and waaay too much validation. They end up taking the long road to doing what they really enjoy. I understand this is what keeps the economy going and I appreciate it, but I think we’re taking it too far.

Eduard
.-= Ideas With A Kick´s last blog ..How to avoid the holiday madness and enjoy yourself =-.

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Stephen Mills December 12, 2009 at 12:25 pm

Hi Eduard. Exactly! We are taking it too far. There is a happy medium in here somewhere. Thanks for your comment.

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Positively Present December 9, 2009 at 9:47 am

I’ve actually never read this before and I LOVE it! It’s so, so true. People spend their whole lives trying to make lots of money so they can have the freedom to do what they love to do. Sadly, by the time some people get to the end, they only have money and no friends or family to enjoy it with. This is such a great message and I’m glad you shared it here!
.-= Positively Present´s last blog ..when you want to cry, laugh instead =-.

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Stephen Mills December 12, 2009 at 12:26 pm

Dani, I’m glad I gave you the opportunity to read it then :-) I think you will like the video in Diggy’s comment too.

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Sparrow December 10, 2009 at 4:42 am

Is this not a true description of the ‘rat race trap’.
Also, the extra boats, processing plants and canneries increase carbon emissions. When the ‘sea change’ is attempted the small coastal fishing village is submerged in rising sea levels due to global warming. Carbon deposits on the fishery have poisoned the feeding grounds and the fishery has been fished out leaving nothing to catch.

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Stephen Mills December 12, 2009 at 12:21 pm

Hi Sparrow, yes it is an excellent description of the rat race trap. Thank you for your thoughts!

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Diggy - upgradereality.com December 10, 2009 at 6:33 am

Hey Stephen!
I think I’ve heard this before, but I loved reading it again. It is so so so true. I think most of us can have what we want right now (except for massive luxuries maybe).
We are all conditioned to think that we need milions in the bank to be able to be happy, and we slave away for decades while at the end if and when we have that money, we realize what we really wanted was to spend the time having fun and being happy.

There is that youtube video by southpark directors, I have it on my blogs about page. Check it out:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ERbvKrH-GC4&feature=player_embedded

Really cool!
Keep well Sir! :)
.-= Diggy – upgradereality.com´s last blog ..What Are You Scared Of? =-.

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Stephen Mills December 12, 2009 at 12:17 pm

OMG Diggy, that video was fantastic! I freaking loved it. Thank you! :-) :-)

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Lakshmipathy G December 10, 2009 at 7:40 am

Thanks Stephen and Diggy. I felt the same thing when i was 2 yrs before.

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Stephen Mills December 12, 2009 at 12:13 pm

Thanks for the comment Lakshmipathy and I’m glad you liked it.

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Karlil December 10, 2009 at 8:08 am

Wow. I love this story Stephen. Never really heard of it, but seriously, thanks for sharing. I think the lesson here is, happiness is really that simple if we could only want less in life and not chased after material goods that only feed our ego.
.-= Karlil´s last blog ..Perfecting Your Smile =-.

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Stephen Mills December 12, 2009 at 12:12 pm

Hi Nik, I think the lesson is that yes we do often chase something and once we get it we realize it isn’t what we wanted. I think many entrepreneurs get caught up in the business aspects of their work and lose sight of what they wanted in the first place. We have to ask ourselves if it is really worth the hassle.

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Bradley Gauthier December 10, 2009 at 11:18 am

This was one of the stories that helped me leave a Fortune 200 company to venture off on my own. Thanks for the post, loved to read the story again!!!

Bradley
.-= Bradley Gauthier´s last blog ..71 Technologies & Resources to Help Simplify An Entrepreneur’s Life =-.

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Stephen Mills December 12, 2009 at 12:12 pm

Hi Bradley, you are certainly welcome. I’m glad you enjoyed it :-)

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Zeenat{Positive Provocations} December 10, 2009 at 12:15 pm

HI Stephen,
I loved this story. I never heard it before… :)
Its so good that what we actually really want is always right there..we just fail to see it. We end up running behind the superficial things…and then after all those years spent running behind superficiality realize we actually always had what we wanted and needed….
Oh this story really puts things and priorities in perspective doesnt it…
Thank you for sharing it :)
.-= Zeenat{Positive Provocations}´s last blog ..The Decision To Be You =-.

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Stephen Mills December 12, 2009 at 12:09 pm

Zeenat, you captured the message so perfectly in your comment. Thanks for sharing it with us.

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Michael Michalowski December 10, 2009 at 12:51 pm

I LOVE this story!!
It shows directly what’s the purpose of 4HWW and all the other lifestyle design geeks out there. The old fashioned way of working ’till you retire is OUT!

Tell this story everyone you know!
Thank you!!
.-= Michael Michalowski´s last blog ..Authenticity, Truth And Honesty =-.

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Stephen Mills December 12, 2009 at 12:01 pm

Hi Michael, thanks for that enthusiastic comment!

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Miche - Serenity Hacker December 10, 2009 at 10:01 pm

Hi Stephen, funny, I was trying to dig this up just the other day… I haven’t heard it for a while. Thanks for posting it, it’s a great story… makes you STOP and think about what you REALLY value. Making time for what we value is probably the greatest gift we can give ourselves (and our loved ones).
Cheers,
Miche :)
.-= Miche – Serenity Hacker´s last blog ..Regaining Inner Peace When You’re Busy: Walking Gratitude Meditation =-.

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Stephen Mills December 12, 2009 at 12:02 pm

Hi Miche, I really like this story. You should check out Jonathan’s link to the video below. Thanks for commenting.

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Debbie December 10, 2009 at 11:15 pm

No wonder people in the tropics live a more relaxed life! They already have what most of us want but don’t know yet….
Never read this story before but I’m glad I did, because it reminded me of what life used to be before the ratrace!
Thanks for posting!

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Stephen Mills December 12, 2009 at 12:07 pm

Hello Debbie. They obviously do live a more relaxed life. It is very interesting how different cultures value and define success so differently.

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Lana-DreamFollowers Blog December 11, 2009 at 2:42 am

Wow Stephen I loved it, so simple and so profound. Thank you so much for sharing!
.-= Lana-DreamFollowers Blog´s last blog ..Life Purpose: Do you avoid challenges? =-.

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Stephen Mills December 12, 2009 at 12:07 pm

Hi Lana, yes it is very simple, but it tells a very powerful story. Thanks for commenting!

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Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills December 12, 2009 at 11:55 am

Hi Stephen, even though I have heard this story before, it still serves as a good reminder to help us keep our perspective on straight. If you want to see the video version of this, it’s called “The Good Life Parable” I posted it here: http://tinyurl.com/d3abrh
.-= Jonathan – Advanced Life Skills´s last blog ..Why Negative Life Lessons Are So Valuable =-.

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Stephen Mills December 12, 2009 at 12:00 pm

Hi Jonathan, thanks for the link. I forgot all about that video you posted. I’ve run across the story multiple times since, but I think that your blog is the first place I heard it. :-)

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Robin Easton December 12, 2009 at 4:35 pm

Oh yes!! I love this story. I remember it from Jonathan’s site. This story makes total sense to me. It was something the Europeans could never understand about the Native people when they arrived in this country (USA), something they still don’t understand as a collective about the remaining indigenous people’s of the world.

We often think we always have to be striving to be happy. Most of us have forgotten the REALITY of just being. It is a concept that we all often talk about in new-age and self-improv. circles but how many have really LIVED “just being”?

You also have a rewarding weekend, Stephen!!!
Hugs,
Robin
.-= Robin Easton´s last blog ..Become the Journey =-.

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Steven December 12, 2009 at 6:30 pm

HA! Awesome and inspiring story indeed.

People are so much constrained in what they can accomplish that they ignore what they can enjoy right now. Culture has molded our thinking in a way that we now believe we can only enjoy life with joy and happiness after respectable accomplishments and hard-work.

Unfortunately, the real life experience is supposed to be within the process of doing whatever it is you want to achieve, not after you’ve achieved them.

Life isn’t a to do list, it’s an opportunity to experience deeply profound and meaningful emotions. And I think that story says that pretty well.

Thanks for this.
.-= Steven´s last blog ..7 Misconceptions of Life =-.

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Dragos Roua December 13, 2009 at 1:34 am

Thanks for the reminder, I knew the story but it’s always nice to be reminded. It’s the perfect metaphor for the “empty search” that many of us are pursuing these days, chasing ghosts: money, status, power.

The fisherman knows ;-)
.-= Dragos Roua´s last blog ..How To Be Ridiculous =-.

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Steven Aitchison December 13, 2009 at 2:17 am

Loved this story Stephen, it’s great to read it again and be reminded that we all have our own ways of doing things and looking at the world.
.-= Steven Aitchison´s last blog ..Ask The Coach 13 – Stop Being Manipulated =-.

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Steve @ MyWifeQuitHerJob December 13, 2009 at 12:07 pm

I’ve heard this one before but I still love reading it every time. It a good reminder that we need to understand what our goals are before we start going all out on something.
.-= Steve @ MyWifeQuitHerJob´s last blog ..Is Your Business Just A Hobby In The Eyes Of The IRS? =-.

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Evelyn Lim December 18, 2009 at 9:40 pm

I love this story! I have shared it on my site some time ago. I first heard it from a monk. He shared that the message was to be contented with what we already have.

My thoughts are that it is okay to have desires to expand our businesses, provided they are really what we want and that we do not lose sight of what is really important to us.
.-= Evelyn Lim´s last blog ..Christmas Greetings From Singapore Botanic Gardens =-.

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Ibrahim | TwentiesLife.com June 11, 2010 at 9:48 am

Wow, I’ve never heard this, but it’s pretty inspiring. We always need to keep perspective, to keep from avoiding life today in order to achieve goals which don’t matter anyways.

Thanks for sharing this! I love it!
Ibrahim | TwentiesLife.com´s last [type] ..5 Ways To Be A Hero

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Mel August 22, 2010 at 1:47 pm

I’ve never heard this before but it’s SO TRUE!! Brilliant, I love it. Thank you so much for sharing.

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Abioye Coker-Dickens October 29, 2010 at 9:06 am

so what’s wrong with the I-Banker’s suggestion??

The fisherman is just a lazy unambitious moron. I thought so when I read this story the first time and I think so now.

With a large enterprise and lots of money, the fisherman could develop his village, provide employment to several people, subsidize health care and build good schools. Only a lazy fellow would dream of spending his days the way the fisherman has suggested.

Mind you, the banker did not try to convince him to get a job trading FISH futures on wall street, he only advised him to THINK BIG and convert a tiny fishing venture into something bigger. He will actually be adding value to society.

If thinking big is a bad thing, I’m certain Bill Gates, Oprah, Jeff Bezos, The Walton Family and several dot com heavyweights (that have made sites like this possible) are all very evil people.

Before you find comfort in your mediocrity, think of the good the above people have done to the world because they chose to think big and not to have siestas with their wives or play guitars with their amigos all day.

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julius December 11, 2010 at 1:25 pm

The problem with your “Thinking Big” attitude is you’re putting yourself nd everyone else back in the “Rat Race”. And not all of the “above people” have done to the world have been good. They (“Thinking Big” people) have actually been the main culprits of polluting the world with their industrious outputs and stressing the lives of the people around them. I don’t know about you, but all that ambition lead no nothing in the end because you’ll leave it all behind when you die. By the way, the fisherman is not lazy. He still provides for his family’s daily food need He just doesn’t have your appetite for gluttony
julius´s last [type] ..A Personal Thought on the Hostage Crisis

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julius December 11, 2010 at 7:08 am

hi
julius´s last [type] ..A Personal Thought on the Hostage Crisis

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julius December 11, 2010 at 7:18 am

I don’t know what happened to my earlier comment but let me try again. Life is too short to chase fame and fortune, when what people are really for in more Romance and Adventure in their life. Just take a look at British tycoon Richard Branson. He’s already got all the money he’ll ever need and look what he’s doing now: Sailing or hot balooning around the world. Now he’s trying to fly to outer space. We can already be like Richard Branson without having lots money. People do it all the time. They trade in their houses for a sailboat and sail it around the world; they move to another country and try to make it there, or they leave a job they hate and do something they really like, even if it doesn’t make a lot of money for them. Life is too short to try to become rich so you can do whatever it is you want to do later. By the time you reach that goal of having lots of money, you’re probably too old to enjoy it. Most people think that having lots of money will buy happiness. That’s not true. Happiness is found when you move to a place you’ve always wanted to live in and do something you’ve always wanted to do. In my own personal experience, I’ve already achieved both. Godspeed.
julius´s last [type] ..A Personal Thought on the Hostage Crisis

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Henway December 22, 2010 at 10:05 pm

having lots of money will not buy happiness, but it does buy certain things that add to happiness. With money, your chances of getting a mate increases. With money, you can afford insurance. With money, your chances of moving around from place to place increases. It gives you more options.
Henway´s last [type] ..The Holiday Colon Cleanse

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julius December 27, 2010 at 7:28 am

“having lots of money will not buy happiness, but it does buy certain things that add to happiness. With money, your chances of getting a mate increases. With money, you can afford insurance. With money, your chances of moving around from place to place increases. It gives you more options.”

There is nothing wrong with this reasoning, if all of us keep it that simple. The problem is our appetite for wanting more than we can afford or have keeps groiwng. Eventually, having money that is supposed to add to our happiness gets twisted out of proportion, and we start desiring worldly things that are better off being left alone in the first place, like competition and power over other people’s lives, which is how the world really is. In short, there is no end to the means (power and money). This is the vicious cycle we are all caught up in it, even if try to deny it.
julius´s last [type] ..Still Crazy After All These Years

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The K March 25, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Nice!!

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George January 19, 2012 at 3:37 am

I never heard this story before but it really has a strong message. Just stumbled upon your blog and just bookmarked it.

keep up the good work :)
George
George´s last [type] ..Donation pick up in NYC

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Mathew August 27, 2012 at 10:03 am

The thing that people don’t realize in life is this.

The MOST IMPORTANT things in this world are either FREE or CHEAP.

Look at the list below to get you thinking.

1) Air – Most important for survival, yet free
2) Water – Most important for survival, yet costs less. The cost of water is a man-made cost of purification of water which he had polluted due to his apathy for the environment. This apathy arises from greed for money.
3) Heart, lungs, brain, blood inside you – provided freely to you by God Almighty.
4) Food – Important for survival, but not as critical for each moment as the above, hence costs some money. But doesn’t cost much when compared it to its importance for human survival. Greedy human beings are causing the price of food to increase in order to fill their pockets with paper money.
5) A big house – not so essential for survival, hence costs much.
6) Land – important for living. But tendency of people crowding into cities makes this thing expensive. It is not important for one to live in a city for survival.
7) Gold, diamonds, jewels – not important for survival and very expensive.

As the necessity of the item for human survival goes down, its price increases. Don’t get me wrong. We need decent money for a good living. But my point is that you have to be thankful to God for making the most important things either FREE or CHEAP.

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Mathew August 27, 2012 at 10:47 am

God says to man, “Do your simple part in life and I will do the rest.”

The work we do is so little when compared to the actual processes that are happening to make something happen. I realized this when some years ago, I had a cut on my hand and had to go to the hospital to get a few stitches. The nurse took out a needle and a thread and put a few stitches to close my wound. The job she did is very simple. (I am not denying that her job was not important. I am thankful to her.) But is that few stitches all that is needed for healing the wound? There are a million other things going on in the body for the wound healing process. The body has to grow new cells to close the wound. This growing process needs blood filled with essential nutrients and oxygen to reach the site of the wound. The cells that close the wound and for that matter, any cell or tissue of the body is an extremely complex thing. Just imagine them growing by day and by night on your body to help close the wound without you having to worry about any of it happening.

The stitching together was just the first step, yet an important one. A lesson that I learnt from this little incident is that God will do the rest if you take the first step. This first step is very simple when compared to the millions of other things going on in the background to make something happen.

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Amanda Goodluck July 9, 2013 at 9:11 am

This story just proves that happiness does not come from material things but from a contented heart, peace of mind, and an appreciation of the simple things in life.

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