The Mexican Fisherman

03/14/2010

Many of you have probably heard this story before, but for those of us who haven’t, I would like to take this opportunity to share with you a beautiful story.

(photo credit: http://juliechao.com/pix-burma.html)

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An American investment banker 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 yellow fin 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 siesta with my wife, Maria, 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 am a Harvard 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, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would 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 LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

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

To which the American replied, “15-20 years.”

“But what then?”

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.. Then what?”

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

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I feel that story illustrates beautifully how we all value different things, and we all see things differently.

For the fisherman, he valued the time he spent with his family and fishing as a hobby.  He felt there was no need to take on the investment banker’s advice, because he would just be taking a big detour back to where he is at that very moment.

For the investment banker, he saw an opportunity for potential wealth and security in the future.  Perhaps, the investment banker value wealth and financial security in the future, and was willing to exchange the time he has now for the security and wealth in the future.

In our daily lives, we are taught to think about the future, and how our actions today affect tomorrow.  In our paychecks, we automatically get deducted for Pensions and we may also put money towards our retirement savings fund.  This is our way of using our time and energy now and putting it away for our future.

I guess the personal question we all might ask ourselves is where each of our balance lies.

What would make us happy today?  What would make us happy tomorrow?  What would make us happy 5 or 10 years down the road.  What are we willing to sacrifice today for tomorrow?  And what are we willing to sacrifice tomorrow for today?

What are your thoughts?  Do you think more like the fisherman or the investment banker?

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10 Responses to “The Mexican Fisherman”


  1. That’s a nice story! Everyone needs to find a balance that’ll work for them. For us, reaching our goal of financial independence is important but family life is important as well. I am a stay at home mom because I see spending quality time with my kids is more important. My husband can make more money in private practice but chose to work for the university instead so he’ll have better hours & weekends off to spend time with the family.


    • Growing up, my mom was also a stay-at-home mom. She also ran a day care on the side. My dad worked outside our home, but I remember him always not working weekends so that he could spend time with us – taking us to the library or fixing up the house.

      We grew up frugal and my parent’s goal was financial independence. Even though my parents did not make a lot of money, they paid off our mortgage as soon as possible.


  2. Great post. I have tended on occasion to live a bit a-typically and when people question me and wonder what the heck I’m doing with my life, I tell them I’m ‘temporarily retired.’ Is it really lazy to work less (and be willing to spend less) to have more time for things you enjoy–I think not.


    • I would love to work less and have more time for the things I enjoy. It’s not lazy – in fact, quite the opposite, if it is something that you plan and can afford. Good for you! I hope to be semi retired, soon, as well 😉

  3. miss esther Says:

    I love this post!
    I used to think like the ibanker when I was younger-especially in college when everyone’s caught up in the rat race of getting ahead. But after a year doing something I hated, I took 2 months off, found something I liked to do, and have slowly shifted toward the fisherman’s mentality. It’s definitely better on the other side.

  4. nicole Says:

    I never tire of hearing this story. You have a great blog too, by the way. Best of luck on your journey!

  5. Annie Says:

    I have always loved this story. There is another story where the businessman is on his annual fishing trip with his favorite guide. When he finds out how little he makes, he offers to get the guide a job in the city.

    The guide asks how much the businessman makes and the best thing he buys with all the money. When the businessman replies that he buys that fishing trip every year and that is his favorite thing, the guide replies “I don’t need so much money to go fishing.”

    I am definitely the fisherman. I live in a paid-for older mobile home, have a paid-for older van and am saving up to one day purchase a paid for piece of land to stick this home on… I would rather be at home with the kid than killing myself at a job. Life is better when lived simpler..


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