The Story of the Mexican Fisherman

by Henrik Edberg

A few days ago I stumbled upon a great little story.

Who wrote it?

No-one Рat least reachable by Google Рreally seems to know. Update: It was written by Heinrich B̦ll. And there does seem to exist a few variations of it. Maybe you have heard it before.

Anyways, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did and that you take a couple of minutes to reflect upon where you are going in life.

An American businessman was standing 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 American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish.

“How long it took you to catch them?” The American asked.

“Only a little while.” The Mexican replied.

“Why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?” The American then asked.

“I have enough to support my family’s immediate needs.” The Mexican said.

“But,” The American then asked, “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 a 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, senor.”

The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds you buy a bigger boat, and 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 consumers, eventually opening your own can factory. 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 senor, how long will this all take?”

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

“But what then, senor?”

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO (Initial Public Offering) and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions.”

“Millions, senor? Then what?”

The American said slowly, “Then you would retire. 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, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos…”

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2 Headed Guy April 4, 2007 at 4:57 am

So the american works all his life to do what the fisherman is doing without the stress????

Henrik Edberg April 4, 2007 at 9:43 am

Yeah, I think it´s sometimes easy to get lost in your daily life, get stuck in one way of thinking, to get your priorities jumbled up and to overcomplicate things. Something this story highlighted for me.

dc April 4, 2007 at 10:59 am

The story is from the writer Heinrich Böll and has the title “Anekdote von der Senkung der Arbeitsmoral”
which translates to something like:
“Little story to lower the work productivity”

Wikipedia about Heinrich Böll

Henrik Edberg April 4, 2007 at 11:09 am

dc: Thank you very much for the information about the author.

Loving Annie April 4, 2007 at 5:49 pm

Wonderful story Henrik ! the fisherman had his priorities right from the start ! Have a happy Wednesday !

Joanna April 4, 2007 at 8:06 pm

I believe this story is a modern version of some buddhist story, which has less details of the business the fisherman could have. Still, it’s a universal truth.

Henrik Edberg April 5, 2007 at 1:51 am

Annie: I´m glad you enjoyed it. Hope you are having a good day too.

Joanna: True. Thank you for the comment.

thodarumm April 5, 2007 at 6:33 pm

Ironic , isn’t it.. how we chase after a dream life which we could have right now?

boomsic April 6, 2007 at 3:24 pm

haha… i hear some story like this, but in Russian! :)

Alex Shalman April 7, 2007 at 7:21 pm

haha, I love it! Good find.

Greg Meares April 8, 2007 at 9:00 pm

To each his own right? I can see how both sides make sense and it all depends on what you want your life to be. So my personal opinion is that your personality and what you value should determine your life’s purpose. With that being said, balance is the key.

Rhythm April 14, 2007 at 12:04 pm

its was realy gud the best !!!!

krunal sanghvi April 14, 2007 at 7:19 pm

liked the story…….. this shows how americans spend there entire life.

Art April 17, 2007 at 6:44 pm

But now the fisherman would have millions that he could leave as an inheritance for his kids!

So that they could grow up to be spoiled, lazy kids who never learned how to work an honest day for their money. And eventually they would destroy the company he grew and waste away the fortunes he amassed.

Rajendra Parikh April 18, 2007 at 2:50 pm

18th April 2007

An interesting story with great lesson worth grasping, to make life stress free and happier.

Suresh Jain April 19, 2007 at 2:10 am

Great Story & yes.

Enjoy What you Have First!

shruti April 20, 2007 at 9:42 am

well really nice story…n u learn lots.must earn only how much is needed… not gather more n its back to square one,,,,,,so no point ,,njoy life to hte fullest,,,like tht fish man…..tht6s wat i believe in…

Errol April 20, 2007 at 10:27 pm

Yup. It’s about keeping your long-term priorities straight. Work hard to enjoy your life but not TOO hard that you forget to admire the sceneries along the way. Of course, it pays to have insurance ready since it can be a pain to require medication and treatment and you’re broke.

Interestingly, there’s a fellow that pushes for enjoying life now instead of waiting for decades to do so. It’s at

The website’s name itself brings to mind the earlier comment about “Anekdote von der Senkung der Arbeitsmoral”. But if what I understand what little I’ve checked so far, it seems to focus more on quality of the work instead of quantity of hours put in…

Anyways, the book will be out soon and I hope it’s interesting for you. Until then, good fortune mi amigos as I sit back with my guitara :D

aasim April 22, 2007 at 4:59 pm

nice quote and concept, but there’s one thing that the millions would buy and that’s options; for the fisherman and his family and even his community. the millions could provide security for generations of poor people, years after the fisherman had died.

Janine April 26, 2007 at 9:41 pm

Nice short story! It is indeed related to reality. Everybody wants to be rich (except for those that think they’re hopeless). Some just think it’s impossible! But try to check this out


Jack Martin April 29, 2007 at 5:41 pm

Janine, just hop straight to if you love the book so much.

Janine May 1, 2007 at 1:30 am

I would just like to add, you can buy directly The 4-Hour Work Week here:

It’s just one click away, and they have faster delivery.


Dimitris Petrakis January 7, 2009 at 12:08 pm

Truly a wonderful story. Pity more of us do not follow his example and logic.

matt caplin October 28, 2009 at 1:43 am

I don’t feel as guilty about how I live anymore. Thanks!

connie cermak October 28, 2009 at 1:50 am

Wow! This is a wonderful little read. Thoroughly enjoyable and straight to the heart if not perhaps a little to the gut.
Thank you.

Arya Pratita October 28, 2009 at 7:05 pm

hahahaha…. i like this story…

“I want to be part of nature forever”
- astaswastika -

Steve M Nash November 16, 2009 at 5:37 pm

Love this story, which basically boils down to “know what you’re *really* trying to achieve in life”

ColdFusion November 24, 2009 at 5:36 am

If you could fish for a few hours and have enough to live on for a day, everyone would do it, driving the price of fish down, forcing you to fish more. That is why most Mexicans have to work ridiculous hours to make enough to starve, those are the only jobs that exist. They’re working those same jobs here, but they pay a bit more.
Even if you could do that on a given day, what about the next day? What about poor fishing season? What if you get sick and can’t fish anymore?
You have to work hard to make enough to scrape by, then you have to work doubly hard to have enough to save up so you can stop working someday. The goal should be speeding the whole thing up.
This is just folly.. it presents a fictional ideal that nobody has any access to. You can’t quit your stressful job and go ANYWHERE that allows you to work a few hours a day and survive. Not yet.. but if we all work together, and I mean everyone -work-, no welfare, we can each work less and enjoy our families more.

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