The Story of the Mexican Fisherman

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

Who wrote it?

No-one – at least reachable by Google – really seems to know. Update: It was written by Heinrich Ball. 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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About the Author

Henrik Edberg is the creator of the Positivity Blog and has written weekly articles here since 2006. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Gothenburg and has been featured on Lifehack, The Huffington Post and Paulo Coelho’s blog. Click here to learn more…

Comments on this entry are closed.

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

  • 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

    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

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

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

  • 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.

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

    Joanna: True. Thank you for the comment.

  • thodarumm

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

  • boomsic

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

  • haha, I love it! Good find.

  • 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

    its was realy gud the best !!!!

  • krunal sanghvi

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

  • Art

    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.