The American Businessman and Mexican Fisherman


A couple of years ago, I shared this story my Dad sent to me. I was about a year into my first business and I had become a hermit. I cut off ties with many friends, thinking I had to spend every waking moment in front of a computer, somehow building my company or improving my skills. It was a really lonely time and it took me months/years to repair the relationships I had abandoned. My Dad’s story was a good wake up call for me. A reminder of what’s really important.

This story I’m sharing with you today is an answer from Quora. It’s a story about an American businessman and a local Mexican fisherman. I like this story because it makes me think about what I’m actually working for. I’ve been thinking about what I want for a while. It’s not an easy question to answer and this story makes you think. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

An American businessman 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 yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them. The Mexican replied, that it only took 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, señor.”

The American scoffed. “I am a Wharton 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 señor, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied, “Fifteen or twenty years.”

“But what then, señor?”

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, señor? 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.”