The Mexican Fisherman

Happy Labor Day :)

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 yellow fin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish.

“How long did it take 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 all this 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 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, and stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos…”

Photo by David Amsler

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  1. Brian September 2, 2013 at 6:09 AM

    We definitely got it all backwards sometimes senor.
    Happy Labor Day!

  2. September 2, 2013 at 6:11 AM

    Haha. Love it and the message.

    I suppose, in reality, it overlooks a couple of things. What happens when he is no longer physically capable to fish in his old age?

    We work today and follow the American man’s dream so that we can have the desired life for a longer period of time in retirement and support our children with their aspirations.

    However, the story did have an impact on me to make me remember what is important in life and why we work hard now.

    1. J. Money September 3, 2013 at 12:31 PM

      Yeah, very true… Maybe the fisherman trains his kids throughout life and then they take over once he’s too old to :) And they never get sick at all or have catastrophes in their lives, haha… #wishfulthinking

  3. Brian September 2, 2013 at 8:37 AM

    Take some time today for the things that are important to you!

    Happy Labor Day!

  4. Debt Blag September 2, 2013 at 9:08 AM

    That’s terrific. Always an important thing for those of us to remember who are chasing 401ks and IRAs and HSAs.

    Hope you’re enjoying your Labor Day

  5. Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) September 2, 2013 at 9:21 AM

    :)) Love that story. I’m working today since Grenada doesn’t celebrate Labor Day but I’m wishing all of you a great one!

    1. J. Money September 3, 2013 at 12:31 PM

      Well, that and you’re a hustler ;)

  6. Debt girl September 2, 2013 at 10:08 AM

    What a fantastic story!! Makes me so sad in a wat because we are all doing it one way or another!

  7. jim September 2, 2013 at 10:24 AM

    Nice story – in theory. Not so great in reality. “Living for today” only makes a rotten future for both you and your kids.

    1. J. Money September 3, 2013 at 12:32 PM

      Hey, you hush ;)

  8. maria@moneyprinciple September 2, 2013 at 11:16 AM

    Nice :). This parable exists in many places around the world in different forms. I remember hearing it for the first time in Bulgaria and thinking that it is very fatalistic and accepting – I was a ‘fighter’, you see. Now, I think ‘each to their own’; I just don’t think that a fisherman’s hut is for me.

  9. Retire By 40 September 2, 2013 at 11:34 AM

    Yeah, it’s better to be happy with your job. Hope you have a great weekend.

  10. stephanie September 2, 2013 at 5:42 PM

    A great reminder to keep my goals firmly in place. And to let others live their goals too. I still haven’t found anything to make me think my new-found minimalist attitude isn’t the best one for me. Each time I check in with myself I still think I’m on the right track.
    And to each his/her own. We should all be as content as the fisherman.

    1. J. Money September 3, 2013 at 12:33 PM

      I’m glad you found a way of life that’s working for you so well :) Being content is a VERY good place to be! As long as it doesn’t go down to laziness or not following dreams, haha… I’m trying to be more minimalist right along with you though. Some weeks I’m awesome, others I fall hard.

  11. Lance @ Money Life and More September 2, 2013 at 10:13 PM

    It is sad, but we’re all on the Hamster wheel of doom! Hopefully one day we can slow down, but we have to get rid of my wife’s student loan debt first and foremost!

  12. Christine @ ThePursuitofGreen September 3, 2013 at 1:43 AM

    Happy Labor day!!! I feel like I’ve definitely read this story somewhere before. Is it a common story?

    1. J. Money September 3, 2013 at 12:34 PM

      Yup. And I’ve also blogged about it here over 4 years ago, hehe… maybe you were around back then? :)

      1. Christine @ ThePursuitofGreen September 3, 2013 at 3:48 PM

        I was!!!!! I started reading your blog about then! Haha I was pretty sure I had read it on your blog but I didn’t want to call it out just in case.

        1. J. Money September 5, 2013 at 4:02 PM

          Cool!!! I love you for that :) (Reading my blog for so long, not for not calling me out. Though that is also sweet of you.)

  13. Terry September 3, 2013 at 8:39 AM

    Heard this years ago and is one of my favorite stories.

  14. Chad September 3, 2013 at 10:34 AM

    Awesome story isn’t it?!! I actually posted this on my blog also earlier this year. Sometimes we can get so wrapped up in accumulating more money and the idea of “retirement” that we lose sight of what is truly important. Thanks for sharing!

    1. J. Money September 3, 2013 at 12:34 PM

      Great minds :)

  15. EL @ September 3, 2013 at 3:10 PM

    The irony of what is the real purpose of life. If you can do enough to be free today will you do it. I loved the story, but somebody with a negative mind will ask what will you do if you get old and can’t fish anymore? What will be a good response from the fisherman? How will he eat if he can’t fish? Do you really want to depend on your children to feed you when old? I like the moral of the story and maybe his answer is that he is socking away 50% of his pay for his real retirement.

    1. J. Money September 5, 2013 at 4:03 PM

      I’d like to believe he lives a long and happy life and never has any emergencies whatsoever ;)

  16. Samantha September 3, 2013 at 3:24 PM

    I do love this parable. Its a wonderful reminder to step and really ask “What am I working so hard for?”

    A promotion? Really? More money? To buy things, to impress others? For what? So I can grow old and then finally work less and live more?

    There must be another way!

  17. Holly S September 4, 2013 at 1:14 PM

    Sounds like one of Kenny Chesney’s songs also.

    1. J. Money September 5, 2013 at 4:04 PM

      HAH! I literally just spit out the water I was drinking/trying to drink, haha.. good one :)

  18. Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter September 5, 2013 at 11:59 PM

    I absolutely love the message behind this, J. Money. This is why I always say (and remind myself, because I tend to get lost in the shuffle too) that money is just NOT important. It’s a tool to help you meet goals, it shouldn’t be the goal itself!

  19. Pam September 20, 2013 at 5:17 PM

    I love this story!