Thursday, May 06, 2010

Of fishes and men

You must have heard of this story, it goes like this:

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."

The moral of the story… Know where you’re going in life — you may already be there.

I disagree with the moral of the story. In my own twisted interpretation, the moral of the story, to me, is:

1. If the Mexican is already a millionaire and is thus living the life doing what he wants (i.e. fishing leisurely). then the moral must surely be that you must work hard to have a certain amount before you can do what you want in life. In other words, work hard now, so that you can enjoy your retirement doing what you like without worry for money.

2. If the Mexican is not a millionaire, then there is some difference between a millionaire-turned-fisherman and a fisherman, even though there are doing the same things now (which is fishing leisurely). I do not know if the Mexican's wife and family will argue with him everyday to bring in more money to feed the family or not. It's not stated in the story, but I would imagine so. There are responsibilities to fulfill, and so I would not seek to do what I really wanted before settling those responsibilities.

3. I remember what snr bro said the other day. Young men must spend more time and energy to earn money. Older men must spend their money to earn more money. Perhaps the Mexican is doing that, or had some other income stream so he do not have to be there physically to earn the money.

The fisherman's tale is not as romantic as first thought. Life is inherently harsher than a fairy tale.


Sanye said...

I heard the story before. Between the "work all the way and enjoy at the end" and "enjoy today and forget about tomorrow", I think the truth is somewhere in the middle. Nothing wrong with working hard as long as you enjoy the journey of life.

Sad will be when you reach the endpoint then realise you are too old to enjoy anything.

la papillion said...

Hi sanye,

I agree with you. I think the middle path is good. No point deferring your enjoyment until the last moment...especially since we do not know when's our time to go.

Must take little dividends along the path :)

JW said...

When your work is play and play is work, you never have to work another day :)

I think I might be already there, or almost there.

But of course, the good can be better, and the better even better.

la papillion said...

Hi momo,

While I believe that one can enjoy work, there's still a distinction between working and pursuing a hobby. The former still as to take some shit, while the latter is just pure enjoyment.

SO I propose that work is never play, though you can have fun in your work too :)

Createwealth8888 said...

Brolp is right. Same as the Prata story

A rich man is enjoying and looking forward for his next prata but a poor man is thinking when can he stop eating prata.

World of difference!

See the difference

Anonymous said...

Hi LP,

I use this story as an introduction & end to the topic on "economic growth".


la papillion said...

Hi HH,

Hmm, can elaborate more? How did you use this story as a learning point in economic growth?

Anonymous said...

Hi LP,

Theories of economic growth, the cost and benefit, pros & cons of Economic growth. Also, alternative indicators of growth, beside GDP per capita.


nocturnal stallion said...

It is May and a calendar in my workplace has been flipped to this month. On the page it has this quote:

"It is not in doing what you like, but in liking what you do that is the secret of happiness. -James M. Barrie"

James M. Barrie is the man who created Peter Pan by the way. Got me stop and think for a moment. There is some similarity on "Of fishes and men".

Anyway, something for us to ponder about.

la papillion said...

Hi nocturnal stallion,

Interesting quote...thanks for sharing with me. It's beautifully true.

It reminds me of this: If you can't have what you love, then love what you have :)

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