Many years ago I heard a story that has stayed with me, that I would love to share with you here today. Since I heard it the first time I have read many different versions and every time I come across it I am struck by how powerful it is in all of its simplicity.
I think we have a tendency today to complicate things. We are marketed to left, right, and center so wherever we turn we see things that promise us to “make life better”. Make us happy. From clothes in the latest styles, revolutionary (?!) skin care products, the best toys for our babies (spoiler alert, they will pick the wooden spoon and Tupperware container every time!) to the latest technology and the coolest holiday destinations.
In order to buy, do and have all these things, we need money. The more the better is the idea in general. So what do we do? We work. Really really hard. We earn the money, we spend the money, and just as we finally saved up for the latest iPhone, they release the next version!
This is a rut that is very easy to get sucked in to. Because it is the norm. Most people live their lives like this, more or less (myself included).
There is a shift happening and minimalism, simplicity and sustainability is definitely becoming a way of life for more and more people, but materialism still has a strong hold on society at large.
So every time I come across this story, it is like a balm for my soul, because it shows really beautifully that there is a different way to view things, and that working more, longer and harder might not actually be the answer.
This story reminds me to focus on what I really want. Not what I “should” want. Not on how things look to others, but how things feel to me.
So without further ado:
“The Businessman and the Fisherman”
There was once a businessman standing on the beach in a small fishing village. Looking out to sea, he noticed a local fisherman rowing his boat to shore. The businessman was impressed by all the fat, fresh fish that the fisherman had caught.
When the fisherman arrived on land, the businessman complimented his catch. Yet he was curious.
“How long does it take you to catch your fish?” he asked.
“About a few hours,” the fisherman replied.
“So why don’t you go out and catch more?” the businessman asked.
“I have more than enough to feed my family,” he fisherman said.
“So what do you do for the rest of the day?” the businessman wanted to know.
The fisherman smiled.
“Everyday I wake early and I catch fish for a bit. After that, I go home and I play with my children. In the afternoon I take a siesta with my wife. At night I meet my friends in the village. We chat, we play guitar, we share a few beers. ”
The businessman furrowed his brow
“Look,” he explained. “I have a degree in business management. I can help you. From now on, you should spend more time at sea so you can catch more fish. With the proceeds from that, you can buy a bigger boat and catch even more fish.”
“And then?” the fisherman asked.
“Using the money you earn from a bigger boat, you can then get a fleet of boats and hire men to operate them. You can cut out the middleman and start selling your fish directly to processors. You can even open your own cannery and eventually move your company to a big city like New York or Los Angeles. There you’ll be able to expand your enterprise.”
“Hmm, how long would that take?” The fisherman asked.
“About ten to fifteen years.” The businessman said.
“And then?” The fisherman said.
“That’s the best part,” the businessman said. “Once you’ve made enough, you can announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public. You’ll make millions!”
“Millions…and then?” the fisherman asked.
“With all that money, you can retire. You can move to a nice quiet area, maybe a small village by the beach. With all your free time you’ll be able to play with your kids. You can take siestas the afternoon with your wife. At night you can meet your friends in the village. You can chat, play guitar, share a few beers!”
I hope this story can give you a bit of perspective on things like it has for me.
I would like to tell you who wrote the story, but google can’t seem to pick just one author (and if google doesn’t know, is it even worth knowing?).