A short story with an important lesson worth contemplating

The Fisherman and the Businessman

There was once a businessman who was sitting by the beach in a small Brazilian village. As he sat, he saw a Brazilian fisherman rowing a small boat towards the shore having caught quite a few big fish. The businessman was impressed and asked the fisherman, “How long does it take you to catch so many fish?” The fisherman replied, “Oh, just a short while.”

“Then why don’t you stay longer at sea and catch even more?” The businessman was astonished. “This is enough to feed my whole family,” the fisherman said. The businessman then asked, “So, what do you do for the rest of the day?”

The fisherman replied, “Well, I usually wake up early in the morning, go out to sea and catch a few fish, then go back and play with my kids. In the afternoon, I take a nap with my wife, and evening comes, I join my buddies in the village for a drink — we play guitar, sing and dance throughout the night.”

The businessman offered a suggestion to the fisherman. “I have a MBA in business management from Harvard. I could help you to become a more successful person. From now on, you should spend more time at sea and try to catch as many fish as possible. When you have saved enough money, you could buy a bigger boat and catch even more fish. Soon you will be able to afford to buy more boats, set up your own company, your own production plant for canned food and distribution network. By then, you will have moved out of this village and to Sao Paulo, where you can set up HQ to manage your other branches.”

The fisherman continues, “And after that?” The businessman laughs heartily, “After that, you can live like a king in your own house, and when the time is right, you can go public and float your shares in the Stock Exchange, and you will be rich.” The fisherman asks, “And after that?” The businessman says, “After that, you can finally retire, you can move to a house by the fishing village, wake up early in the morning, catch a few fish, then return home to play with your kids, have a nice afternoon nap with your wife, and when evening comes, you can join your buddies for a drink, play the guitar, sing and dance throughout the night!” The fisherman smiled.

This is a popular parable, and there are lots of slightly different versions of it on the internet – this version was taken from http://www.inspirational-quotes-about-life.net/wisdom.html

Work life balance - businessman and fisherman
Work/Life Balance? It’s all life – don’t waste it. Original artwork taken from http://www.inspirational-quotes-about-life.net/yourlife.html

I think many of us in modern life get sidetracked by trying to make as much money as possible doing whatever is necessary to make that money, even spending the majority of the best hours of the day and the best years of our lives doing jobs we don’t like or enjoy to get that money. But  many of us in pursuit of money lose track of and even neglect the important things in life, thinking if only we can save up enough money, or if only we can get to retirement – then, then we may be able to start enjoying life and doing the things we’ve always wanted to do.

But there’s no guarantee we will get to that moment in time, and if we do we may suffer from poor health, or our circumstances may change, and we may never get to enjoy what we have spent a lifetime striving for. Wouldn’t it be better to realise what is important now, and try to do as much  as possible to enjoy life as much as we can now?

Don’t get my wrong – we are fortunate in some ways just to be able to earn a living, and we do need to earn some sort of living to support our living! But it is just that – a means to support our living. Don’t forget that – and don’t get sidetracked in the pursuit of earning as much as a living as possible, and working all the hours available so that you forget to focus on the real important stuff.