That Mexican Fisherman

You’ve probably heard the story before:-

A wealthy American businessman is on holiday in Mexico. He is planning to take his rented boat out to sea and spend the day fishing. Walking down the quay, he bumps into a local fisherman coming the other way with a bucket half full of fish.

“How’s the fishing?” asks the American, looking at the half empty bucket.

“Oh, don’t worry,” replies the fisherman, “there are plenty of fish out there.”

The wealthy businessman looks a bit puzzled.

“But you only have half a bucket? Why didn’t you stay out a little longer and fill the bucket?”

“Half a bucket’s fine,” replies the Mexican. “I spend a couple of hours out at sea. That gives me enough to pay my bills. Then I am free to spend the rest of the day with friends and family, or relaxing on the beach.”

The businessman laughs at the fisherman’s commercial naivety.

“If you stayed out long enough to fill the bucket,” he begins, “over time, you could save up and buy a bigger boat, employ people to work with you. If you put in the hours, then, little by little, maybe you could afford a second and a third boat. Build your own fleet. You could be rich!” he explains with some excitement.

“And what would I do when I am rich?” replies the fisherman.

“Well, the money would free you up to spend time with family and friends, or to relax on the beach. …”


I know it’s a light-hearted thing, but I disagree with everything about it!

Firstly, it doesn’t work from a purely commercial perspective. If there really was a fisherman with such an easy life, all sorts of other people would also want to become fishermen and women. This would create competition, putting pressure on the fisherman’s resources and bringing down the price of fish, disrupting his cosy set up. Or worse, someone like the American businessman would see the opportunity, would buy a much bigger boat and then use his economies of scale to undercut the fisherman’s prices and put him out of business. I don’t mean to be cynical about a shaggy dog’s story, but life is not as simple as the tale supposes.

But, more importantly, I disagree with the moral at the heart of the story. It implies that life is all about ‘relaxing on the beach’, that there is no point putting in any effort. It suggests that satisfaction comes from having an easy life per se. It doesn’t. Life is about learning, about development, it is about growth and about adding value – and thereby earning the reward of lying in the sun. A very different thing. That’s where the satisfaction comes from – in having achieved something.

If you are not pushing ahead, and developing, you get bored and restless, whether you live on the beach or anywhere else. And there is not much satisfaction in that.

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.” 

Albert Einstein

– end –


Published by Peter Runkel. Introvert or HSP or …. something like that. Reluctant business consultant. Lives life in PowerPoint.

Published by Peter Runkel

"Work hard and be nice to people." Anthony Burrill

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