The Harvard MBA and the Fisherman: a Parable

The Harvard MBA and the Fisherman: a Parable

(another one from my archives)

Wow. Doing the bills this morning and realized it’s almost June. The year is almost half gone. It seems like just a few days ago I was grinding my teeth, waiting impatiently for nice weather to return and chase away a long, dreary winter. I remember when I was a kid… summer vacation seemed like forever – “eternal summer beneath endless sky“. At some point – I don’t remember exactly when – I suddenly realized it wasn’t really… it was only a few weeks. A little later those few weeks became two months. Now it’s two mortgage payments and they click by like the broken white line on a long straight interstate at highway speed. Click, click, click… June, July, August… How the heck do you slow it down?! This is LIFE running through my fingers like sand at the beach… and more of it is on the shore than remains in my hands.

I read something once that said it’s a matter of new vs. routine. When you’re young, everything is new and you’re intellectually engaged, so time goes slowly. Once you get to the ‘been there, done that’ stage, you spend more time on auto-pilot. It’s like you live life in a trance and just wake up occasionally to go “holy *&^%, I’m 40 this year!” (or fill in the number with a figure more appropriate to your particular situation. Me, I’d love to roll the odometer back to 40…)

Somehow, we get into these routines – up, shower, breakfast, work, home, dinner, sleep. Lather, rinse, repeat. We burn up huge chunks of precious, irreplaceable LIFE chasing a paycheck so we can buy stuff we won’t have time to enjoy. Like the song lyric says “buy this car to drive to work; drive to work to pay for this car”. What the…? Okay, who wrote this script? And why do so many of us follow it blindly like sheep? 

It reminds me of a story you’ve probably read elsewhere (recounted below for your reading pleasure):

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 yellowfin 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 siestas 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 New York City, 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?” Asked the Mexican.

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 siestas with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”