When I first came across the story of the CEO and the fisherman, it really put my priorities in life into perspective, and questioned the purpose of the so called ‘rat race’ I was in.
At the time I was feeling a little lost and was pretty much “living to work”, always looking forward to the next weekend, public holiday or vacation. To be honest… I was in a bit of a rut.
I felt stuck, restricted and cloudy all at the same time. Have you ever felt like that?
I worked harder in my job, spent longer hours, worked when at home and sometimes on the weekend. My aim was to work more, to earn more, so that I could buy a bigger house, get a nicer car and have nicer holidays!
Well I got that nicer car, and went on a nicer holiday, but only once in that year and only for 10 days (minus 2 for travel).
I became stressed, tired, dull and boring. I had lost my creativity, my drive and passion, and even lost the excitement of going on a holiday… what was it all for!?
Well long story short, I needed to make a change. I needed to pull myself out of this never ending cycle and focus again. I wanted to achieve more, I know I could achieve more, but the question was how?
At this point I came across the story, and it gave me…
A Fresh Perspective on Priorities in Life
This story has been told in many variations by many people, however the lesson remains the same.
The author is unknown as far as I can tell in my research, however I first read the story in a famous book about escaping the 9-5 and lifestyle design.
An American businessman took a vacation to a small coastal Mexican village on doctor’s orders.
Unable to sleep after an urgent phone call from the office the first morning, he walked out to the pier to clear his head.
A small boat with just one fisherman had docked, and inside the boat were several large tuna.
The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish. “How long did it take you to catch them?” the American asked.
“Only a little while,” the Mexican replied in surprisingly good English.
“Why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?” the American then asked.
“I have enough to support my family and give a few to friends,” the Mexican said as he unloaded them into a basket.
“But… What do you do with the rest of your time?”
The Mexican looked up and smiled. “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, and stroll into the village each evening, where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life, señor.”
The American laughed and stood tall. “Sir, I’m a Harvard M.B.A. and can help you. You should spend more time fishing, and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. In no time, you could buy several boats with the increased haul. Eventually, you would have a fleet of fishing boats.”
He continued, “Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the consumers, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution, and move to Mexico City, then to Los Angeles, and eventually New York City, where you could run your expanding enterprise with proper management.”
The Mexican fisherman asked, “But señor, how long will all this take?”
To which the American replied, “15-20 years. 25 tops.”
“But what then, señor?”
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, señor? Then what?”
“Then you would retire and move to a small coastal fishing village, where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, and stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos…”
Is It Really Worth It?
And this my friend is the question! Is it really worth spending 40 to 50 of the best years of your life, in the rat race, chasing something at the end that, with a little hard work and restructuring, you can’t have now?
Why can’t I take the same amount of energy and hard work that I was giving in my job, and instead, focus it on building a life that is more fulfilling and happy?
Well I can, and I am, and in fact… many people are, and many people have!
We are not alone in our journey or troubles!
We just need to re-focus our priorities and perspectives, by asking ourselves:
- What would I want to do if money wasn’t an issue? What would be my priorities?
- Would I be willing to work for these priorities? (Hint: you already are, just in a different way)
People don’t typically want to be millionaires, they actually just want what millions of dollars could bring them.
Freedom of Time and Location!
What do I want? My top priorities are family and friends, and the freedom of time and location to be with them.
If your priorities are similar then you might like this book to start your escape of the rat race.
What is your take on the story of the Mexican fisherman? I’d love to hear your thoughts below!