When I first heard this joke some time ago, I thought it was just like any other joke. But I saw it again recently (in Tim Ferris’ book, The 4-Hour Workweek), it suddenly dawned upon me about how strong the underlying message is.
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 yellow-finned tuna. The banker 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 banker then asked why he didn’t stay out longer and catch more fish. The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.
The banker was puzzled and then asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”
The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, swim a little, play with my children, take a siesta 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, Senor.”
The banker 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’ll have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middle man, 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 Los Angeles, and eventually to New York City where you will run your expanding enterprise.”
The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, Senor, how long will this all take?”
To which the banker replied, “Five to ten years.”
“But what then, Senor?”
The banker laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right, you would announce an IPO and sell your company’s stock to the public and become very rich. You would be worth millions!”
“Millions, Senor? Then what?”
The banker said, “Then you would retire, move to a small coastal fishing village, take siesta with your wife, play with your kids, stroll to the village in the evenings where you would sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”
Yes, then, after wasting your years in the pursuit of money you might finally realize those very dreams that could have been yours without it!
It makes you think about what you really want out of life:
- Working to get a fast car? And then what?
- Working so that you can get a relaxing retirement? When you’re in your final years and barely able to enjoy yourself?
Perhaps the point is — why are you working your ass off for? Would you choose money or something that gives you real meaning to your life? Maybe we’re missing the point of life. The 4-Hour Workweek gave me a tonne of insight. If anything, it made me remember about my goals, and made me realise how much I was getting “lost”, as though conformity was a requirement for success. And that “success” was something defined by the people around you, and not yourself. It’s a thoroughly good read that’s entertaining at the same time. It’s been a while since I had a book that I couldn’t put down like this.
In summary, I think that the irony of life is that we give up health and the best years of our life in our youth for the sake of wealth, just for what? To try to recapture our health in our old age with our wealth? Don’t get me wrong — have adequate cash flow is important, but you should be considering a good work-life balance to get the most out of your life. If you’re saving up for retirement and not experiencing life to the fullest in your youth — have you asked yourself why?
I think it’s really important to have a sense of purpose and truly know what you’re living life for. Reading Tim’s book only refreshed, reinforced, and reminded me what I’m really working for.