Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Fisherman's Parable

Today I lived the Fisherman's Parable, one of my favorite stories I try to keep in mind. Here's the parable:


An American businessman 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 fin 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 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."

The American scoffed, "I have an 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."

"But what then?" asked the Mexican.

"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 can then leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise!"

The Mexican fisherman asked, "How long will this all take?"

To which the American replied, "15-25 years."

"But what then?"

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? Really? 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 siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos."


I love it for two reasons. First, it makes fun of MBAs in a way that's all too true. Second, it stands as a reminder that I might already be living "the dream". Today was that day. Allow me to brag...

  • I woke up early for a phone conference. Everyone was on schedule and producing good results. The meeting ended early. I love waking up early and meetings that end early.
  • All my other phone meetings got cancelled. I especially love it when that happens. This means I had time to wash all the dishes, which Jessi loves.
  • That also meant I got to watch the Apple iNfomercial and text about with my brother. I love learning about new technology.
  • During lunch, I raked up leaves and spread fertilizer on the lawn. I actually worked up a sweat and got to listen to my audiobook.
  • After HP work I talked with one of our tenants about dogs and kids. It was just a fun casual conversation.
  • I headed over to our new duplex, raked leaves and spread fertilizer. I easily hit my goal of 10,000 steps.
  • One of our tenants offered me some hot chocolate which I'm a sucker for, and we talked about HP and the state of the industry.
  • I also got to meet the father of our other tenant and we talked a bit about living in Albany and boating.
  • I got home and went for a short run with Vinnie. The entire time today I managed to avoid the off and on ran.
  • After I finish this post, I'm going to make dinner, enjoy the last piece of my chocolate cake, and create our monthly newsletter.
  • The only thing missing from this list is Jessi, who stayed in Corvallis all day for work and a high school girl's small group meeting.

So, clearly my dream life has a few key parts to it:
  1. I wake up early and lead a productive lifestyle.
  2. I enjoy many casual conversations.
  3. It involves getting outside and doing some form of exercise - preferably combined with a task I can count towards being productive.
  4. Chocolate gets consumed.

Notably, it doesn't involve exotic trips, luxury cars, giant homes, or fancy restaurants. Kind of surprising to me, it also didn't equal constantly using my iPhone (well... maybe since I did listen to my audiobook a lot), working on my computer all day, staying up to date with social media news, or any sort of gaming.

Thinking again about that fisherman story, I really am pretty close to attaining that thing called "The American Dream". Would building a wood pizza oven really make it better? Would buying an airplane make it better? Would owning the latest iDevice make it better? Is it worth it putting in countless hours into business ventures in the hopes of earning more money so I can one day retire? What would I do in "retirement"? More of what I did today? Perhaps the goal shouldn't be retirement, but instead lifestyle design. That sure fits with the idea of creating a conscious spending plan.

One of the things I struggle with is contentment. I always feel like I should be improving. This actually makes taking vacations mentally challenging for me. So what if we're paying off our student loans 5 TIMES faster than scheduled... I want to go faster. So what if I have a well paying job... I want to earn MORE. So what if I have a pizza stone... I want a whole oven! Outside! Which means I'll also need a deck, and a covered area since we live in Oregon. Oh yeah, and outside heaters, tables, chairs... you get the idea. A desire for "a better life" could be the very thing keeping me from it.

I also need to keep Ecclesiastes 5:10 in mind: "He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity." Thanks Solomon. For me, I can easily substitute the word "stuff" or "earthly treasures" for money.

Learning to be satisfied with what I currently have, or even less, is difficult to do. But it's a worth while journey. The sooner I embrace it, the sooner I'll realized I'm already "retired" and living the lifestyle I would design if I actually had a choice.

Now if I could only figure out a way to convince Jessi to quit working...

1 comment:

  1. Luke Buchanan10:30 PM

    Superb! Great parable. I think our culture has made us feel guilty for doing the things we enjoy by labeling it as laziness. Certainly not the case, and I'm doing my best to remind myself of that often.