Building Wealth By Design

Life Lessons From The Mexican Fisherman

We are all trying to achieve a lifestyle of comfort, happiness, and fulfillment. Yes, money is necessary to provide for the wants and needs of our families, but it is simply a tool to achieve those ends, not the end itself. Unfortunately, many of us lose our way during this pursuit and confuse the ends and the means. Money has a seductive way of shifting our focus to itself rather than the life we authentically want to live.

The thought-provoking tale of The Mexican Fisherman comes from folklore and is believed to be rooted in Buddhist tradition. It is a simple, timeless and meaningful story for us today. It teaches the meaning of contentment which is true wealth. To be rich is to be satisfied with “enough” rather than the ongoing pursuit of “more.” The tale also instructs us that money can be very expensive. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Money often costs too much.” He likely meant that the acquisition of money takes time and energy, which can be “expensive” if the time and energy is taken away from priorities in life that are much more important than career and wealth. Finally, the fisherman teaches us that the greatest things in life are the small pleasures and the cherished moments with the ones we love. Then, and only then are we truly rich.

Enjoy the story below and take time to think about its implications in your life.


The Mexican Fisherman

An American investment banker was taking a much-needed vacation in a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. The boat had several large, fresh fish in it.

The investment banker was impressed by the quality of the fish and asked the Mexican 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 fisherman replied 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 replied, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, 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 investment banker scoffed, “I am an Ivy League MBA, and I could help you. You could spend more time fishing and with the proceeds buy a bigger boat, and with the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats until eventually,

you would have a whole fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to the middleman, you could sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You could control the product, processing, and distribution.”

Then he added, “Of course, you would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City where you would run your growing enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But senor, 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 could make millions.”
“Millions, senor? Then what?”

To which the investment banker replied, “Then you would retire. You could 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, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

The fisherman, still smiling, looked up and said, “Isn’t that what I’m doing right now?”

– Author Unknown