top of page

​​Mexican Fishing Parable

A boat docked in a tiny Mexican village. An American tourist complimented the Mexican fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them.

"Not very long," answered the Mexican.

"But then, why didn't you stay out longer and catch more?" asked the American.

The Mexican explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.

The American Investment Banker asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"

"I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children and take a siesta with my wife. In the evenings, I go into the village to see my friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs. I have a full life."

The American interrupted, "I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you! You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat."

"And after that?" asked the Mexican.

"With the extra money, the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one, and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers. Instead of selling your fish to a middleman, you can then negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant. You can then leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles, or even New York City! From there you can direct your huge new enterprise."

"How long would that take?" asked the Mexican.

"Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years," replied the American.

"And after that?"

"Afterwards? Well my Friend, that's when it gets really interesting," answered the American, laughing. "When your business gets really big, you can start buying and selling stocks and make millions!"

"Millions? Really? And after that?" asked the Mexican.

"After that, you'll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take a siesta with your wife, and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends."

And the moral of this story is: ......... Know where you're going in life... you may already be there.

Every time I read this parable, I'm struck by how well it captures the 'rat race' and all that's wrong with it.

The 'rat race' is an endless abyss of chasing after financial prosperity at the expense of the present, and the banker falls into its trap.

This parable effectively brings together a number of lessons.

Living a Truly Fulfilling Life

We often hear that to attain a fulfilling lifestyle, we must keep ourselves relentlessly busy, working towards it over the years. However, this perception of "busy" has shifted towards being preoccupied with obligatory tasks rather than pursuing our passions.

There are two problematic implications here:

The notion that a "full" lifestyle must be achieved implies that without earning it, our lives cannot be truly fulfilling. Yet, the Mexican fisherman considered his life "full" despite only meeting his family's immediate needs, finding contentment in the process.

The belief is that being busy comes at the expense of doing what we truly want. The fisherman described his life as "full and busy," suggesting that his busyness included activities he genuinely desired, such as spending time with loved ones.

In reality, living a truly fulfilling life shouldn't be about tirelessly chasing an idealized version of success. It should be about finding contentment in the present, embracing what brings us joy, and prioritizing meaningful connections with others.

Why are you doing what you are doing?

The Mexican fisherman was firmly rooted in the here and now.

He asks the question "why" in the story, which is something that many of us neglect to do in our daily lives.

He reveals the 'why' underlying the American's vision by constantly asking, "Then what?"

Only by addressing the fundamental "why" is he able to reveal the American's conflicting objectives.

Reconsidering Your End-Goal

The American investment banker made an important point: the ultimate goal isn't just financial wealth. It's the freedom to spend our time as we wish, with the people we cherish, just like the fisherman was doing.

Even the banker, blinded by his pursuits, understood that money's value lies in what it can provide, not in the money itself.

The idea that we must accumulate wealth before we can truly enjoy life is a complete fallacy. While a wealthy person may not face the same financial struggles as someone less fortunate, their moments with family aren't any more precious, and their laughter isn't any louder. In fact, they may have sacrificed the very experiences they sought while caught up in their hustle.

The rat race is often self-defeating, blinding us to the blessings already within reach. Pause and reflect: how many times have we forgone quality time with loved ones, using the excuse of working hard now to have more time in the distant future? It's nonsensical and can lead to regrets.


bottom of page