The parable of the businessman and the fisherman

24 August 2017

The parable of the businessman and the fisherman

Another recurrence which fits the vacation mood. This instructive parable has a lot of wisdom in it.  Here goes.

A successful businessman on vacation was at the pier of a small coastal village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The businessman complimented the fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The fisherman proudly replied, “Every morning, I go out in my boat for 30 minutes to fish. I’m the best fisherman in the village”.

The businessman, perplexed, then asks the fisherman “If you’re the best, why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish? What do you do the rest of the day?”

The fisherman replied “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, spend quality time with my wife, and every evening we stroll into the village to drink wine and play guitar with our friends. I have a full and happy life.”

The businessman scoffed, “I am successful CEO and have a talent for spotting business opportunities. I can help you be more successful. 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 with many fishermen. Instead of selling your catch to just your friends, you can scale to sell fish to thousands. You could leave this small coastal fishing village and move to the big city, where you can oversee your growing empire.”

The fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”

To which the businessman replied, “15 – 20 years.”

“But what then?” Asked the fisherman.

The businessman 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 – then what?”

The businessman said, “Then you would retire.  Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, spend time with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your friends.”

You may wonder what I think the moral of the story is. What is it to you?

It has different layers, there’s something for everybody. What speaks to me are two insights: one is to live more in the actual moment, to be very conscious of the beauty surrounding us in the present. Analysing or brooding over things past or focusing on making plans for tomorrow – like the businessman – imply that you do not experience the present. And ultimately what is NOW is the only thing that is real. Thinking about what happpened or will happen often creates negative thoughts, leading to negative feelings about yourself, others, circumstances, etc.. resulting in the big S word: STRESS.

This brings me to a second insight: it often seems as if these stressing and limiting thoughts and emotions are a part of us, that they make us who we are. In fact, we are often convinced that they serve us, that they are qualities. The businessman is certainly convinced of this. After all, his relentless urge to perform and do better and get richer have advanced him materially and financially – and isn’t that the best proof? But such convictions are also a trap if you let them take you too far. Then they sabotage instead of help you, as this parable illustrates wonderfully. We always have a choice: do we listen to our sabotaging inner voices or do we opt for what we really want, like the fisherman?

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