The Parable of the Fisherman and Investment Banker

This story, written by someone much wiser than me, is an oldie but a goodie…

An investment banker stood 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 yellowfin tuna. The banker complimented the fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The fisherman replied, “Only a little while.”

The banker then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish?

The fisherman said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.

The banker then asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas 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.”

The investor scoffed, “I am an Ivy League 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, and eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats.

“The investor continued, “And instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would then 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 New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

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

To which the banker replied, “Perhaps 15 to 20 years.”

“But what then?” asked the fisherman.

The banker 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. Okay, then what?” wondered the fisherman.

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 siestas with your wife, and stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”


For many reasons, I’ve enjoyed the above story for many years. Yes, it’s simplistic, but this simplicity provides much of its punch.

If there is something that you love, something truly fulfilling and happiness inspiring, then work to make it a part of your life. Find hours in the morning and discover time on the weekend for your passion. Ten minutes here, twenty there, add up quickly, and trust me, the more you love what you are doing, the less it will feel like work and the more it will become something fun you can’t live without. The goal is not to become concerned with magical riches far off in the distance, but to spend time every day doing something that inspires you to be better.  Work, practice, improve because it’s what you love doing.

Storytelling – and using emotions from a story to connect people – is one of my passions. It’s why I enjoy writing as much as I do, and something that excites me to approach the other areas of my life (family, friends, work, volunteering, etc.) with  more enthusiasm than without it.

What’s yours?


Nickels and Dimes is a series of short commentaries on inspiration, decision-making, relationships, and other items. I will post these thoughts every Tuesday and Thursday until I run out of new things to say.

For a daily helping of wisdom, please visit these excellent thinkers: Matt CheuvrontSam DavidsonPaul Jarvis, and Josh Linkner. Oh, and of course, Paulo Coelho.


One comment

  1. This is one of my all time favorites and very useful in my own life and when I am working with students. The book the Tao of Pooh discusses it in a round about way as well by asking the question “what is the great reward for your life”….and in this instance your work. Why are we working so hard to get things we don’t want to impress people we don’t really like all that much? I remember a friend who I was in law school with casually mentioned that her high school friends would think she was great after getting a law degree. It made me think and shortly after I left law school. Not solely for that discussion but it played a part certainly. I suggest you look into Joshua Becker and Becoming Minimalist. Some stuffs cliche but other stuffs life changing.

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