The Tale of the American Businessman and Mexican Fisherman

One of my top 10 favorite folk stories about happiness comes from Heinrich Böll, a Nobel Prize Laureate for Literature:


An American businessman was standing 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 American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish.

“How long did it take you to catch them?” the American asked.

“Only a little while,” the Mexican replied.

“Why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?” The American asked.

“I have enough to support my family’s immediate needs,” the Mexican said.

“But,” the American then asked, “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 a siesta with my wife, and stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life, señor.”

The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds you can buy a bigger boat, and with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats. Eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats.”

The American continued, “Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the consumers, eventually opening your own can factory. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal village and move to Mexico City and eventually New York where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

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

The American replied, “15-20 years.”

“Then what, señor?”

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO (Initial Public Offering) and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You will make millions.”

“Millions, señor? Then what?”

The American said slowly, “Then you would retire. You would 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, and stroll into the village each evening where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos…”

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