The Mexican Fisherman + The Banker: A Lesson On What It Means To Have Enough

A few years ago, I read this parable about a Mexican fisherman and (probably) an American banker. The story stuck with me because it seemed to question what we see as enough and what we measure our lives by, both of which seem to be dictated by money and the currency of time:

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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, señor.”

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

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This parable has stuck with me over the years because of the lesson is teaches so simply: that what we want, no matter how simple, is enough. We don't need to accomplish every single thing, spending time working towards peace reserved only for the end of our life. We can create peace right now and we can do it without forcing ourselves to be busy.

I'm starting to believe more and more that wanting peace, fulfillment, and success now is nothing more than a chosen perspective. I choose peace. I choose fulfillment. I choose success. All of those things likely don't look like what you see as peace, fulfillment, or success and that's okay.

Unfortunately, most people don't think this way. Most people believe that by being busy they will somehow create the life they want while missing out on the moments that matter.

American culture is interesting: We seem to value ourselves and each other only on how busy we are. Only by being busy will we feel like we are enough.

We are worth it, we tell ourselves: We can show you with all the time that we don't have. We're all willing to work late, miss family dinners, and skip out on important events with our families because we think if we take a break that we aren't good enough.

Who we are is what we do and what we place our values on. We will always spend money and time on what we care about most. 

I don't believe that we are meant to work work work until 59.5, then start pulling out of our 401k.

Saving is good, yes, but there are so many minutes between now and then.

I want to live now. I want to experience the world with fresh eyes and an open mind and healthy body. I want to go to sleep at night fulfilled because I'm creating the life I've always wanted. Most nights I do. I feel like I have enough. I am enough.

And I'm fulfilled in knowing that how I live my life is aligned with what I value, too. 

So let me ask you:

What is it that you value? What is it that you spend the most money on? What is that you spend the most time on?

If you don't know what you stand for, take a look at where you spend the most time + money. It will be obvious. And, if you don't like where your money + time is invested, then it's time to change. 

What if life is enough right now? What do you choose?