Story of the Mexican Fisherman

A boat docked in a tiny Mexican village. An American tourist complimented the Mexican fisherman on the quality of his catch. “How long did it take you to get those?” he asked.

“Not so long,” said the Mexican.

“Then why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more?” asked the American.

The Mexican explained that his small catch was quite enough to meet his needs and feed his family.

“So what do you do with the rest of your time?” asked the American.

“I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evening, 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 bigger boat will bring, you can buy a second boat and then a third boat, and then more until you have an entire fleet of trawlers. Instead of selling your fish to a middle man, you can then negotiate directly with the processing plants. Pretty soon you could open your own plant. You could leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles, or even New York! From there you could direct your whole enterprise.”

“How long would that take?” asked the Mexican.

“Twenty — perhaps twenty-five years,” replied the American.

“And after that?”

“Afterwards? Well, my friend,” laughed the American, “that’s when it gets really interesting. When your business gets really big, you can start selling stocks and make millions!”

“Millions? Really? And after that?” said the Mexican.

“After that you’ll be able to retire, live in a beautiful place near the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take siestas with your wife and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends.”


The moral of the story… Know where you’re going in life — you may already be there.


Photo Credit.

10 thoughts on “Story of the Mexican Fisherman”

  1. It makes me laugh/cringe hear someone complain about the job that they can’t quit because they have to pay for their big car, big house, big screen tv, and big credit card bills. How come people don’t understand that if don’t /love/ what you do, you’re doing something wrong?

  2. HI

    I’m the author of the Mexican Fisherman story,
    which was first published in the 1990s. I wrote it for MBAs ( I was a Harvard professor and then co-founded Net Impact for service-minded MBAs). I just liked seeing it go around in different forms all these years, but am “coming out” now as it will be in my fall book, “More than Money.”

    (and the MBA was originally from my school, Harvard Business School, though there have been many versions of the story this past decade)

    blessings, mark

  3. I first read the story almost a decade back, it makes sense. Especially “The moral of the story… Know where you’re going in life — you may already be there.”

    It’s also good to be commenting next to the author of this story. Thanks Mark and thanks for posting the story Chris.


Comments are closed.