The Parable of the Mexican Fisherman

I’ve written about how reading Tim Ferris’ 4-Hour Workweek book was a critical element of even understanding that this lifestyle was possible.

But there was one particular passage in the book that hit me like a ton of bricks.

I think it was profound because the parable so closely reflected our current life/career trajectory. You see, Mrs. TNF and I were good corporate citizens; rising the ranks with ever more responsibilities and pay, saving for some big payday in the future that most people call retirement.

In fact, I had a quite detailed spreadsheet that showed in excruciating detail how our retirement savings would grow and grow over our working years and we would be quite wealthy in the end. In fact, when I showed Mrs. TNF the big dollars we would have in retirement (compound interest is a wonderful thing) we definitely had a “what would we do with all that money” type of conversation.

So there I was, reading the 4-Hour Workweek book and came upon this passage:

An American businessman took a vacation to a small coastal Mexican village on doctor’s orders. Unable to sleep after an urgent phone call from the office the first morning, he walked out to the pier to clear his head. A small boat with just one fisherman had docked, and inside the 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 in surprisingly good English.

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

“I have enough to support my family and give a few to friends,” the Mexican said as he unloaded them into a basket.

“But… What do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican looked up and smiled. “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, Julia, and stroll into the village each evening, where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life, senor.”

The American laughed and stool tall. “Sir, I’m a Harvard M.B.A. and can help you. You should spend more time fishing, and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. In no time, you could buy several boats with the increased haul. Eventually, you would have a fleet of fishing boats.”

He continued, “Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the consumers, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution, and move to Mexico City, then to Los Angeles, and eventually New York City, where you could run your expanding enterprise with proper management.”

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

To which the American replied, “15-20 years. 25 tops.”

“But what then, senor?”

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 would make millions.”

“Millions, senor? Then what?”

“Then you would retire and 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 to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos…”

The 4-hour Work Week, Timothy Ferriss, page 231-232

All of a sudden it dawned on me that I was thinking just like the businessman in the parable. I was planning all sorts of business conquests to amass my fortune, only to lead a life that I could probably afford now if I really thought about it!

That was it for me. That was the moment that I decided that maybe I could practice lifestyle design, create a location independent income stream, and leverage current savings to hit the reset button and live an amazing life NOW instead of later.

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