Published on October 31, 2008
Are You Living The Good Life? A Parable by Mark Albion, author of More Than Money
Many years ago, after I graduated from Business School, I took a vacation in a small, quiet fishing village, where I thought I’d be able to take my mind off of business… if only for a few days.
Walking along the beach before sunset, I saw a small fishing boat come into shore. Inside the boat were a lone fisherman and several beautiful yellow- fin tuna. “How long did it take you to catch those fish?” I asked. “Only a little while,” he replied.
“Why don’t you stay out a bit longer and catch more?” I asked, certain there must be a demand for more fish than the few I saw on the boat. The fisherman smiled and said, “I catch enough to support my family, and I live a full and busy life.”
“I rise with the sun, fish a little, play with my daughters, have lunch with my family, and then teach children how to fish before I stroll into the village each evening, where I sip wine and play guitar with my wife and friends.”
“Listen,” I said, “I have an MBA. I can help you vastly expand your business. If you spent more time fishing, you’d soon earn enough to buy a bigger boat. With a bigger boat, you’d catch enough fish to buy several, then a whole fleet. You’d sell directly to a processor, cutting out the middleman and greatly increasing your profits.
The fisherman raised an eyebrow. “Eventually,” I said, “you could open your own cannery and control the product, processing, and distribution, then relocate operations to the capitol. If all goes well, you’ll likely find yourself in New York City, in control of a rapidly expanding empire.”
“How long would all of this take?” the fisherman asked. “Oh, about ten to fifteen years,” I replied. “And then what?” he asked. “Well, that’s the best part,” I said. “You’d announce an IPO and sell stock to the public. At that point, my friend, you would be very rich. A millionaire many times over.”
The fisherman paused. “Really, a millionaire? Then what?” he asked. “What do you mean?” I answered, a bit surprised. “I mean,” he said, “What would I do if I were a millionaire?”
“What kind of question is that?” I asked. “Whatever you like, of course.”
“I imagine you’d retire, move to a coastal fishing village where you’d rise with the sun, fish a little, play with your granddaughters, have lunch with your family, and then teach children to fish before strolling into the village each evening, where you’d sip wine and play guitar with your wife and friends.”
The fisherman smiled and, without saying another word, began to build a small fire.
Together we shared a taste of the delicious fish and watched the sun go down over the ocean as the sound of guitars rose from the village nearby.
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