When the American businessman met the Mexican fisherman

Guy Riese
3 min readOct 4, 2015


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, señor.”

The American laughed and stood 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. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village, of course, 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, señor, how long will all this take?”

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

“But what then, señor?”

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, señor? 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…”

I love this parable. It reminds us that money should not be the goal in itself. It is a tool and component in the lifestyle we design for ourselves. The sweet spot lies in focusing on how you spend your time, not money. Life should be about creating value for society without sacrificing improvement to your own physical, mental, emotional and material well-being.

There’s a well-known thought experiment: “How would you live right now if you knew that you had a disease that was going to kill you?”. You’d probably do a lot of things differently. But guess what, this isn’t just a thought experiment. You DO have a disease that’s going to kill you. You’re going to die. We’re all going to die. Our bodies degenerate day-by-day. At the end of life, is death. When you try to avoid this fact, you stop living. You just let yourself pass through life, slowly but surely, until death. Stop and realise this. Face the facts.

Steve Jobs knew this well:

“I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

You’re probably thinking “wow, this has really made me think”.

So act on it. Do just what Steve Jobs did. You’re perfectly able to; it’s your life. Change something, today.

Originally published at guyriese.co.uk on October 1, 2015.