A Reminder From The Mexican Fisherman

by J. Money - Published March 28, 2016

sunset village

Hope you had a wonderful Easter, guys!

I’ve been thinking a lot about life and family and career lately – specifically how all our hustling and money intertwines with it all – and was reminded of that parable of the Mexican Fisherman. You’ve probably heard it before, but always a message well worth repeating.

“The Mexican Fisherman”

An American businessman was standing at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellow fin 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.

“Why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?” The American then asked.
“I have enough to support my family’s immediate needs.” The Mexican said.

“But,” The American then asked, “What do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, Maria, 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 scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds you buy a bigger boat, and with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats. Eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats.”

“Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the consumers, eventually opening your own can factory. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But senor, how long will all this take?”
To which the American replied, “15-20 years.”

“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?”

The American said slowly, “Then you would retire… 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…”

It gets better every time I read it :) A bit oversimplified perhaps, but the message is loud and clear: remember what it is you’re working so hard for, and have the wisdom to realize when enough is “enough.” We can’t all be Mexican fishermen right now, but the life might be a lot closer than we think.

Have a great start to the week, everyone!

************

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Jay loves talking about money, experimenting, blasting hip-hop, and hanging out with his two beautiful boys. You can check out all of his online projects at jmoney.biz. Thanks for reading the blog!

{ 73 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Brian @DebtDiscipline March 28, 2016 at 6:17 am

The Mexican Fisherman never get old. A great reminder. Hope the hustle, grind and 5:30 Am wake up calls are not wearing you down. :) Happy Monday!

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2 J. Money March 28, 2016 at 7:22 am

We all have our moments ;)

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3 Aliyyah @RichAndHappyBlog March 28, 2016 at 6:43 am

This made me laugh out loud. The message is so true. There is no price tag on life’s simple pleasures. Having a bunch of money in the bank is nice (and it’s one of my goals), but what’s more important is how we spend our time doing the things we value.

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4 PhysicianOnFIRE March 28, 2016 at 6:46 am

A quality parable that makes me think of Peter’s answer when asked what he would do if he had a million dollars in Office Space.

“Nothing. I would relax… I would sit on my a** all day… I would do nothing.”

Neighbor: “Well, you don’t need a million dollars to do nothing, man. Take a look at my cousin: he’s broke, don’t do s&%t.”

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5 AMW March 28, 2016 at 7:14 am

LOVE THIS! I will be using this in the future!

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6 J. Money March 28, 2016 at 7:24 am

Haha yup! Such a classic…

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7 Distilled Dollar March 28, 2016 at 7:22 am

Financial Independence is a spectrum, both in terms of material success and in terms of our mental attitude towards it. This story encompasses much of that principle.

If we’re not mentally prepared with the right perspective on what is truly valuable in life, then we will chase after the material without increasing our happiness. I think this is a large part of the reason lottery winners or those who see large windfalls end up feeling much worse about their lives. Sometimes only a year after after winning big.

The Mexican fisherman reminds me of seeing a black belt martial artist. The physical ability is only matched by the mental calm and serenity they bring to their art.

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8 J. Money March 28, 2016 at 7:26 am

Amen, brother.

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9 Heather @ Simply Save March 28, 2016 at 7:53 am

One of my favorite little fables. Puts things into perspective!

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10 kalie @ Pretend to Be Poor March 28, 2016 at 7:55 am

Love it! Thanks for the reminder. I think it’s so important to focus on what gives us joy along the way to our goals. Even if work is stressful or sleep is short, we can still play with our kids, spend time with our spouses, and hang out with friends.

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11 J. Money March 28, 2016 at 11:07 am

Very very true – I’m glad you pointed that out. Sometimes we gotta hustle through the $hit to get to the gems! Not everything is rainbows no matter how successful/happy you are :)

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12 Greg Rutkowski March 28, 2016 at 7:55 am

I forgot what book I read this from, but it is one of my favorite money parables. I am glad you posted it though because I couldn’t find it anywhere. Thanks!

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13 Tiffany @ Divvy Investments March 28, 2016 at 8:14 am

Great reminder. It’s all about a balance — one that I’m pretty terrible at, I’m afraid. That’s why it’s super important to surround yourself with people who see life differently and who aren’t scared to call you out when you’re being stingy with yourself. :)

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14 Larry Green March 28, 2016 at 8:33 am

This story is one of my all-time favorites. It is a constant reminder not to forget what we are working for. I have seen plenty of people close to me who constantly work and are not spending nearly enough time with their families. To make things worse, half of these people likely already have enough to retire, but they have become consumed by the allure of “more.” Thank you for the reminder!

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15 J. Money March 28, 2016 at 11:08 am

I used to be one of those people – then I had kids and they reminded me to live again! :)

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16 Josh @MoneyBuffalo March 28, 2016 at 8:56 am

It’s been awhile since I heard this story. This allegory sums up “escaping the rat race” more simply & eloquently than most.

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17 Lisa O March 28, 2016 at 9:25 am

Nice reminder of what life is really is all about. He is a richer man than any man with a billion in the bank….that’s my opinion!

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18 Eric Bowlin March 28, 2016 at 9:43 am

Very interesting story. A person can lead a fulfilling life without being wealthy. Sometimes the rich people are tied down just as much or even more than poor people.

I think the key is to being financially FREE, allowing you to do what you want to do in life. Passive income vs owning a business or having a job.

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19 J. Money March 28, 2016 at 11:12 am

best of both worlds :)

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20 Dr. Beard March 28, 2016 at 9:44 am

This reminds me of a recent trip to Jamaica. I spent weeks diving with a bunch of broke Jamaicans, living in a tiny apartment with three others, and eating pretty much what we could get on the end of a spear. They had little money, earned hardly nothing, and spent all day smoking weed, drinking at a little shack bar on the bay, joking, and smiling. I thought then that millions of Americans work their asses off for 40 years so that they can retire and do … basically the same thing. I guarantee you the quality of the fish we pulled out of the water and grilled was WAY better than anything we could have eaten in one of the resorts down the road. The only difference is maybe the quality of the indoor plumbing.

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21 J. Money March 28, 2016 at 11:14 am

Hah – yeah, lots of outside variables here for sure we’re not used to, but hey – if you’re happy then you’re happy, right? Sounds like a fun freakin’ time over there!

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22 Chris @ Flipping A Dollar March 28, 2016 at 9:47 am

I love this story. I think it all comes down to risk. By lowering your risk, it comes at a cost. You’ll need to work more, do things you may not love, etc. But it can be worth it. And the best thing is to realize that you don’t need as much dough as the mainstream news outlets are telling you. Hey Suze Orman, I’m looking at you. What the hell do I need 5 million in retirement for?

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23 J. Money March 28, 2016 at 11:16 am

Is that what she’s saying??? Ugh… so tired of these “magical numbers” being thrown around, whether it’s $5.00 or $5 Million. WHY DOESN’T ANYONE TALK ABOUT EXPENSES??? We live such different lifestyles in this world..

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24 Mr Ikonz @ ProjectIkonz March 28, 2016 at 9:47 am

Fantastic parable! Sometimes we get so caught up in driving towards retirement goals that we forget what we have today and also focus too much on delayed gratification!

Mrs Ikonz and I are trying to focus on both enjoying our lives (and travel) now, whilst enjoying an amazing lifestyle in retirement with Ikonz Jr.

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25 Stefan @Mllnnlbudget March 28, 2016 at 10:04 am

Good story to start the week! I can relate to this fisherman as I myself am not American and have never understood the concept of the American work ethic, to put it politically correct. You do not need to be the richest or most successful person to be happy in life. Like MasterCard said, “Simple moments are, priceless.”

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26 J. Money March 28, 2016 at 11:21 am

Damn straight.

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27 Ty @ Get Rich Quickish March 28, 2016 at 10:06 am

Such a great story, but now I want a Jimmy Johns sandwich! They’ve got this short story up on the wall in all of the JJ restaurants I’ve ever been in.

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28 J. Money March 28, 2016 at 11:22 am

That’s brilliant!

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29 [email protected] March 28, 2016 at 10:07 am

HAHAHAHA, this is AWESOME! I needed this post today. This is what it’s all about. The whole concept of having ENOUGH. Thanks so much for sharing!

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30 Deacon March 28, 2016 at 10:07 am

This is one of my favorite stories of all time! It is so easy to overlook the good things that are right in front of us and get caught up in the rat race. I enjoy making money but not at the expense of the important things in life like spending time with family and friends.

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31 Fervent Finance March 28, 2016 at 10:22 am

I love that story. It does a great job of putting things into perspective.

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32 Joe March 28, 2016 at 10:28 am

I like the story too, but life is getting harder for the fisherman. The ocean is getting fished out and a local fisherman probably can’t support his family anymore. Being a lone fisherman in a small boat might work in the 50s, but I doubt it will work now. Time changes and you have to adapt. Sorry to be such a killjoy. :)
I guess the fisherman can become a fishing guide…

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33 J. Money March 28, 2016 at 11:25 am

(Where’s the dislike button??? :))

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34 Tyler March 28, 2016 at 3:28 pm

IT IS JUST A METAPHOR!

We are all the fisherman….

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35 Dividend Growth Investor March 28, 2016 at 10:34 am

This is one of my favorite stories. There is so much wisdom jam-packed there, to make you really stop for a second and think about your life. I agree with Fervent Finance above that it puts things in perspective

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36 Fonedoc March 28, 2016 at 10:49 am

Here’s a song for you J Money…..Kenny Chesney – The Life. http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/kennychesney/thelife.html

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37 J. Money March 28, 2016 at 11:27 am

Hey!!! He’s channeling it – very cool!

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38 Dee @ Color Me Frugal March 28, 2016 at 10:54 am

One of my favorite stories! Thanks for posting!

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39 Kim @ Needing The Dough March 28, 2016 at 11:04 am

Still love this every time I hear (read) it :D

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40 Revanche March 28, 2016 at 11:35 am

I’ve always loved the message behind this parable, both literally and metaphorically, but lately I’ve been thinking about it more in real life terms and you know, I honestly had a change of heart about the literal sense. It used to be “well, we can always chuck it all and live simply”, and that’s true, for us as individuals to some extent.

The thing about the Mexican fishermen parable working is that there’s a community around him that we don’t see. My family, two generations back, they were that guy. Heck, I had an uncle who was that fisherman. He lived by the river, caught his dinner every night, taught the kids the art of fishing, totally relaxed. And that works in a rural world, where your basic living needs are so easily met. But you also need to have a ton of family and friends to catch you if you’re hit with something like cancer or you break your leg and your arm and you can’t fish every day for six weeks. What are you gonna eat??

The community lends you a hand. They make sure you don’t starve while you’re laid up, just like you lend them a hand when someone in the community’s down.

It doesn’t work much like that in today’s world. We’re connected, but not, you know? So we don’t all *necessarily* have a tight knit community that’s going to reliably rally and make sure you’re taken care of.

And you and I both have kids. We want the best for them. A lot of the time, that doesn’t mean we need more money. But sometimes, that means using money to buy them some opportunities. Sometimes, it’s as simple as being able to take care of ourselves, and them, for a while longer so they can get educated, get out there and take some risks.

Sometimes it’s making sure that if you and I DO get sick, they don’t have to drop out of school to take care of us, but that we’ll still be around for them.

It’s like the idea of not living like there’s no tomorrow. Let’s remember what’s important AND live like we have a ton of tomorrows!

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41 Crystal March 28, 2016 at 12:20 pm

Here, here to all of this! I’ve been trying to find a good work-life balance since I graduated from college in 2005. I’ve found that I prioritize my friends and family but work as much as possible around that schedule with them…it’s not stress free but I see all of my loved ones, don’t work while we’re hanging out, and hustle my ass off otherwise. It pays the bills, keeps us saving/investing 20% of our pre-tax income, and affords us the vacations and activities that go along with our social life. It’s not the Mexican fisherman exactly, but it gets all of my bases covered. :-)

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42 J. Money March 28, 2016 at 1:16 pm

For sure – having an e-fund and insurance and all kinds of extras in life is super important, ESP with having kids. Def. not so cut and dry, but I think the essence of it is pretty spot on. Remember why it is we’re working so hard and then do our best to use our $$$ from it as efficiently as possible so we can get back to what matters the most – our loved ones/family. I wouldn’t be comfortable fishing every day without a safety net – I’ll tell you that much. And pun very much intended ;)

(Btw, thinking about cultures and how over the years many of them – at least here in the U.S. – has changed so much is so SO interesting to read about.. Mostly sad, of course, but man – if we can get back to caring and helping our neighbors more instead of being so inward thinking?? Man… such a more beautiful world to live in… And I very much need to work on that myself too – I sometimes forget I have another family outside of my virtual one here w/ you guys :))

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43 Revanche March 28, 2016 at 5:51 pm

I think rebuilding a community where you live, even if it’s not composed of your blood family anymore like it used to be, is such an important part of creating a positive and healthy culture. We’ve finally started doing some of that in our neighborhood, bonding with some of the more sane folks over dogs or kids, and looking out for one another. We even have playdates with neighbor kids and I never ever thought that would happen – we’re all a bunch of strangers! How can we trust you!? But it turns out that no matter how different we seem to be at first, in a big enough population, we can find at least a few people who are worth getting to know and building up some ties with. It only took us about five years ;D Plus they’re gonna be GREAT inspiration for the blog, hah!

New mission: meet some neighbors, find a sane one to be friends with! (“Sane” because we have one neighbor who’s smoked the bad stuff and is gross and leave notes wishing death on us because we disagreed with him politely once. Not cool, dude.)

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44 J. Money March 29, 2016 at 7:18 am

Hah! People are cray…

And yes, totally agree community is where it’s at :)

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45 Harmony March 28, 2016 at 2:00 pm

I’m starting to think of my college education as money wasted buying bigger boats. Here I am, working away to pay off the debt and student loans accumulated during those years, just so we can escape to a simpler life.

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46 J. Money March 29, 2016 at 7:20 am

I can’t imagine it hasn’t helped at all? I feel like degrees are one of those things that do pay off in the end but sometimes takes awhile. I hope you’re able to feel better about it as time goes on :(

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47 amber tree March 28, 2016 at 2:25 pm

Excellent story!
The more blogs I read about FIRE, the more it comes clear to me. It is key to start with the fIRE attitude toady and life a live you design and like as much as possible.
Just this evening over dinner, my wife and I had a chat about it. What expenses can we cut to become FIRE even sooner. We could drop a few, but we would not like the life we have then.

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48 Justin March 28, 2016 at 3:17 pm

The only problem I have with the Mexican Fisherman story is that I don’t like to fish. I’d much rather work, save part of my income, invest it, then use the income from the investments to pay the Mexican Fisherman to fish for me.

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49 J. Money March 29, 2016 at 7:21 am

Hah!

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50 LuckyOz March 28, 2016 at 3:34 pm

This is great. It is so hard to figure out the right time to jump off the treadmill, and culturally in America, we are all taught to push that little further, save up a little more money, or else.

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51 Rebecca @Read And Go Do March 28, 2016 at 3:36 pm

This story struck me, but I’m probably feeling more sentimental today that usual. I have three daughters three and younger, and the middle one turned two years old today. There’s nothing like your child’s birthday to remind you of the fleetingness of the time you have with them. I actually started my blog not so much as a serious attempt at a side hustle, but in an attempt to help me refocus on my kids. I’m a total type A, over-achiever personality (which is why I’m the working parent and my husband is the stay-at-home parent) and I get a bit overly focused on deadlines. By creating a blog with a (completely artificial) deadline of posting once a week about what book my kids and I read together that week and what activity we did related to it, it puts me in a position where I better prioritize spending time with them. They’re no longer my leftover time; they’re part of my to-do list (a lot like the concept of paying yourself first applied to family life). It’s also creating a fantastic chronicle of some of my favorite memories which I’m sure I’ll treasure for decades to come.

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52 J. Money March 29, 2016 at 7:26 am

What a freakin’ cool idea!! Going over now to check out the blog and see what y’all are reading – I love that you take it further and then do exercises related to them :)

Happy birthday sweet two year old!!

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53 Jason B March 28, 2016 at 4:42 pm

Classic story. I love reading it.

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54 Clarisse @ Make Money Your Way March 28, 2016 at 5:35 pm

I can imagine the Mexican fisherman’s face when the American answered slowly “Then you would retire… Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late…” :)

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55 Mr. Tako @ Mr. Tako Escapes March 28, 2016 at 5:55 pm

Great story J Money, and a good reminder about life’s simple pleasures.

Not to be a Negative-Nancy, but life isn’t exactly all tuna and roses. Bad stuff happens. Some days you don’t catch any fish. Some days a tree falls on the house. Some days you get cancer.

Having a little extra stored in reserve for “the bad times” is usually a pretty good idea. Just sayin!

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56 J. Money March 29, 2016 at 7:28 am

And I’d agree with you, else I wouldn’t be here blogging about money every week haha…

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57 Tissue King March 28, 2016 at 11:58 pm

J,

Thanks for the reminder of how simple life really is. We all take it to the extremes and never really enjoy ourselves. I’ve read this before but like everyone commenting says, it never gets old.

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58 Maven March 29, 2016 at 12:26 am

Such a nice story, J. :) Just in time after all the thinking I’ve done these past few holidays. It has definitely calmed me down from the analysis paralysis I’m going through when I think about my finances. XD

It’s similar to what a friend of mine asked me recently: “So what’s your target net worth?” Despite all the possibilities of what we can be out there, it will boil down to what we value that will be most important in determining our actions.

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59 The Bus Thinker March 29, 2016 at 8:14 am

I don’t know how I haven’t read this one before! What a great story to bring it all into perspective. I’m so thankful for blogs like yours that have helped me figure out the important things in life. It’s so damn easy to keep plugging away day to day chasing BS and never reflect.

Keep it up.

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60 J. Money March 29, 2016 at 10:27 am

We got a great community online here for sure in the $$$ world. So glad I stumbled across it myself those 8 fine years ago!

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61 Kim March 29, 2016 at 9:32 am

Wonderful reminder about why it’s important to live for today. Needed that. :)

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62 Amy @ DebtGal March 29, 2016 at 12:32 pm

Wow – I’d never heard this before, and I LOVE it!! Thank you!

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63 Free Range Nation March 29, 2016 at 7:14 pm

Yes, I love this fable. I use it regularly in my workshops. I also like this story also:

At a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island, Kurt Vonnegut tells his friend, Joseph Heller, that their host, a hedge fund manager, had made more money in a single day than Heller had earned from his wildly popular novel Catch-22 over its whole history. Heller said, “Yes, but I have something he will never have: Enough.”

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64 J. Money March 30, 2016 at 6:23 am

Freakin’ love that – thanks for sharing it.

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65 NDQ March 29, 2016 at 8:07 pm

You’re right, J. This one is always a great read. A good lesson to recognize the good life when we’re living it.

NDQ

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66 Done by Forty March 30, 2016 at 1:14 am

I’ve never heard that story, but I love it already. Like others have noted, you have to retire TO something, not just away from something.

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67 The Roamer March 31, 2016 at 2:35 pm

I first heard this when I was off at university and it was a real ah ha kind of story. Because of its surprise ending.

It’s stuck with me. You always have to evaluate the goal or purpose because if you aren’t careful you might just take the long way and miss out on a lot. The part of the story that never made sense to me was the part where the guy says after building an empire you get to take days and relax and spend time with your kids. But the truth of his scenario is his kids are born already. If he were to take 20 years to build this empire his kids would be grown and gone.

A more accurate statement would be and then you get to spend time playing with your grandkids. If it were said like that I think the trade off would be even more pronounced.

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68 J. Money April 4, 2016 at 6:50 am

HAH! That’s so true – I never caught them! :)

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69 Josh March 31, 2016 at 5:22 pm

I like this one more everytime I read it. It always reminds me to stop and realize what I have vs. constantly thinking about what I want to have. Cheers buddy! Thanks for sharing.

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70 Tyler @ OddballWealth March 31, 2016 at 7:18 pm

I love that story, it really hits home for me. I think the first time I read the “The Mexican Fisherman”, it was when I was reading either the “4-hour Work Week” or “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”.

I agree with you, everything I read it, it really makes me think about what’s important in life!

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71 Kelly April 2, 2016 at 6:31 am

This is where work-life balance is taken from. I like how the fisherman responds and it is really a matter of choice.

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72 Jonathan Roy April 6, 2016 at 4:16 pm

My personal conclusion from this story is that everybody has their passion. For the fisherman, it’s to fish and spend time with his friends and family. For the Harvard MBA, it’s to build a big corporation. I don’t think what the MBA guy actually wants is to sell out and go relax on a coastal village. I think he would jump right back in the game and start an even bigger company. Because that’s what he likes doing. It’s not about the destination, but the journey. If you don’t know what you want, then it’s easy to lose focus and get lost, but if you know yourself you should be fine.

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73 J. Money April 8, 2016 at 12:49 pm

Interesting take! As much as I feel like I’d enjoy hanging out and “doing nothing” on a beach, I’d probably end up working on/building something in retirement too.

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