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food for thought

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Would You Be An Investment Banker or A Fisherman?

October 11, 2007

I received an email from Xiaowen recently, but I didn’t bother to read it because well, the subject title made the look like just an ordinary forwarded mail. But I finally read it because I was clearing all the mails in my inbox and to my surprise, it made me start thinking..

Well, here’s the mail:

An investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked.

Inside the small boat were several large yellow fin tuna. The banker complimented the fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The fisherman replied, “Only a little while.”

The banker then asked, “Why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?”

The fisherman said, “With this I have more than enough to support my family’s needs.”

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

The fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, go for walks with my wife, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my friends. As you can see, I have a full and busy life.”

The banker scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing; and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat! 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 processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to the capital city. After that, who knows, maybe you could take on the world!”

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

To which the banker replied, “I’d say about 15 to 20 years.”

“But what then?” asked the fisherman.

The Banker 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?…Then what?” the fisherman continued prodding.

The banker said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, go for romantic walks with your wife, and in the evenings you could sip wine, play guitar and sing songs with your friends!”

To which the fisherman mused, “Now isn’t that strange… Isn’t that what I’m doing now?”

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A couple of points that I pondered over:

1. Sometimes, we always tend to think that we have the right perspective of things and that just because we think that we are in the best position to make a judgment, we tend to belittle other people around us and their opinions. When in fact, they may already be on their way to achieving what they are looking for.

2. Being contented with the little things that you have may actually bring you greater happiness. Though no doubt, being able to earn millions by expanding the Fisherman’s fishing business can bring him greater luxuries in life however, it’s a matter of being contented with what he already had that matters.

3. Is the story just making fun of the people who are busy in the rat race, chasing for between 15-20 years after what they felt for could bring them happiness? Or is it if we were to just slow down, take things easy and being content with life like the Fisherman that we’ll be able to enjoy life and happiness easily and earlier?

4. Can anyone ever be content with what they have? Will the Fisherman eventually think that the banker is right about making investments in his business? Because only then, can he afford entertainment, to build a house for his family, bring them to the city or on vacations, provide them with good food and clothing. Will he be contented forever with his life where he just sleeps late, fishes a little, plays with his children, goes for walks with his wife, stroll into the village each evening where he sips wine and plays guitar with his friends?

5. Sometimes, we all just need to rethink what are the things we are chasing for. Are they just going to bring us back one full circle? Like how the investment banker suggested the fisherman invest in his fishing business and eventually earn millions, only to be able to enjoy a life which he already is leading now. Are we in a rat race to riches that will only bring us back to the point if we just stop to ‘smell the roses’?

Certainly, the lesson to learn is – never listen to other people’s advice blindly.