The Story of the Mexican Fisherman

photo credit: click here

This is the story that started the “be more with less” movement for me. While I knew all work and no play wasn’t the way, I thought I would forever be stuck in the cycle of working to live. I thought I would always have a car payment, credit card debt and not enough month at the end of the money. I thought I had to work harder to make more, buy more and have more. At one time, I really thought that would make me better somehow.

This story is my inspiration to slow down, reassess, and get real about how I want to live life.

An American investment banker was 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 yellowfin tuna.  The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied, “only a little while. The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish? The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs. The American then asked, “but 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 siestas 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.” The American 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 Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

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

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

“But what then?” Asked the Mexican.

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 – then what?”

The American said, “Then you would retire.  Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”


You might also enjoy 10 Meaningful Lessons from the Mexican Fisherman Story.


  1. says

    Courtney, I love this post! You have no idea how much it hits home with me. I’m preparing to sell my house and downsize to a cozy little condo where my overhead will be less so I can spend more time doing what I enjoy. Thank you for this! I love it.

    By the way, where’s your Twitter button? I’d retweet this for you if you had one!

    Angela Artemis

    • Courtney Carver says

      Angela, I can’t wait to hear about your move! Working on the Twitter button! Thanks – Courtney

  2. says

    I came back and tweeted you!
    I hope to put my house on the market by June 1. Right now I’m in the furious cleaning and sprucing up stage.
    I’ll keep you posted.

    Thanks again for this terrific post. I’m going to reference it in a future post – next week on Mystic Musings. I’ll send you a link


  3. says

    Great story and one that we all need to be aware of these days!

    It is OK to sit around and do nothing more than what you need to sustain yourself.

    We are all okay just as we are without having to embellish ourselves with excessive trappings.

    Who needs an MBA when you can have a siesta in the sun?!

  4. says

    What a great reminder that enjoying life and being content are more important than money could ever be!

    Many thanks,

  5. Courtney Carver says

    Glad you liked this story. I think it is so powerful to be able to say, “I have enough”.

  6. Tessa says

    Love this story, I can see why it inspired you. This is just what I needed to read today; a great reminder that there is so much more to life than just work and money, and really, what is the end goal of it all anyway?

  7. says

    Glad you got the Twitter button in! I see it’s been used – alot!

    Come over to my site today to read my latest post: Would You Rather Have a Big House Or A Big Life?

    I cited you and your blog and linked to you.

    Look forward to seeing you there!

  8. says

    Hey Courtney, I came here from Angela’s Mystic Musings and Meditation blog. I really like this post because it shows us that people have different views of what happiness means, just like between the American businessman and the Mexican fisherman. Thanks for this story. It’s one of my favorite ones from The 4-Hour Workweek.

    • Courtney Carver says

      Hulbert, thanks for your feedback. Is the Mexican Fisherman story on the 4-Hour Workweek website or in the actual book? I don’t think that is where it originated but would be curious to find out! Take Care, Courtney

      • says

        Not sure it was original, but I first read this great story in the 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss (the first edition). Thanks for reminding me about the message!!

  9. says

    This is a great story! I made some changes in my own life a couple of years ago. Now I’m no longer stressed out and have more energy than ever. Thanks for sharing this story with us. Take care, A.

  10. yogesh bhalekar says

    Truly Amazing!!!
    thank you for sharing this, I will treasure this piece of advice and Share it with others… thanks!

  11. says

    Wow, this is an amazing story.

    Reminds me that it is better to live in the PRESENT and with what we need.
    We don’t need to have it all.

    I have to share this.

  12. Karthikeyan says

    Hi Courtney

    I am from India and we have the culture of saving (first) & then spending which is slowly changing. Secondly there is lot of money that might require for child education. so the idea given Amercian MBA looks great to me.

  13. John says

    What a great reminder of what our priorities are and how to live. There’s a song that’s based on this story that I recommend: “The Life” by Kenny Chesney. Even if you’re not into his music the lyrics are worth reading.

  14. says

    Hi Courtney,

    This is absolutely one of my favorite stories! I first it heard it told by a motivational speaker at a conference about six years ago. It was also a major turning point in my life…not one towards minimalism, but one that truly launched my search for what is most important in life. I’m happy to see you sharing it here and that it resonates with so many others as well. :)


  15. says

    I’m going through the archives of the blog, and I must say I find this story wonderful and truly inspiring :) Thank you…

  16. says

    This is a terrific story, I really love it and it’s something that I speak to my hypnotherapy clients about as it really lets people see what they want from life.
    Some choose to be that fisherman all their lives and others don’t want that but it does open up peoples eyes to the way they are living ! thanks

  17. says

    Hey I know this post is 3 years old… but its the story that really made me think about my life and quit my job and live on the beaches here in costa rica! I read 4 hour work week 2 years ago and started over as I closed the book.

    Be more with less.. forever! Thanks for the post!

  18. says

    I’ve read this story through an e-mail forwarded to me years ago. It stuck in my head though and searched for it again and found your page. (I later found out it was written by a certain Mark Albion.) Anyway, I am at a crossroad of my life and been asking why I’ve been working my ass off, climbing the corporate ladder, trying to get rich, afraid that I would grow old with having nothing. But when I went home to my family in the province last Christmas, I realized I have my treasure there and I don’t need to accumulate more treasures living alone in another city. I’m glad to have read it again and found peace knowing that I can live a simple life and can be joyful with it.

  19. says

    Have always loved this story, and your version is concise and well spoken. Buddha told us “Life is suffering” and that most suffering is due to attachment. Living half the year for last ten years in a small Mexican coastal village accessible only by water taxi has taught me I don’t need all the “stuff” I spent a lifetime accumulating and don’t miss for those six months . It’s a trap and I have joined the Tiny Home Movement, spending summers in my 308 sf cabin at Lake Tahoe while managing my next door 3 story 3000sf home as a vacation rental. My friends think I’m lucky, but luck has nothing to do with it.Luck is preparedness meeting opportunity followed by right action. All you have to do is clearly define the life you want to live, determine the price you’ll have to pay, and pay the price, which usually involves giving up things and making changes. Focus on what you want and it’ll happen. Unfortunately. most think more about what they don’t want, and that is what shows up in their lives.Keep up your good work, amiga.

  20. kirti raj Syangden says

    I have learn to limite desire.
    and the message for all of us – obviously the man who is always looking for more money will loose out in the end.

  21. Roland Garros says

    What a great little story. Here’s an epilogue: the Mexican (or insert any other nationality) fisherman who was very “life” rich with time spent with family and without the headaches and stresses of the daily grind one day gets diagnosed with something minor like kidney stones or first stage melanoma. He dies in some 3rd class hospital soon after because of 3rd class type hospital complications and less than adequate pharmaceutical follow up simply because he didn’t have the few thousand $ (or insert whatever currency here) that he could have easily saved up with just a little more time ‘invested’ for unforeseen events. Now without a head of the household, his young children and wife, who are all likely also ‘busy’ catching 1 fish a day and also not planning for the future start to question whether they should be doing a little more with their time so that someone maybe will get to further their education and maybe open up a few more options other than fishing for a few more generations.

  22. Roland Garros says

    … we can sing praises of the simple life, but it’s almost inevitable that someone will eventually want a refrigerator, washing machine, built in kitchen, 4 x 4 truck, Escalade, infinity pool, etc. etc. etc.

  23. John says

    The original Story was written by German writer Heinrich Böll and published in 1967. He won the Nobel Prize for literature shortly thereafter.


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