One of the first posts I wrote for Be More with Less was The Story of the Mexican Fisherman. This story gave me great inspiration to simplify my life. It’s a story that was pinned to my bulletin board in my office, in my house, next to sales reports and goal sheets from my job, reminding me of what was most important.
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.”
Every time I read this, I feel even more inspired to live simply and direct my love and energy to what matters most. I’ve learned so much from this story including these 10 meaningful lessons …
1. Stories are powerful.
This little story inspired change in my life and work, and still makes me think about what matters most. It also encourages me to share personal stories and invite you to share yours. You have so much to offer the world by sharing who you are, what you’ve experienced, and what it all means to you.
2. Change takes time.
Even though I was working to make more and own more when I found this story, it kept working on me. When I’d look at my sales numbers, my eyes would run over these words. I wasn’t ready at first, but I was curious and then I was committed. If there is a story working on your life, give it room and take the time you need. It will be there when you are ready.
3. Small is beautiful.
In the Story of the Mexican Fisherman, a small boat provided a beautiful life. You don’t need an impressive title, big car (or boat), or big business to live a beautiful life and be a beautiful person. In my experience a smaller living space and fewer obligations has made life even sweeter.
4. You already have it all.
If you have a nagging feeling that you could do better, make more, and deserve to upgrade, remember that the secret to having it all is recognizing that you already do.
5. Advice is nice, but intuition is better.
The Harvard grad had plenty of advice, and we are faced with an endless amount of advice on a daily basis, but as Danielle LaPorte says so simply and thoughtfully, “it’s ok to want what you want.” Read, research and listen to advice, and then do what you know will be best for your life. If you don’t know, make time and space to listen, because you probably do know, but have been too busy/stressed/worried to trust your voice.
6. The time is now.
Do you want to enjoy your work and life now or work a job you hate and endure a stressful life so you might find joy in 20 years? It has to start now. That doesn’t mean that everything has to change immediately, but start building joy into your life today. You deserve that.
7. You can’t put a price on a happy life.
Not even a million dollars.
8. Spend time with your amigos.
The wife, children and amigos were all an integral part of the fisherman’s life. Spend time with people who lift you up and quietly distance yourself from those who don’t.
9. Smarter isn’t wiser.
Catching more fish and growing the business was very logical advice, but offered little wisdom. In Arianna Huffington’s book, Thrive she says, “Ours is a generation bloated with information and starved for wisdom.” Aim to weed through the information for the wisdom. Usually that comes back to knowing what you know to be true for you.
10. Protect less and share more.
This Story of the Mexican Fisherman was originally told by Heinrich Böll about an encounter between an enterprising tourist and a small fisherman on a European coast, in which the tourist suggests how the fisherman can improve his life. It’s been told, re-told and adapted. I’m so grateful that a version finally found me. Let’s keep sharing meaningful stories.
I don’t have a bulletin board, office, or a house anymore. I don’t have the job with the sales reports and goals either. Instead, I have a happy marriage, thriving microbusiness, and time to enjoy coffee and writing with my amigos or a hike with my dog. Instead of a big job, big car and big expense account, I have a big, beautiful life and I’m so grateful.
Live small so you can live big.