Once, a powerful executive went on vacation—his first in fifteen years. As he was exploring a pier in a small coastal fishing village, a tuna fisherman docked his boat. As the Fisherman lashed his boat to the pier, the Executive complimented him on the size and quality of his fish.
“How long did it take you to catch these fish?” the Executive asked.
“Only a little while,” the Fisherman replied.
“Why don’t you stay out longer and catch more?” the Executive asked.
“I have enough to support my family’s needs,” said the Fisherman.
“But,” asked the Executive, “what do you do with the rest of your time?“
The Fisherman replied, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, and stroll into the village each evening, where I sip wine and play guitar with my friends. I have a full and busy life.”
The Executive was flabbergasted.
“I’m a Harvard MBA, and I can help you. You should spend more time fishing. With the proceeds, you could buy a bigger boat. A bigger boat would help you catch more fish, which you could sell to buy several boats. Eventually, you’d own an entire fleet. “Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you could sell directly to the consumers, which would improve your margins. Eventually, you could open your own factory, so you’d control the product, the processing, and the distribution. Of course, you’d have to leave this village and move to the city so you could run your expanding enterprise.”
The Fisherman was quiet for a moment, then asked, “How long would this take?” “Fifteen, twenty years. Twenty-five, tops.” “Then what?”
The Executive laughed. “That’s the best part. When the time is right, you’d take your company public and sell all of your stock. You’d make millions.”
“Millions? What would I do then?”
The Executive paused for a moment.
“You could retire, sleep late, fish a little, play with your children, take a siesta with your wife, and stroll into the village each evening to sip wine and play the guitar with your friends.”
Shaking his head, the Executive bade the Fisherman farewell. Immediately after returning from vacation, the Executive resigned from his position.
A great parable, highlighting the common mentality of maximizing profits and losing grasp on what is really important.
I encountered the story is in the book “The Personal MBA” by Josh Kaufman. [Full Disclosure: As an Amazon affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.]