Why Americans Have Success Backwards

Excellent story taken from 4 Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss.
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 yellowfin 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 this all 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 (Initial Public Offering) 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, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos…”
Stop and think for a second. Which path are you taking?

Nikolai De Leo is a Transaction Advisory Services Professional living in Miami, FL. When not working, he enjoys reading (his three favorite books are As a Man Thinketh, Atlas Shrugged, and the Picture of Dorian Grey), running (he has completed two half marathons and a triathlon in his favorite Vibram five fingers), and watching college football (he attended the University of Florida for both his undergraduate and graduate degrees).
  1. Joey Insua Reply

    This post is fantastic. Lately I have been having very deep thoughts, most of which relate to what it is I truly want out of life. Throughout college, I have changed my mind a hundred times as to what it is I want to do, and where I want to be in 10 years. To be honest, I might not know the answer to that question until 10 years from now. I have realized one thing though. Happiness is relative. We do not have the right to judge people on whether their decisions are the right ones, because we do not always know what can make others the happiest. Bottom line, only I can decide and know what makes me truly happy. My father, probably the person I confide with the most in this world, has a good take on happiness. He never had the opportunity to go to college, and at 54 years old has way more debt than any person should (as do most Americans). My dad though does not regret any decision he has ever made in the past. He says that the experiences he had with his family, like going on vacation and spending weekends with us instead of working, are what truly made him happy. He says the irony of life is that he did not achieve some of the goals he set out for himself, but nevertheless he is a happy man. I guess then we should be in the endless pursuit of happiness, and each person’s path is unique.

    As the wise Aristotle put it, “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.”

    When we eventually pass, the only thing we take with us are our memories and experiences.

  2. Daniel Reply

    AMAZING!! This story needs to be told to everyone, it’s easy to lose perspective on one’s true goals in life. Excellent post.

  3. Darshan Reply

    “If you enjoy what you do, you will never work another day in your life'” Confucius

  4. Nikolai Reply

    Great quote! It’s been added to the Happiness quotes section.

  5. Nelson Reply

    Also found on the wall of a Jimmy John's near you! great post!

    • Nikolai De Leo Reply

      Awesome! I'll have to check it out.

  6. Carl Ruzycki Reply

    But Senor, I am doing that now.

    Great story. Really hits home. I have been in sales and business development for other 30+ years and have worked for the good, the bad and the ugly. I truly relate. Funny how we always want to take simple things like life, make them complicated and then spend the rest our days trying to make them simple again when life was simple to begin with.

    • Nikolai De Leo Reply

      Thanks for the comment! I love the way you explained that – "We make a simple thing like life complicated and then spend the rest of our days trying to make them simple again when life was simple to begin with." Your words remind me of a quote by the Dalai Lama. When asked what surprised him most about humanity, he answered…

      Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.
      Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health.
      And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present;
      the result being that he does not live in the present or the future;
      he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived."

      • Desmond Reply

        Both the comment and you reply set the path to understanding the whole thing!!!

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