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As our world becomes increasingly interconnected it seems as though our values are starting to blend into a muddied puddle of uncertainty. The rise of high speed, mobile communication and the mass dissemination of accessible data has resulted in a great deal of complacency in regards to the dangers of group thinking. While community formed from our shared humanity is a step closer to world peace, it also blinds the individual of their own unique needs and leads them to unwillingly pursue aspirations that might not best serve them.

Take for example the definitions of success or happiness. These terms will never be universal. That being said, if you ask any sample size of individuals to define these words they are likely to answer in relatively simplistic terms: health, family, friends, stability, shelter, fun and love. What they are less likely to say is: riches, fame, admiration, attention, popularity or the like. However, when we interact with strangers and with the world around us it seems that we tend to project the later rather than the former. We are wired to need to project a level of success & accomplishment and shamed if we cannot.

For the entrepreneur, this presents an interesting conundrum. The push & pull between the pursuit of a place in history... of legacy and the alternative: a lifestyle of quiet contentment. Today's advertising messages, media coverage and interpersonal communications via social platforms would have us believe that the pursuit of happiness is a pursuit of more. More consumption. More belongings. More experiences. MORE. We have created economies dependent upon such practices. We have created entire industries around fame and attention (see reality TV). It is more & more difficult to distinguish between what we value or need and what we want or think we have to have. This brings me to the story of The Fisherman and The Banker, which was recently sent to me by an entrepreneur & colleague who (like me) is always navigating the fine line between the desire for more success and a casual lifestyle of balanced contentment. I will not suggest that one is more virtuous than the other. I will instead share this proverbial tale and allow you to apply it to your own life as you see fit.

The Parable of The Fisherman And The Banker

An American investment banker was taking a much-needed vacation in a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. The boat had several large, fresh fish in it.

The investment banker was impressed by the quality of the fish and asked the Mexican how long it took to catch them. The Mexican replied, “Only a little while.” The banker then asked why he didn’t stay out longer and catch more fish?

The Mexican fisherman replied 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 replied, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, 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 investment banker scoffed, “I am an Ivy League MBA, and I could help you. You could spend more time fishing and with the proceeds buy a bigger boat, and with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats until eventually you would have a whole fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to the middleman you could sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You could control the product, processing and distribution.”

Then he added, “Of course, you would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City where you would run your growing enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But senor, 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 could make millions.”

“Millions, senor? Then what?”

To which the investment banker replied, “Then you would retire. You could move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”