Why Not Become a Tuna Fisherman? – Day minus 18

Thursday 18:37, Rue de Bleury, Montreal, Canada

In his book The Personal MBA, Josh Kaufman eloquently and, in my opinion, rather humorously, shares his arguments against, and the perils of, doing an MBA. It’s basically a book about not doing an MBA. In many ways he’s right; or at least, I tend to agree with him: MBAs can be very expensive, not in sync with real-time management practice and be taught by academics and not industry experts. Instead, Kaufman argues that if you read avidly you become the master of your own learning.

As you have probably figured out, I didn’t follow his advice. Nevertheless, I’ve learnt a lot by reading his book; it’s full of thought-provoking anecdotes. One of them concerns a tuna fisherman who meets an executive.

Here it is; it’s worth the read.

Once a powerful executive went on vacation – his first in 15 years. As he was exploring the 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 some more” the Executive asked.
“I have enough to support my family’s needs” the Fisherman replied.
“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 busy and full 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 can 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 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, and 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 guitar with your friends.”
Shaking his head, the Executive bade the Fisherman farewell. Immediately after returning from vacation the Executive resigned from his position.

Kaufman uses this parable to explain the concept of sufficiency, and when I first read it, it made me smile (possibly, you’re smiling too).

The story poses the question why so many of us always strive for more and more, when the ultimate aim is generally to just have enough.

The morale of the story, in my opinion, is to do what makes you truly happy, whether it’s fishing or running a business. And if you can fast track the things you want to do when you’re retired to the present, please tell me how.


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