Recently I had the pleasure to take a group of inspiring young leaders on a leadership experience to the North Carolina mountains. One of the activities was a hike up Whiteside Mountain, accompanied by a set of readings and discussions.
In preparation for the trip, I had the team read three documents: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech; chapters from Cicero’s “On a Life Well Spent”; and a recent blog essay of mine titled “Leadership with a Growth Mindset.” My intent was to use the three readings to provoke thinking around the group’s approach and priorities as leaders. As we climbed the mountain trail, we paused at different points to share a reading, discuss it’s meaning, and connect it to our lives and work today. The discussions were lively and profound, complemented by stunning scenery and vistas. As you can see by the photo, we were no worse for the wear from the climb and the discussions!
At the end of the trip, one of the team shared the following story. I was thrilled to hear the story on the trip, and I loved the idea that all of us have experiences and stories from our lives to share with others. I have found the story of “The Mexican Fisherman” poignant, and I hope that you do as well!
Story of the Mexican Fisherman
A boat docked in a tiny Mexican village. An American tourist complimented the Mexican fisherman on the quality of his catch. “How long did it take you to get those?” he asked.
“Not so long,” said the Mexican.
“Then why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more?” asked the American.
The Mexican explained that his small catch was quite enough to meet his needs and feed his family.
“So what do you do with the rest of your time?” asked the American.
“I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evening, I go into the village to see my friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar and sing a few songs. I have a full life.”
The American interrupted. “I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you! You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat.”
“And after that?” asked the Mexican.
“With the extra money the bigger boat will bring, you can buy a second boat and then a third boat, and then more until you have an entire fleet of trawlers. Instead of selling your fish to a middle man, you can then negotiate directly with the processing plants. Pretty soon you could open your own plant. You could leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles, or even New York! From there you could direct your whole enterprise.”
“How long would that take?” asked the Mexican.
“Twenty — perhaps twenty-five years,” replied the American.
“And after that?”
“Afterwards? Well, my friend,” laughed the American, “that’s when it gets really interesting. When your business gets really big, you can start selling stocks and make millions!”
“Millions? Really? And after that?” said the Mexican.
“After that you’ll be able to retire, live in a beautiful place near the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take siestas with your wife and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends.”