The World Financial Center in Shanghai. August 2011
A friend just sent me this little parable. It’s not exactly new, but does invite some reflection on what makes a fulfilling life, why we do what we do. For more ideas on the same subject, one should read Umair Haque.
An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Greek village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellow fin tuna.
The American complimented the Greek on the quality of his fish and asked, “How long does it take to catch them?” The Greek replied: “Only a little while.”
The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish? The Greek said 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 Greek fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play cards with my friends, I have a full and busy life.”
The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat 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 processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution.
You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Athens, then London and eventually New York where you will run your expanding enterprise.”
The Greek fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?” To which the American replied, “15-25 years.”
“But what then?” 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 would make millions.”
“Millions … Then what?” The American said, “Then you would retire. 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 cards with your friends.”
For a couple of years I’ve been thinking about a kind of method to build innovative concepts into businesses more efficiently and it seems Eric Ries has found some of the answers. Look forward to his book, for now this panel is very insightful.