The parable of the Mexican Fisherman and the American Businessman

Written by Timothy Ferriss, the four-hour workweek never fails to leave thoughtful references that provide an impact worth remembering for a lifetime. In this instance, I like to share what I found on page 252 of the updated and extended edition.

Tim shares:

An American businessman was 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 and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied, “only a little while.”

The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish?

The Mexican 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 Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, Maria, and stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life.”

The American scoffed. “I have an MBA from Harvard, and can help you,” he said. “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, and eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middle-man, you could sell directly to the processor, eventually opening up your own cannery. You could control the product, processing, and distribution,” he said. “Of course, you would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then Los Angeles, and eventually to New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied, “Oh, 15 to 20 years or so.”

“But what then?” asked the Mexican.

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time was 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 could retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you could sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, and stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play guitar with your amigos.”

The takeaways from this one-page story alone have provided much clarity:

  1. Live a simple life.
  2. Don’t wait till retirement to enjoy your time with your family and friends.
  3. Proceed in a way – where you find enjoyment in spending your time doing what you love.
  4. Find balance between the two entities ‘enjoy the perks that the fisherman experiences’ with ‘the mindset to invest my time and energy of what I enjoy doing’.

I hope you find value in this post and for that reason do let me know what you took away from this story in the comments below.


You should get Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones

As a personal recommendation, if there’s one item that I like to endorse purchasing would be the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700. I received this as a gift on Christmas of 2019 and I now use it religiously. By the way, this is not a sponsored video (I wish).

Reasons why you should get the headphones?

  • Nosie Cancelling

The technological advance of noise cancelling has been a game changer. I mean who wants to listen to whining babies or hear an overly loud individual chanting on your flight journey (speaking from experience). Bose 700 eliminates this with 11 levels of noise cancellation. It reduces background noise to a level where you can’t even hear the person in the opposite room.

  • Listening to Podcasts

On some weekends, I find myself occupying few hours of my time listening to the weekly podcast hosted by Tim FerrisGetting things Done or Not overthinking. Now, I have been practicing this as a means to systematize this habit – I head out to a coffee shop, put on my headphones, drinking my flat white and just immerse myself into the world of wisdom. And believe it or not, much of the book recommendations and articles that I write about in my blogs have come from such speakers. It is an expensive purchase but the ROI (Return on investment) outweighs that it many ways.

  • Listening to music while carrying out repetitive tasks

I find doing repetitive work and using my Bose 700 while listening to music to be an excellent combination. This results in tasks being carried out at a faster rate with fewer mistakes being made because listening to music triggers the release of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine which makes you feel relaxed and happy. From my own experience, while I was carrying out my one-week work experience at North Manchester General Hospital shadowing a consultant orthopaedic surgeon. His practice of playing music (not while wearing his headphones) and performing surgery was a means to relieve stress to keep him relaxed, preventing his focus and performance to be compromised.

As a one-off investment and stealth look of Bose 700, I’ve found this to be a valuable item in my arsenal. So, check it out the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700.

Photo by Jonathan Velasquez on Unsplash.

Concept of Batching

I came across this word ‘Batching’ from the book called The 4-hour work week as a productivity tool to utilise my time more efficiently. The idea of batching is to carry out a long list of same tasks in a span of couple of days. It is the completion of a task and any sub categorised task associated with it. I have been practising batching as a novice and not truly used its potential to benefit myself to a greater extent. From my own personal experience, I have been using the notion of batching in my meal preparations which I usually do during the weekend. I’ve found this to be extremely productivity in saving time because I wouldn’t find myself in the kitchen every night and saving money because I wouldn’t indulge into spending money on lunch everyday.

Why does it work?

There are several reasons why it is important to implement ‘Batching’ into our everyday lives.

  1. Set up costs – in any task that we carry out, it involves initial preparation or setting up to carry out that task. When you do the same task frequently – the set up cost increases for instances, answering emails through out the day multiplies the set up cost. If, on the other hand, answering emailing once during the day, then the set-up costs are kept at a minimum.
  2. Task switching – in a paper conducted by the American Psychological Association have indicated that task switching, takes a toll on productivity. Just to think about checking your emails 5 times a day, you can lose about 1 hour of productivity. I currently work at Emerson and my habit of checking my emails 7-8 times a day increases my set up time and therefore decreasing my efficiency. I intend to change this habit going into new year.
  3. Peak performance ‘flow’ – Batching as a technique allows the user to be consistent so they remain in a state of flow for a longer period. Through batching, you’re in a position to create long uninterrupted stretches of time where performance in any singular activity is at its highest.