Ramblings: Anecdote on the Decline of the Work Ethic

I chanced upon this story title Anekdote zur Senkung der Arbeitsmoral (Anecdote on the Decline of the Work Ethic), originally written by Heinrich Böll in 1963.

The story is about an encounter between an enterprising tourist and a small fisherman, in which the tourist suggests how the fisherman can improve his life.

I really like this story because it conveys an important message, one that I tell frequently to my ‘mentees’ about striking a balance in life, giving back to the society and looking at ROI from a holistic view, not just the tangible outcomes.

Enjoy the story 🙂

An American tourist meets
a Mexican fisherman resting on the shore.
He asks him how long
he goes to fish everyday
”Not very long,”
answered the Mexican.
“But then, why didn’t you
stay out longer and catch more?”
asked the American.

The Mexican fisherman
explained that his approach
is to only catch how much
ever he and his family needs on that day.

The American asked,
“But what do you do
with the rest of your time?”
“I sleep late, fish a little,
play with my children,
and take a siesta with my wife.
In the evenings,
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 everyday.
You can then sell
the extra fish you catch.
With the extra revenue,
you can buy a bigger boat.
With the extra money
you can buy a second one and a third one and so on

until you have an
entire fleet of trawlers. ‘
Instead of selling your fish
to a middle man,
you can negotiate directly with
the processing plants and maybe
even open your own plant.

You can then leave this
little village and move to Mexico City,
Los Angeles, or even New York City.
From there you can
direct your huge enterprise.”

“How long would that take?”
asked the Mexican.

“Ten, perhaps twelve years,”
replied the American.

“And after that?”
That’s when it gets really interesting,”
answered the American, laughing.
“When your business gets really big,
you can start selling
stocks and make millions!”

“Millions? Really?
And after that?”

“After that,
you’ll be able to retire,
live in a tiny village near the coast,
sleep late, play with your children,
catch a few fish,
take a siesta with your wife,
and spend your evenings having a few drinks and enjoy
your friends.”

1 Comment

  1. Mihai says:

    Perfect and so true. This made my day.

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