The businessman and the fisherman story

November 8th, 2006 by Kenric

A few years ago, a very rich businessman decides to take a vacation to a small tropical island in the South Pacific. He has worked hard all his life and has decided that now is the time to enjoy the fruits of his labor. He is excited about visiting the island because he’s heard that there is incredible fishing there. He loved fishing as a young boy, but hasn’t gone in years because he has been so busy working to save for his retirement.

So on the first day, he has his breakfast and heads to the beach. It’s around 9:30 am. There he spots a fisherman coming in with a large bucket full of fish!

How long did you fish for? he asks. The fisherman looks at the businessman with a wide grin across his face and explains that the fishes for about three hours every day. The businessman then asks him why he returned so quickly.

Don’t worry, says the fisherman, There’s still plenty of fish out there.

Dumbfounded, the businessman asks the fisherman why he didn’t continue catching more fish. The fisherman patiently explains that what he caught is all he needs. I’ll spend the rest of the day playing with my family, talking with my friends and maybe drinking a little wine. After that I’ll relax on the beach.”

Now the rich businessman figures he needs to teach this peasant fisherman a thing or two. So he explains to him that he should stay out all day and catch more fish. Then he could save up the extra money he makes and buy and even bigger boats to catch even more fish. The he could keep reinvesting his profits in even more boats and hire many other fisherman to work for him. If he works really hard, in 20 or 30 years he’ll be a very rich man indeed.

The businessman feels pleased that he’s helped teach this simple fellow how to become rich. Then the fisherman looks at the businessman with a puzzled look on his face and asks what he’ll do after he becomes very rich.

The businessman responds quickly You can spend time with your family, talk with your friends, and maybe drink a little wine. Or you could just relax on the beach.

This is an interesting story to me because I see myself on both sides of this story.  I can see myself as the businessman.  Invest, build a business, donate your time now and make as much money today so you can do the things you want when you are older.

I can also see myself as the fisherman.  Work only as much as you need to and spend the remaining time doing things you want to do now.

What I find ironic is that when I was reading this I was agreeing with the businessman about buying bigger boats, starting a company and generating passive income.  But then, reading from the fisherman’s perspective he is currently enjoying his afternoons. He only works three hours a day and makes enough to enjoy his life.  It’s obvious that the enjoyment of his life is not money dependent.

For every investor there needs to be a balance.  I think that reading this story is very timely for me because in a few weeks I will begin working part time only, 2-4 hours a day, just like the fisherman.  I am pretty sure I can survive indefinitely working part time.  Now I will have half a day free, everyday.  Should I spend it working on real estate and business? or should I spend it like the fisherman, doing this I want to do for fun? Obviously, I’m going to do both, I just have to balance it out properly.

How many of you would take 50% of your current salary if you could work 8am-12pm everyday?

Update: The author of this story Mark Albion has a new book and released a video version of this story.



  1. 18 Comments to “The businessman and the fisherman story
  2. Most definitely, I would choose to work less so that I can enjoy myself more! In fact, I am in that situation now. I blogged about it a little, but I was just laid off from my job. I have my same salary and benefits until May 1, 2007. So, now that I have the paycheck and my days free, what can I do to put myself in the situation so that I don’t have to go back to office politics/sitting all day in a cubicle? I considered getting my realtor’s license; it will only take 2 weeks of classes since I can go all day. Then I won’t have to pay someone else to buy properties. I’ve also considered taking over a property where a developer ran out of money, but all the “hard” stuff is done; all that seems to be left is drywall, appliances, and tiles/floors. This is probably the way I’ll go, but I have to admit it’s a little scary! I have to keep reminding myself that I still have the salary for a few months, so my risk is lower. What do you think? any ideas? What would you do in this situation?

    By Asset Gatherer on Nov 8, 2006

  3. It’s funny, but in that whole story, this line stuck out the most for me …

    “Don’t worry”, says the fisherman, “There’s still plenty of fish out there.”

    You can always catch more fish, but you can never go back in time to do things you missed. I admit, it’s a tough decision at times.

    By Steve on Nov 8, 2006

  4. Experts predict that seafood will be gone by 2048. Catch fish now.

    By knuckle_headed on Nov 8, 2006

  5. Great story! I am definately the businessman and have a hard time “turning it off” sometimes. The wheels are always turning. I often get stuck in this cycle of get-stuff-done-get-stuff-done.

    The thrill of success is such a huge high for me…

    By RealOG on Nov 8, 2006

  6. OG,

    I guess for you, having fun is working and being successful!

    By Ken on Nov 8, 2006

  7. Asset Gatherer,

    I have been laided off so many times it doesn’t phase me at all. During my younger days my thought would be to get a job right away, then I would be making double the pay until May 07.

    But now, I’d say that you have a great 6 month opportunity to try something that you really want to do.

    However, start saving a little money or cutting back. You can’t live the next 6 months like your job will always be there.

    I think you’ll find that without a job, your expenses drop alot and that you can live on very little.

    During this time you can start a business, get a job in a different field, do what you enjoy.

    In May when the checks stop coming I think you’ll have a good idea of what you want to do.

    If all else fails, just go get another job in June!

    By Ken on Nov 8, 2006

  8. “Starting a company and generating passive income”? Methinks you’ve read too many speculator books, as in “Earn money without doing anything at all!” There is no end to these grifters.

    Talk to anybody who has ever created a legitimate business and no dollar they ever earned was earned “passively.”

    By Anonymous on Nov 9, 2006

  9. I liked this post, it grounds you a little bit when you really think about how much money you need to survive. At my ripe age of 26, however, I find it exciting to play the wealth and income building games.

    Asset Gatherer, investing in real estate is fun, but it must be carefully planned. If you want to replace your employment income, you’ll need to do a series of very well-thought out, shrewd REI deals to get your cash stream flowing. For instance, a flip, then a good income generating property, and another flip is a strategy I’ve seen people using a lot.

    1) Be careful not to fall into a trap like this.
    2) I think you might find a couple of posts on my blog interesting as it shows some different markets and possibilities for getting maximum cash flow from a property.
    3) A back-up plan is always nice.

    If you’d like to talk, drop me a comment and I’ll email you back.

    Good luck!

    By NLG on Nov 9, 2006

  10. The majority of what I bring in each month is passive income from a business I invested in. I literally do nothing for this money. There are lots of passive income business opps. You can buy something turn key, you can invest in one, you can be a silent partner, or money partner- there are so many ways to receive passive income from a business that you yourself are not working in. (all legit…too legit to quit)

    By prlinkbiz on Nov 9, 2006

  11. I wrote this story over a decade ago, but it is based in Buddhist tradition, Russian Folklore and similar too a lighter story written in 1963 by Henrich Boll, which I had never seen until this year. It is now a shareware 3-minute animated movie. Go to YouTube or FaceBook and put in “Mark Albion” and you will find “The Good Life Parable,” and my new book with the story, More Than Money.
    http://www.new.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=554442261117
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7JlI959slY
    http://www.bkconnection.com/morethanmoney

    By Mark Albion on Aug 28, 2008

  12. Hi Mark,

    Thanks for the comment. I updated my post with a link to your videos. I look forward to reading your new book.

    By Kenric on Aug 28, 2008

  13. I’ve seen this story made into a short film on PBS years ago. Except instead of a beach it was in a rural area, and the fisherman was fishing sitting on a small rocky bridge. That’s when the business man pulled up to him with a limo.

    So at the end, when the business dude says that when you get rich after 20-30 years later you can do this and that, then the fisherman says “…but that’s what I’m doing NOW”.

    And at that point the business dude got confused and didn’t know what to say. So he got back into his limo and left.

    By Josh on Apr 16, 2010

  14. I guess the fisherman’s daughters don’t get to go to college. And god forbid they get sick.

    By Anonymous on Oct 5, 2011

  15. Hey, you ripped this story off and it ends with the fisherman saying, “well isn’t that what I’m doing right now?”

    By Anonymous on Oct 29, 2011

  16. OK, how can you call yourself the ‘author’ of this piece? It’s been around for decades…

    By Anonymous on Dec 13, 2011

  17. As I said in my book, I wrote this two decades ago (I am old guy :) without pushing it or putting my name on anything but the end of the publication which had several of my stories. So if you saw the piece after 1990, it is from me – just over 100,000 websites had the story by 2002, all with slightly different versions. When we researched the piece, we indeed found another author in 1961 who had written in German a similar piece, though making vastly different points. To quote from my book,

    I’ve since seen this parable in many forms to which my monthly e-newslett er readers have
    directed my att ention, so it is clear that others have writt en similar stories. Th e earliest I have
    found is “Anekdote von der Senkung der Arbeitsmoral” (“Anecdote to Reduce the Work Ethic”),
    writt en in 1963 by the German Nobel Prize laureate Heinrich Böll, nearly identical but used differently.
    A similar tale apparently also appears in a Buddhist story and in Russian folklore.

    By Mark Albion on Dec 13, 2011

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