The Tale of the Mexican Fisherman

Is your work just a means to an end? This is a reminder from one of my favourite parables.

The Tale of the Mexican Fisherman

A lot of times in life, we do things purely as a means to an end.

We see the work that we are currently doing as just a stepping stone to the work that we want to be doing. In some cases, you are only working hard so that you can retire earlier.

As many of you may know, I am a big fan of doing what you want to do now, rather than putting off to a later time in life.

Tomorrow isn’t a given, if you want to do something, do it now.

It can be difficult, especially if what you are doing now is earning you a lot of money. You might think it is risky to give up a high paying position to do something more fulfilling.

If you are not enjoying what you are doing, then surely the riskier path is doing the same thing until you are 65 and realise you have had a miserable life.

There are an infinite number of ways to make money, but you only have a finite amount of time to enjoy your life.

The key is to earn enough to cover the essentials and a few luxuries while still maintaining control of your time.


I am often reminded of the tale of the Mexican fisherman. If you are not familiar with the tale, it goes something like this:

An American businessman is on holiday in a small coastal village in Mexico. He is walking along the pier and sees a fisherman pull up in his small boat.

The businessman compliments the fisherman on the quality of the fish that he has caught and asks him how long it took to catch them.

“Only a short while” replies the Fisherman. The businessman asks why the fisherman didn’t stay out longer to catch more fish. The Mexican replies that the two fish were enough to feed his family, he didn’t need to catch any more today.

The businessman then asks what he did with the rest of his time. The Mexican fisherman replies, “I sleep late, play with my children, fish a little, drink some wine and play guitar with my friends”.

The businessman laughs and said that if he fished more, he could save up for a bigger boat and then catch more fish. With the profits, he could then buy more boats and have other fisherman fish for him. Eventually he would have a whole fleet of boats.

The Mexican replies, “but then what?”.

“Well, instead of selling your fish to a middleman, you could sell directly to the processor and later open up your own cannery and own the whole distribution line. Of course, you would have to move to Mexico City and later expand to other major cities.”

The Mexican asks, “and how long would that take?”.

The businessman replies, “around 15 - 20 years”.

“But then what?” asks the fisherman.

“Ah, this is the best bit. Once your company has grown you can have an IPO, list on the stock market and then sell your stock for millions”.

“Millions you say!”, smiles the fisherman, “but then what?”.

“Then you can retire, move to a small fishing village and sleep late, play with your kids, fish a little, drink some wine and play guitar with your friends” says the businessman, utterly missing the irony.


Not everyone has dreams of being a writer, an indie developer or a teacher, but many of us have a good idea of what we would want to do if we didn’t need to work.

If you didn’t need the money, would you carry on doing what you are currently doing?

If the answer is no, then it is worth having a serious think about what you want to be doing and finding a way to do that while still earning a living.

❤️ Picks of the Week

📝 Article - Why We Doubt Ourselves. If you are thinking of doing anything creative, then there is probably a fair amount of doubt in your mind. This is a great, fun article about overcoming self-doubt.

🐦 Tweet - Some great advice from Nat Eliason, on writing non-fiction books. Something I am looking to do in the next few years.

🎧 Podcast - Can You Ever Make It as Self-Employed. I enjoyed listening to David Kadavy on Paul Millerd's Podcast about his self-employment journey.

📚 Book - Digital Zettelkasten (affiliate link). I have been trying to find ways to improve my writing. I have come across Zettelkasten and Building a Second Brain before, but I really liked David's take on this.

👨‍💻 Latest from me

Every week I post new articles as well as one video on my YouTube channel. Here is what you might have missed out on this week.

🎬 YouTube - Why You Struggle to Learn to Code (and How To Fix It). You do tutorial after tutorial, but never manage to learn to code properly. In this video, I give advice that has helped me learn programming.

📝 Article - Warren Buffett’s 5/25 Rule is a Fake. People often quote Warren Buffett's 5/25 rule as a way to prioritise your life. Turns out he didn't actually say it.

📝 Article - The Comfort Zone is Ruining Your Life. Don't stay in your comfort zone your whole life and never actually accomplish what you want in life.

📝 Article - Automate Twitter with Notion and n8n. I have talked about embracing no-code before. This is one of the no/low code solutions I use to schedule my tweets.

💬 Quote of the Week

In pursuit of adulthood, we join the Working Dead, spending most of our lives at jobs that financially sustain us, but are less than satisfying.

From Feck Perfuction (affiliate link) by James Victore. Resurfaced with Readwise.