The Rat Race Paradox: The Fisherman and The Banker

This is one of the best short parables I’ve come across and it contains a lesson well worth contemplating…

The Investment Banker and the Mexican Fisherman

An American investment banker 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 yellow fin tuna.

The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked, “How long does it take 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 siesta with my wife, Maria, 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 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 Mexico City, then LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

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

To which the American replied, “15-20 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 your guitar with your amigos.”


Does this resonate with you? What do you think of the rat race? Let us know your thoughts below.

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  1. this is a wonderful posts. It is so true also. There is joy in the simple things in life. It is not all about the money. Thankyou

  2. This is it. I’m trying to be the fishman, but I’m more like the banker. I don’t want to be the banker anymore. Moving out of the city in 2 months!! Can’t wait!

  3. Isn’t it odd that neither of the choices are, in reality, open to the average American citizen. Where’s the reality? How about the option of working at a job you kind of like with people you sort like and get along with and having barely any money the day before payday. There’s things I would rather be doing, but I have bills to pay and haven’t figured out how to monetize those things to the point that would allow me to have a modest reliable used car with the insurance paid, Internet service, groceries in the cupboard and pay the rent on my one room apartment. Don’t even tell me about the rat race! I’ve always chosen not to try to keep up with my neighbor and his toys or to keep score with the bank account. I could care less how much the man next to me has. Anybody who does those things does so by conscious decision and is vain. And how many of you that this crap resonates with would be able to enjoy living in a hovel with a dirt floor, cooking over an open fire, owning 2 or 3 sets of clothing, etc. — the possible details of the Mexican fisherman’s lazy existence that aren’t discussed in this parable. Your comfort and convenience is why you aren’t that fisherman. I call BS on the whole thing…

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