A Parable About What is Really Important

I remember the first time I heard this simple parable about 15 years ago on the Pastor Steve Brown Radio show. I have used it several times with audiences over the years. I never knew the source until an exhaustive Google Search. It was adapted from is one of the most famous short stories from German writer Heinrich Böll. Post WWII he was very influential and won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1972.

It’s one little story with many little lessons that mean many different things to all kinds of people. Even if you have read it before it is worth another review because you may be in a different stage in your life than the last time you read it.

An American businessman took a vacation to a small coastal Mexican village on doctor’s orders.

Unable to sleep after an urgent phone call from the office the first morning, he walked out to the pier to clear his head. A small boat with just one fisherman had docked, and inside the boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of the fish.

“How long did it take you to catch them?” the American asked.

“Only a little while,” the Mexican replied in surprisingly good English.

“Why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?” the American then asked.

“I have enough to support my family and give a few to friends,” the Mexican said as he unloaded them into a basket.

“But…what do you do with the rest of your time?” the American asked curiously.

The Mexican looked up and smiled. “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife Julia, and stroll into the village each evening, where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life, señor.”

The American laughed and stood tall. “Sir, I’m a Harvard M.B.A. and can help you. You should spend more time fishing, and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. In no time, you could buy several boats with the increased haul. Eventually, you would have a fleet of fishing boats.”

He continued, “Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the consumers, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village, of course, and move to Mexico City, then to Los Angeles, and eventually New York City, where you would run your expanding enterprise with proper management.”

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

To which the American replied “15-20 years. 25 tops.”

“But what then, señor?”

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, señor? Then what?”

“Then you would retire and move to a small coastal fishing village, where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, and stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos…

What is important to you right now? Has it changed in the past few years? Jim Rohn taught me to not major in minor things. That is good advice. What are the minor things you need to let go off to free up more time on the majors?

1 thought on “A Parable About What is Really Important”

  1. You had asked that I share my story. I went to my 25 year class reunion in july, a year ago. A group of us guys wanted to get together and do a short hike, that we did all the time in high school. It’s a fairly simple hike through the woods and up a steep incline to a beautiful lookout called ” buzzards roost ” it used to take about an hour. I arrived eager to conquer the hill. Little did I realize that the hill would conquer me. About 50 yards into the hike I began wheezing and sweating profusely. At about 75 yards I began getting light headed and was very winded. I had to sit and worried I was headed for a heart attack. My friends waited with me as I caught my breath. I was absolutely determined not to stop. This repeated about every 75 yards until we reached the peak. What had always taken just under an hour, ended up taking nearly 3 hours. Once at the top, we began discussing how we thought our lives would turned out and how they actually have. We also discussed what we had planned to do from here. I felt like I had accomplished many of my goals with a beautiful wife, loving relationship, 2 awesome children that were doing well, strong spiritual life, good career and many of the material things I had wanted. What dawned on me was that I had sacrificed my own health in pursuit of all of the other things. I had taken my health for granted and never prioritized it in my pursuits. All of the things I had been blessed with, and all of the things I had worked so hard for would mean nothing if I lost my health or died. That day, looking out overa magnificent view surrounded by people I had known most of my life, I realized my most personal possession was in jeapordy. I know do a 5k a day and in the last year have lost almost 60lbs total. I continue to work at improving my health based on how I feel not how I look. I have also been able to make that hike in 45 minutes.

    Thank you,

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