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The Fisherman’s Parable

Fisherman's parable
The Fisherman’s Parable- Balancing Ambition and Contentment

An ambitious businessman with a fancy MBA takes a break from his busy schedule to go on a coast to coast road trip. One day, he stops at a coastal village and comes across a middle-aged fisherman who has just returned from a fishing trip. The fisherman’s boat is filled with a healthy catch of tuna fish.

The businessman compliments the fisherman on the catch and gets into a conversation. “Those are good fish you have. How long did you have to be in the sea for that?”

“About a couple of hours,” the fisherman responds.

“Well, your boat looks big enough, why would you not go farther into the sea and catch a bigger harvest?”

Unsure where the conversation is going, the fisherman replies, ” I just catch as much fish as I need to meet my family’s needs. I can always go back if I need more.”

“Sure, I get it. And, what do you do with the rest of your time, when you are not fishing?”

Smiling, the fisherman says, “What’s there to do. I relax, I take a siesta in the afternoon. In the evening, I play football with my kids. At night, I watch the EPL with my friends. We have a good time… But, why are you asking me about what I do?”

The business man gets into a sales pitch mode ” I just had an idea. I have started many businesses and sold them. I was thinking, I can invest and help you set up a fishing company.”

The fisherman is intrigued by the idea this visitor is sharing ” And then what ?

“You can buy a bigger boat. With a bigger boat, you can go deeper into the sea, catch more fish and make more money in the process.”

“Fair enough. And then what ?” asks the fisherman again.

“Well, you can reinvest the profits and buy yourself more boats and make even more money.”

“Ok, I get that. And then what” asks the fisherman continuing with the same line of questioning.

The businessman, excited that the fisherman is taking an interest in his idea, says, ” That’s the best part. In about five years, when the time is right, we can sell the company stock to the public and make a lot of money. You could become a multi-millionaire.”

” Hmm. Millions? That sounds interesting. And, then what?” The fisherman asks innocently.

“Well, with the money you make, you can retire, relax, spend time with your family, and have a good life.”

This Fisherman’s parable is a metaphor for one of the enduring paradoxes of our life.

It brilliantly illustrates the illusions we so easily fall into when pursuing wealth and success. We fall into the trap of unbridled ambition and forget that the end game is fulfillment and happiness.

Should I be ambitious, or should I seek contentment? What is the right balance between my ambition and contentment? What do I want to achieve in my life, and for what end? How is the aspiration that I have connected to the larger purpose of my life?

There is no perfect answer to this. As the saying goes, to each their own.

There is one crucial point, though. Until you learn to appreciate what you already have, you will not be able to derive satisfaction from whatever more you get.

If I were a bird, ambition and contentment would be like the two wings for me. I cannot hope to fly and soar high if my sense of contentment does not balance my ambition at every point in my flight. And when my sense of satisfaction and contentment balances my ambition, the sky becomes the limit !!

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