The fisherman and the banker.

Written by Cole Schafer


If you step inside a Jimmy John’s deli you will see a great big red and black sign on one of its four walls.

And, if you take a moment to read it while you wait for your sub, it might just change your life.

“How much is enough?”

It’s an age-old story about a wealthy American investment banker and a poor Mexican fisherman.

Now, to be candid, I don’t necessarily adore the fact that the poor fisherman is Mexican… there are plenty of rich Mexicans in this world, like Richard Montanez.

I’m not overly sensitive when it comes to race but being a melting pot of Japanese, French-Canadian and Syrian ethnicity, I make a thoughtful effort to be cognizant of stereotypes.

So, as I retell this tale I’ll be removing ethnicity from the equation.

That aside, this is a story the world needs to read right now as we find ourselves in isolation and, perhaps, forced to take a closer look at what truly makes us happy.

It goes something like this…

The investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked…

Inside the small boat were several large fin tuna.

The banker complimented the fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them. The fisherman replied…

“Only a little while.”

The banker then asked why he didn’t stay out longer and catch more fish? The fisherman said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.

The banker then asked…

“But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The fisherman said…

“I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a nap with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my friends, I have a full and busy life.”

The banker scoffed…

“I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat, and 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 a big City, then LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The fisherman asked…

“But, how long will this take?”

To which the banker replied…

“15-20 years.”

The fisherman thought for a moment and then asked…

“But what then?”

The banker 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.”

And, once again the fisherman asked…

“Then what?”

The banker 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 naps with your wife, stroll to the village in the evening, sip wine and play your guitar with your friends!”

Then what?

Just the other day I was having a cup of coffee with my dad and we were discussing the state of the world and how folks were handling it.

He said something interesting…

“I feel like we’ve all been knocked off our hamster wheels. We’ve all been running and running to no specific destination and since the Coronavirus hit, we’re forced to sit at home and ask ourselves… are we really happy here?”

In the midst of all this nonsense, it’s not a bad time to take a second look at the shit we are working towards and asking the same question the fisherman asked the banker…Then what?

We tell ourselves these ridiculous narratives we must live out before we find happiness… but the fisherman reminds the investment banker and the rest of humanity that sometimes happiness is about being okay with simply having enough so that you can make time for sleeping in, fishing a little, playing with your kids and strolling into town in the evenings to sip wine and play guitar with your friends.

But, I digress.

By Cole Schafer.