Harvard Joe and the Fisherman: A Tale of Success

This is a story from “The 4 Essentials of Entrepreneurial Thinking” by Cliff Michaels. Luckily, I found the text of the story in the author’s blog.

After graduating from Harvard Business School, an American stock broker named Joe decided to take a vacation. He chose a small island, famous for its quiet fishing village and local smiles. If only to take his mind off business a few days, Joe vowed he would fish a little and avoid the money-talk so prevalent on Wall Street.

On his first day of vacation, Joe strolled along the beach. He spotted a small fishing boat coming into shore. Inside the boat were a lone fisherman and a fresh catch of large tunas. Dozens of locals and tourists were handing over cash as the fisherman docked his boat. Joe was so impressed, he complimented the fisherman and asked how long it took to catch so many fish.

“Not long at all,” said the fisherman. “Plenty of fish in these waters.”

“Why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?” asked Joe. “You could certainly make more money in such rich waters.”

The fisherman smiled and said, “Oh, I catch more than enough to support my family and lifestyle.”

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

The fisherman replied, “I read, nap, and play with my daughters. Some days I teach kids how to fish. Other days I play soccer with school children. In the afternoons, I stroll into the village where I sip wine and play guitar with my lovely wife and friends. Most nights we cook fish and share recipes with tourists.”

“Wow, you have lots of free time,” said Joe. “Listen, I have an MBA. I can help you vastly expand your business. If you simply spend more time fishing, you would soon earn enough money for a bigger boat.”

“Really?” asked the fisherman.

“Absolutely,” said Joe. “And with a bigger boat, you could catch enough fish to buy several boats, then a whole fleet. At that point you would be successful enough to sell directly to a processor, cutting out the middleman, and vastly increasing your profits. Eventually, you could open your own cannery, controlling product and distribution!”

“Then what?” asked the fisherman.

“If all goes well, you’ll find yourself in a big city, running a rapidly expanding empire,” said Joe.

“How long would all this take?” asked the fisherman.

“Not long at all. Maybe 7 to 10 years,” replied Joe.” With me as your CEO, I’ll bet we can do it in 6 years if we hustle. I’m all about the hustle!”

“Wow. Then what?” asked the fisherman.

Joe grinned and said, “Well, here’s the best part. When the time is right, we could take the company public or sell the enterprise to the highest bidder. At that point, you would be very rich — a millionaire many times over.”

“Really? A millionaire? Then what?” asked the fisherman.

“What do you mean?” asked Joe.

“I mean, what would I do if I was a millionaire?” asked the fisherman.

“Whatever you like,” said Joe. “You could retire, move to a tiny coastal village, fish a little, play with your kids … stroll into the village each night to sip wine … and play guitar with your wife and friends … and …”

Without another word, Joe and the fisherman shared a good laugh.

8 thoughts on “Harvard Joe and the Fisherman: A Tale of Success

    1. Yes he is. I guess the most important thing in life is satisfaction. Once we are satisfied with what we have we can achieve happiness.

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