When I was in the Philippines waking up every morning to a beautiful sunrise from my $3 beach hut, shaking off last night’s rum with a dip in the azure blue ocean, loving life and really feeling the freedom from my travels I remembered what someone had told me in the bar the night before, I’ve never forgotten the story since:
Once there was a poor Filipino fisherman who lived in a modest house with his wife and 3 kids, a 100 metres or so from the ocean. Everyday he would wake up late, walk his kids to school, his wife would cook him some of the fish he had caught the day before for breakfast. Then for an hour or two he would sit on the sand at the front of his beach, relaxing, maybe strumming on his worn guitar, basking in the sun.
Around 11am his best friend, another poor fisherman, would come and get him and they’d walk down to the ocean together, launch their small boat into the sea and the two of them would go fishing for the day. The old man and his friend had been fisherman for 30 years each, always together, always in the same old boat. They may not have had state-of-the-art equipment but what they lacked in gear they more than made up for in experience. They fished from 11am until 3pm every day, and they always caught a great batch of fish, huge fish that they would bring to the market and sell to the vendors, keeping the best fish for his family and friends to eat that evening.
Each day he’d get home at 3.30pm, just in time for his kids to return from school. He’d play with them for a while, help them do their homework, then sit in his hammock for the rest of the afternoon, chatting to his family. In the evening they’d all sit down and have dinner together, 3 times a week his fisherman friend and his family would join them. 10 people, all drinking beer, eating the fresh fish and enjoying themselves. He’d put the kids to bed, say goodbye to his friend and him and his wife would relax in the hammock until bedtime. All to repeat the events of day again tomorrow.
Tomorrow was different though, there was a big shot investment banker American tourist in his little, sleepy fishing village today. He was staying at the 5* hotel about 40 minutes away. After the fisherman woke up, ate breakfast, walked his little ones to school, he met his friend and they went fishing again. The American watched them launch the boat and head out to the water, when they returned a few hours later the American was still sitting on the beach. He saw the two fisherman unleash some of the best fish he’s ever seen caught, he couldn’t believe that two old men, in their little battered boat, with little to no equipment could make such a catch.
The American approached the fisherman. “Hey old man, that’s quite a catch you’ve got there, really impressive!”
“Thank you sir, we’ve been doing it all our lives”
“I can’t believe you caught all that in your small, old little boat – I’ve been sitting here all morning and it got me thinking. I’ve got a proposition for you”
The fisherman sat down with the American and listened to his proposition.
“You can catch that many fish, from that tiny boat, with that awful equipment in 3 or 4 hours, imagine if you worked 10 hours how many you could catch! So here’s what I was thinking, I’ll lend you the money, you and your buddy start fishing for 10 hours a day in the boat I buy for you, then after 2 or 3 years you’ll have that boat paid off. Work a little harder for another couple of years and buy a second boat. I know it’ll be hard for a while but then with 2 boats, after 2 years of 10 hour days you could buy a 3rd boat. By that time, you’ll be making enough money to go to city, get a harbor berth there, buy a bigger boat again. I know you’ll have to move away from your town here, but it’ll be worth it. If you work from the city, with your big boats, 15 or 20 years from now you’ll be able to retire forever, perfect huh?!”
“But Sir” the fisherman asked “What would I do when I am retired?”
The American proudly replied “Then you can get a house 100m from the beach, wake up late every day, play the guitar, maybe do a little fishing with your best friend, you can play with your kids every day, help them with their homework, drink cold beer and eat fresh food every night”
The Filipino just smiled at the American, politely declined and made his way back to his beach house, his hammock, his guitar, his wife and kids. Leaving the investment banker shaking his head “That guy is wasting his opportunity” he thought. The irony never even dawned on him.