An Old Tale Worth Retelling


A fisherman on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Standing on a pier in a remote coastal village, a vacationing American businessman watched as a tiny boat ladened with tuna docked nearby. Clearly impressed with the quality of the local fisherman’s catch, the American asked how long it took him to reel in his haul.

“Only a short while,” responded the fisherman.

“Why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?”

“With this I have more than enough to support my family’s needs.”

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

Seeming a bit perplexed by the question, the fisherman smiled and said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life.”

The American scoffed, “I can help you. If you spent more time fishing you could earn enough to buy a bigger boat and even hire some extra hands. By plowing your profits back into the business you could buy more boats and eventually amass an entire fleet of trawlers. Then you can leave this little village and move to a big city where it will be easy to manage your growing enterprise.”

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

“Fifteen, maybe twenty years.”

“That’s a long time. Why would I want to do that?”

The American laughed and said, “Because after all of those years of hard work your company will be large enough that you can sell it and use the proceeds to retire.”

“What will I do then?”

“That’s the best part. Once you retire you can move to a small coastal village, sleep late, fish a little, play with your grandchildren, take siesta with your wife in the afternoon and, in the evening, stroll into town where you can sip wine and play guitar with your amigos.”

Adapted from a story by Heinrich Böll

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16 Comments on “An Old Tale Worth Retelling”

  1. ElizabethWolf April 24, 2013 at 8:07 am #

    Oh I love this story. I needed it today. Thanks for sharing!


  2. digger666 April 24, 2013 at 9:25 am #

    Reblogged this on digger666 and commented:
    …not merely worth retelling; words to live by, indeed.


  3. Tony April 24, 2013 at 10:04 am #

    Reblogged this on ToneManBlog and commented:
    A great story from a favorite blog of mine!


  4. heavenhappens April 24, 2013 at 11:12 am #

    Very good x helps to be reminded of this story. My husband has gone fishing today and I was feeling like I should be busy, but I will just sit down and read some super blogs instead!


    • Brian April 24, 2013 at 3:10 pm #

      Ha. Sounds awesome. Glad ours made your blogs to read list. 🙂


  5. wook0712 April 24, 2013 at 11:53 am #

    I like this story too! This story need to share with everyone except lazy people. Lazy people also likes this story too 😉


    • Brian April 24, 2013 at 3:23 pm #

      Lazy, of course, is in the eye of the beholder. The Puritans, who view work as a good in and of itself, would surely consider our fisherman lazy. We’ve certainly been accused of laziness, despite keeping quite busy, because we resist the custom of selling all of our time to the highest bidder.

      That’s not to say that the word is so broad as to be meaningless. We’d probably reserve it for those whose inactivity is doing actual harm – either to themselves, their families or their communities.

      To the truly lazy who look to our fisherman as a source of inspiration, I’d remind them that he states quite clearly “I [earn] more than enough to support my family’s needs.” Only if they can make the same claim can they call our fisherman a kindred spirit.


  6. Deb April 24, 2013 at 1:13 pm #

    Thank you for the story. It relates so directly to a project I have some how fallen into it isn’t even funny. The story will definately be coming to mind to keep the perspective right.


  7. Nikhil Kardale April 24, 2013 at 2:28 pm #

    I hadn’t read this version of the story, so thanks for sharing it! Another pointer to living in the present and getting your priorities right.


  8. Angela April 24, 2013 at 10:58 pm #

    Hahah I love this. It’s so true 🙂


  9. danscaper April 25, 2013 at 1:07 am #

    Reblogged this on danscape photography and commented:
    What a perfectly times tale.


  10. Ship's Cook April 25, 2013 at 2:29 am #

    So very true, life is about lots more things than making maoney


  11. cavegirlmba August 17, 2013 at 11:50 am #

    Thanks for sharing.
    The author is actually not unknown, but the German author and Nobel prize laureate Heinrich Böll. Check out his books, you might like them as much as I do.

    Here’s some background information:

    Böll cunningly entitled the story “An anecdote to lower work morale”.


    • Brian August 17, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

      Awesome, thanks. I knew the story and spent some time looking for an accreditation but couldn’t find one. Thanks to you I’ve now given credit where credit is due.


  12. CynthiaU September 4, 2013 at 8:52 pm #

    I love this story. Thank you for sharing, Brian. I just found this blog and I’m gradually checking out much of the posts. I like what I see so far.


    • Brian September 5, 2013 at 3:43 pm #

      Thank you. We’re glad you’re enjoying it.


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