If you type businessman and the fisherman into your favorite search engine of choice (Bing has cool pictures), you get hundreds of hits. Yet, I found finding hard the origin story challenging, it’s been around for a long time with various telling. The businessman is usually portrayed as an American Harvard MBA. The fisherman is from a Mexican village. The telling varies by culture, but you get the idea.
A businessman 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 yellowfin tuna. The businessman 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 businessman then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish? The fisherman said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.
The businessman 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 siestas with my wife, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar. I have a full and busy life.’
The businessman scoffed, ‘I could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. 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, opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution.’
The fisherman asked, ‘But, how long will this all take?’
To which the businessman replied, ‘15 – 20 years.’
‘But what then?’ Asked the fisherman.
The businessman laughed and said, ‘That’s the best part. When the time is right you would sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions!”
“Millions – then what?”
The businessman 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 siestas with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar.”
Here is an alternative telling.