The Parable of The Contented Fisherman

contented fisherman

Reject the rat race and embrace the parable of the contented fisherman.

I’ve lived in Silicon Valley for all of my adult life, whole-heartedly embracing the culture of innovation. I’m repeatedly energized with the amazing people I’ve been able to meet. But I’m not an idealist – as much as I love living here, I openly acknowledge Silicon Valley’s limitations.

As a reminder to focus on what really matters, I regularly repeat the parable of the contented fisherman. And I’ll occasionally recite it to early-stage entrepreneurs with irrational expectations. Here’s the parable:

A venture capitalist (VC) on vacation in a small coastal village meets a fisherman on a pier. Noticing several large fish on the fisherman’s small boat, the tourist asks how long it took to catch them.

“Just a few hours,” the fisherman responds.

“Why don’t you work longer and catch more fish?”

The fisherman shrugs. “This is enough for my family’s needs.”

 “What do you do for the rest of the day?” the surprised VC asks.

“Spend time with my wife and family, play guitar, watch the sunset… It’s a good life.”

The VC shakes his head: “You should spend more time fishing. You could buy a bigger boat or even a fleet. Move to a big city. Franchise yourself. Maybe even an IPO.”

“Then what?” the fisherman asked.

“If things go well, in 15 or 20 years you could retire,” the VC exclaimed. “You could move to a small coastal village, fish a little, spend time with your family, play guitar, watch the sunset—you know, have a good life!”

In business, we normally think like the growth-minded VC, not the contented fisherman. We obsess over increasing activities (more fish), rather than prioritizing what we want to achieve (having a good life). We forget to think about the long term when making day-to-day decisions.

The parable of the contented fisherman reminds us that more isn’t always the right answer.

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2 Responses to The Parable of The Contented Fisherman

  1. Joe Jackson June 10, 2024 at 11:28 am #

    I moved to Silly Valley a few years ago and wish everyone here read this. Everyone I meet seems obsessed with making money rather than helping people.


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