A management consultant, on holiday in a African fishing village, watched a little fishing boat dock at the quayside. Noting the quality of the fish, the consultant asked the fisherman how long it had taken to catch them.
"Not very long." answered the fisherman.
"Then, why didn't you stay out longer and catch more?" asked the consultant.
The fisherman explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.
The consultant asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"
"I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, have an afternoon's rest under a coconut tree. In the evenings, I go into the community hall to see my friends, have a few beers, play the drums, and sing a few songs..... I have a full and happy life." replied the fisherman.
The consultant ventured, "I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you...... You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat. With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have a large fleet. Instead of selling your fish to a middleman, you can negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant. You can then leave this little village and move to a city here or maybe even in the United Kingdom, from where you can direct your huge enterprise."
"How long would that take?" asked the fisherman.
"Oh, ten, maybe twenty years." replied the consultant.
"And after that?" asked the fisherman.
"After that? That's when it gets really interesting," answered the consultant, laughing, "When your business gets really big, you can start selling shares in your company and make millions!"
"Millions? Really? And after that?" pressed the fisherman.
"After that you'll be able to retire, move out to a small village by the sea, sleep in late every day, spend time with your family, go fishing, take afternoon naps under a coconut tree, and spend relaxing evenings havings drinks with friends..."
Earlier this week I was struck by something Matt Taibbi said about the yearnings of those involved with OWS.
We're all born wanting the freedom to imagine a better and more beautiful future. But modern America has become a place so drearily confining and predictable that it chokes the life out of that built-in desire. Everything from our pop culture to our economy to our politics feels oppressive and unresponsive. We see 10 million commercials a day, and every day is the same life-killing chase for money, money and more money; the only thing that changes from minute to minute is that every tick of the clock brings with it another space-age vendor dreaming up some new way to try to sell you something or reach into your pocket.
It strikes me that we might all do a little better if we disgarded the advice of that consultant and listened to the fisherman.
Of course, we'd have to ask ourselves what we'd do with all the time we'd have on our hands. And that reminds me of one of my favorite quotes.
It takes a lot of time to be a genius. You have to sit around so much, doing nothing, really doing nothing.
― Gertrude Stein