Success is Right in Front of You.

April 29, 2022

Success is Right in Front of You.

May 29, 2023

From my late 30’s to around age 50 I was very focused on having “success”. What I did not see was that this script was not really my own but one I inherited along with a few sharp edges.

It made me realize that we often plan, measure and assess how we or others perform in the workplace, but seldom do this deeply for ourselves to identify our own goals, aspirations and what truly matters. I ran across a short story that was written over 50 years ago. The story below resonated for me as it highlights the importance of exploring one’s own value system in order to create your own path wherever it takes you. Ignore or at least be highly selective to the external noise around you. As Thomas Merton once wrote, “When climbing the ladder of success, be sure it is leaning on the right wall.”

A vacationing American businessman standing on the pier of a coastal fishing village in Mexico watched as a boat with just one young Mexican fisherman pulled up to the dock.

Inside the boat were several yellowfin tuna.

"How long did it take you to catch them?" the American casually asked.

"Oh, a few hours," the fisherman replied.

"Why don't you stay out longer and catch more fish?" the American businessman then asked.

The fisherman warmly replied, "With this I have more than enough to meet my family's needs and be comfortable with whatever the future brings."

The businessman then became serious, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"

Responding with a smile, the fisherman answered, "I sleep late, play with my children, watch my favorite soccer team, and spend time with my wife who also runs her own business. Sometimes in the evenings I take a stroll into town to see my friends, play my guitar and sing a few songs..."

The American businessman impatiently interrupted, "Look, I have an MBA from a top university and I can help you to be more profitable. You can start by fishing several hours longer every day. You can then sell even more fish. With the extra money, you can buy a bigger boat. With the additional income that larger boats will bring, before long you will have an entire fleet of fishing boats.Then, instead of selling your catch to a middleman you'll be able to sell your fish directly and control distribution. Before you know it you would be sought out by the top restaurants in town and then move to Mexico City or Los Angeles where you could expand your enterprise. Your company would be a global brand with a huge corporate and social media following as a sustainability innovator in the seafood industry. You could then write a book on your success story which leads to doing podcasts to promote your book and maybe a Ted Talk.”

Having never thought deeply on such things, the fisherman asked, "But how long will all this take?"

After some time, the American pronounced, "Probably about 20 year if you work really, really hard."

"And then what?" asked the fisherman.

"Why, that's the best part!" answered the businessman with a laugh. "When the time is right you would take your company public or sell it and become very rich. You could make millions."

"Millions? Really? What would I do with it all?" asked the young fisherman in disbelief.

The businessman boasted, "Then you could happily retire with all the money you've made. You could move to a quaint coastal fishing village where you could sleep late, play with your grandchildren, watch soccer games, and spend time with your wife. You could stroll to the village in the evenings where you could play guitar and sing with your friends all you want."

Success is an inside job and by truly knowing that custom definition you can connect it to the rest of the world in full alignment. If you do this you might find that success is often right in front of you.

Story is adapted from the original short story “Anekdote zur Senkung der Arbeitsmoral” by Henrique Böll (Chip’s note: I love this story as it’s the last few lines of my first book, “The Rebel Rules: Daring to be Yourself in Business.”)

Scott MacDonald is an investment management professional and MEA alum who looks forward to his next trip to Baja.

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