An investment banker was visiting a small coastal village in a lower GDP country when he saw a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were some fish. The banker complimented the man on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.
The fisherman replied, “Only a little while. The banker then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish? The man said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs. The banker 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 with my friends. I have a full and busy life.” The banker scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and 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, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to the city, then America and eventually New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”
The fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”
To which the banker replied, “15 – 20 years.”
“But what then?” Asked the fisherman.
The wealthy man laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions!”
“Millions – then what?”
The banker 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 with your friends.”
What is Happiness? What is Joy?
Fishing day in and day out may not make a person feel happy. Likewise, a small house, the troubles of lower-income living…daily well-being can be difficult.
But the way we truly live a good life is both happiness AND joy. That is, balancing daily well-being together with a sense of meaning and purpose (joy).
What would it be like, in the fisherman’s case, if he produced even more joy? He takes part in an “off-target” activity (fishing) so that he may obtain happiness and joy in spending time with his wife and friends and playing music.
What if he also found joy in his work? For example, he could create meaning by providing more food at a better price to help affordability in his village. In doing so he would provide a Service and create a sense of purpose.