Why Do You Work?

The supreme accomplishment is to blur the line between work and play. - Arnold J. Toynbee

1000 years ago we worked to survive, but for many of us that urgency is far from reality. After survival is removed from the picture one might say we work to improve our “quality of life” with access to healthcare, technology, transportation and decent food.

The layers from here deepen significantly, but many of us don’t delve in and really look at our Working Whys. There’s working toward less stress and more happiness, which maxes out around $75,000.00. We’re also emotionally paid off for being productive, busy or respected by peers.  Then there’s the idea of challenging ourselves -- can we make more, be more, do more and get more -- of the stuff and the emotional payoffs?

Unfortunately, most of us never seek to know our reasons for work, instead sleepwalking through our 9-5 for our next iphone or vacation without understanding what we value.

So, with those questions posed, we’ll leave you with a popular Brazilian parable:

The Fisherman and the Banker

The investment banker was impressed by the quality of the fish and asked the Mexican how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied, “Only a little while.”

The banker then asked why he didn’t stay out longer and catch more fish?

The Mexican fisherman replied he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.

The American then asked “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman replied, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos: I have a full and busy life, señor.”

The investment banker scoffed, “I am an Ivy League MBA, and I could help you. You could spend more time fishing and with the proceeds buy a bigger boat, and with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats until eventually you would have a whole fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to the middleman you could sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You could control the product, processing and distribution.”

Then he added, “Of course, you would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City where you would run your growing enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But señor, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied, “15-20 years.”

“But what then?” asked the Mexican.

The American 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 could make millions.”

“Millions, señor? Then what?”

To which the investment banker replied, “Then you would retire. You could move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

Human Unlimited
Human Unlimited