Time Capsule #9

On the joys of a simple life.

Sometimes I wonder whether too much ambition is a bad thing. Always setting new goals and pushing yourself to the limits undoubtedly brings development, but I’ve started to think that a simple life, perhaps, is more wholesome than one of ambition and constant discontent with what one has and has accomplished.

At its essence, life is lived day by day. When I ask myself what my ideal day looks like, it pretty much consists of things that I can already do. Time to read, time to write, time to go for a run when the day is nice. Family and friends to share my time with. It seems that it is my ambition, the goals that I have set for myself, which cause me to be discontent with my lot. I recently found this parable online, called The Fisherman and the Banker, which perfectly displays the faults in a life of ambition and endless goal setting.

It might make you re-think what kind of life you want for yourself.

🔗 to the Past

The Fisherman and the Banker

An American investment banker was taking a much-needed vacation in a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. The boat had several large, fresh fish in it.

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.”

📸 Photo of the Week

I took pilot lessons for a short time after university, as it was a childhood dream I wanted to fulfill while I had the time and means to do so. To be honest, I wasn’t able to handle the inherent risks of piloting. Being in total control of a hunk of metal hurtling through the sky at 60 knots was nerve-racking, exhilarating, and scary all at the same time. I’m sure it feels a lot like driving when you get comfortable behind the yoke, I just never did.

📖 Book of the Week — Skin in the Game by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

This book, part of a series of works by Taleb on uncertainty, is my current non-fiction read right now. Taleb, a former options trader, proposes that having ‘skin in the game’ is necessary to maintain fairness in work and play, and that embracing the risks of one’s actions actually brings out the best in ourselves and our institutions. He uses many real-world examples, such as the bank bailouts of the 2007-2008 financial crisis, to demonstrate how things can go wrong when, asymmetrically, people are able to share in the profits whilst not sharing in the potential downsides or risks. I have yet to read his previous works, but I most certainly will after enjoying the style, message, and practicality of this book.

💭 Quote of the Week

It is desirable that a man live in all respects so simply and preparedly that if an enemy take the town...he can walk out the gate empty-handed and without anxiety.

~ Henry David Thoreau

🔭 Sunday Best

I have added this new column where I will share the best articles, pdfs, videos, and other items that I find over the week. This week’s finds include:

The Physics of Baking Good Pizza

Advice on Life from the Harvard Business School Class of 1963

Dexter Gordon Live from Europe in 1963-64

See you next week.