February 4, 2013

Fisher Man Rich Man Monday

When I was a teenager I came across a 9-panel cartoon illustration that visually told the story of the fisherman and the rich man. I liked it so much I photocopied it and gave it to everyone I knew. Over the years I have often thought of this precautionary tale and its message regarding true wealth and the simple life.

The following is a variation of this story.

A rich man takes a vacation to a tropical beach. He has worked hard all his life and has decided to enjoy the fruits of his labour. He is excited about visiting the island because he’s heard that there is incredible fishing there. He loved fishing as a young boy, but hasn’t gone in years because he has been busy working to save for his retirement.

On the first day he has his breakfast and heads to the beach. It’s around 9:30 am. There he spots a fisherman coming in with a large bucket full of fish.

“How long did you fish for?” he asks. The fisherman looks at the man and explains that he fishes for about three hours a day. The man then asks him why he returned so quickly.

“Don’t worry”, says the fisherman, “there’s still plenty of fish out there.”

Dumbfounded, the rich man asks the fisherman why he didn’t continue catching fish. The fisherman patiently explains that he caught all he needs.

“I’ll spend the rest of the day playing with my children, and talking with my friends. After that I’ll relax on the beach.”

The rich man sees an opportunity to teach the peasant fisherman something about progress.

He explains to him that he should stay out all day and catch as many fish as he could. That would enable him to save up the extra money he makes and buy even bigger boats to catch even more fish.

"You keep reinvesting your profits in even more boats and hire other fisherman to work for you. If you work really hard, in 20 or 30 years you’ll be very rich." The man feels pleased that he’s helped teach the simple fisher how to become rich.

Then the fisherman looks at the rich man with a puzzled look on his face and asks what he is to do after he becomes rich.

The rich man responds quickly “Oh! Well, then you can play with your children, talk with friends, and relax on the beach. And do a little fishing.”


  1. He forgot to mention that after 20 or 30 years of working all the time to become rich, his kids might not know him and don't even want to know him anymore and he may not have so much real friends left. If anyone needs to see a good example of this family dynamic spend some time in Alberta.

    1. That was the story in my family as I grew up. My father had some regrets when he passed away at age 65. He was still yearning to catch up on life with his kids in order to make up for lost time.

      All work and no play is unhealthy for families.

  2. This is so simple, timeless, and true.

  3. Fabulous. So wise & poignant.

    Thank you. :)


  4. I was just remembering this post today and I forwarded it to my husband to read.

  5. AnonymousMay 15, 2014

    thanks for thios . Do you still have the cartoons. I'd love to show it to my kids Great message!

    1. Anon,

      I just found the cartoon in question while going through our things. I will scan it and post it.

      It is a great message. It is easy to get caught up in the hype of the consumer system, but we all just want to sit by the river and fish for our supper.

      Or just catch our breath and take a pause.


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