The Fisherman and The Businessman


Here’s a story with many interpretations and lessons:

The Fisherman and The Businessman

There was once a businessman who was sitting by the beach in a small Brazilian village.

 As he sat, he saw a Brazilian fisherman rowing a small boat towards the shore having caught quite a few big fish.

The businessman was impressed and asked the fisherman, “How long does it take you to catch so many fish?”

The fisherman replied, “Oh, just a short while.”

“Then why don’t you stay longer at sea and catch even more?”  The businessman was astonished.

“This is enough to feed my whole family,” the fisherman said.

The businessman then asked, “So, what do you do for the rest of the day?”

The fisherman replied, “Well, I usually wake up early in the morning, go out to sea and catch a few fish, then go back and play with my kids.  In the afternoon, I take a nap with my wife, and evening comes, I join my buddies in the village for a drink —  we pay guitar, sing and dance throughout the night.”

The businessman offered a suggestion to the fisherman.

“I am a PhD in business management.  I could help you to become a more successful person.  From now on, you should spend more time at sea and try to catch as many fish as possible.  When you have saved enough money, you could buy a bigger boat and catch even more fish.  Soon you will be able to afford to buy more boats, set up your own company, your own production plant for canned food and distribution network.  By then, you will have moved out of this village and to Sao Paulo, where you can set up HQ to manage your other branches.”

The fisherman continues, “And after that?”

The businessman laughs heartily, “After that, you can live like a king in your own house, and when the time is right, you can go public and float your shares in the Stock Exchange, and you will be rich.”

The fisherman asks, “And after that?”

The businessman says, “After that, you can finally retire, you can move to a house by the fishing village, wake up early in the morning, catch a few fish, then return home to play with kids, have a nice afternoon nap with your wife, and when evening comes, you can join your buddies for  a drink, play the guitar, sing and dance throughout the night!”


I argue that one interpretation of the story is to demonstrate how differently highly sensitive people and non-sensitive people operate in the world.

Highly Sensitive researcher and pioneer Elaine Aron should ditch her Highly Sensitive self-test and just have people read this story and ask them who they identify with:  the Fisherman or the Businessman?

HSPs are the “Fishermen” of the world and the hardier, non-sensitives are the “Businessmen.”

The Businessmen are materially oriented and motivated.  That’s how they figure out what life is all about.

The Fishermen are spiritually oriented and motivated.  We are built to be aware of the big picture, to know what life is all about first and then try to figure out how to bring that awareness into the world.

Businessmen are motivated from the outside — they’re driven to be competitive, to measure up, to stand out.

Fishermen are motivated from the inside — who am I?  What do I want?  What’s my purpose?

Only later in life do Businessmen ask these questions.  Us Fishermen ask these questions before we do anything.

Fishermen struggle when we try to be like Businessmen.  We wonder “why can’t I just do what the Businessmen do?  Why am I always sick, overwhelmed, and failing when I try to think and live like a Businessman?”

Instead of having midlife crises and breakdowns at forty, we have these crises in our 20s.  I had one at 22.  I wondered “how do I live?”

We live, truly live, and thrive by figuring out who we really are, what we really want and what our purpose is and let that inform everything we do.

And it’s hard.  It’s hard to just fish when everyone else is trying to make as much money as possible.  It’s hard to listen to our inner voice and trust it when we’re conditioned to be Businessmen, the world is full of Businessmen, and it is created for Businessmen.

You have to be strong to be sensitive.


I finally realized and accepted that the only way for me to be in life is to be a Fisherman.

As Ane Axford wrote, “everything else flows out of this (understanding).  Without this, you’re fighting your own nature and using your superpower against yourself.  With this understanding, we are unlimited.”

There’s nothing wrong with being a Businessman.  We need the Businessmen of the world.

And the world needs brave Fishermen.


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