Costa Rica Epilogue – Do you Know What you want from Life? You may already have it…

I love a good story. I always have, from early childhood with mom reading “Cat and the Hat” other bedtime stories. I guess they remind me of that childlike joy and wonder, of simpler times, and innocence. They were my first lessons in reading. But they were also my first moral lessons of honorable and heroic behavior, the human condition, and the choices that we make throughout life that define our destiny.

From the epic tales of Homer, the myths of Hercules, Aesop’s fables, Grimm fairy tales, and the parables of Jesus I have learned history and made friends across the ages. And it is amazing how I still remember those stories, those heroes and villains, and the morals and wisdom that they imparted that are timeless and universal across cultures.

They remind us that we have more in common across geography and time than we are different… that men and women from Arabia to Atlanta and from ancient Greece to modern Beijing have experienced similar circumstances, emotions, doubts, temptations, failings, and even victories as we do in our own lives. It is somehow comforting to me that I am not alone in these feelings, and that those before me have pondered the same subjects and prevailed against greater odds than I. These stories survive as part of our oral tradition as they are retold thousands of times in dozens of languages. And sometimes they become so used and abused in their re-telling at sales meetings, motivational seminars, and blogs that they are often dismissed as cliché. But their frequent re-telling doesn’t diminish the truth that lies within. As their wisdom is often veiled in allegory, sometimes it is the 2nd or 10th reading at just the right time for the student to truly hear. When the student is ready, the teacher arrives.

I collect meaningful stories and re-read them often during my times of reflection. No matter how many times I read or hear them, they continue to inspire me to overcome my obstacles, discover my purpose, and be the best me possible. One of the universal themes of these stories (and most religions) is that many humans don’t know what they want from life (beyond survival and some vague notion of happiness) and many others want the wrong things, even things that are bad for them. Sometimes they give up the bird in hand in the blind gamble for two in the bush.

What follows is one my favorite stories, which illustrates the message of last week’s post on Costa Rican happiness better than any of my prose or insights. Two of the greatest secrets of success and happiness are to know clearly what you want and to know and appreciate it when you have it. This simple fisherman has learned both of these lessons.

Try listening to this Costa Rican tune while you read this tale   Costa rican latin swing

Story of the Costa Rican Fisherman

A boat docked in a tiny Costa Rican village. An American tourist complimented the Costa Rican fisherman on the quality of his catch. “How long did it take you to get those?” he asked.

“Not so long,” said the Costa Rican.

“Then why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more?” asked the American.

The Costa Rican explained that his small catch was quite enough to meet his needs and feed his family.

“So what do you do with the rest of your time?” asked the American.

“I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evening, I go into the village to see my friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar and sing a few songs. I have a full life.”

The American interrupted. “I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you! You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat.”

“And after that?” asked the Costa Rican.

“With the extra money the bigger boat will bring, you can buy a second boat and then a third boat, and then more until you have an entire fleet of trawlers. Instead of selling your fish to a middle man, you can then negotiate directly with the processing plants. Pretty soon you could open your own plant. You could leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles, or even New York! From there you could direct your whole enterprise.”

“How long would that take?” asked the Costa Rican.

“Twenty — perhaps twenty-five years,” replied the American.

“And after that?”

“Afterwards? Well, my friend,” laughed the American, “that’s when it gets really interesting. When your business gets really big, you can start selling stocks and make millions!”

“Millions? Really? And after that?” said the Costa Rican.

“After that you’ll be able to retire, live in a beautiful place near the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take siestas with your wife and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends.”

Question: Do you know what you want from life and where you are going? How will you know when you get there?


3 Responses to “Costa Rica Epilogue – Do you Know What you want from Life? You may already have it…”

  1. Brennan July 19, 2011 at 11:36 pm #

    Great job Mike looks fantastic!

  2. Rob Carlson August 16, 2011 at 6:14 pm #

    Fantastic post Mike…I’ve heard the story before (perhaps from you) but find the irony to be really useful in terms of the thinking that it provokes.

    As far as “figuring out what you want from life”. I hope that you have a post planned on that front.

    Lastly – I think that it would be great to receive these in my inbox. If you would like some help setting that up, let me know.

  3. mike9220 August 16, 2011 at 6:48 pm #

    hey my friend. Thx for the kind comments and I am glad that you liked the story. the RSS feed link should be active so please do subscibe. If you have trouble, let me know. Also, be expecting the next post soon. You will like it…