The Case for Less

For a little over a year now I haven’t worked a full time job. I make far less money than the days I worked 40+ hours a week, but I’m far happier and my bills still manage to get paid. On average I would say I work 25-35 hours a week, depending. Since I am not a full time employee, I don’t have to beg for crumbs of vacation time. I tell my employers (most of the time with as little as a week’s notice) when I am available to work,  and when I’m not, I’m not. This has meant far more freedom, exploration of the world, and more time to drink in the richness of life. 

The richness of my life has far made up for my lack of material riches. 

I found this quote from an unknown author today that had a deep impact on me:

The American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large fin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them. 

The Mexican replied: “Only a little while”. 

The American then asked why he didn’t stay out longer to catch more fish. 

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

The American scoffed. “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should 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. Eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA, and eventually NYC, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

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

To which the American replied, “Fifteen to twenty years.”

“But what then?”

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?” Asked the fisherman. “Then what?”

The American said, “Then you could retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evening, sip wine, and play guitar with your amigos!”

How many of us have bought into the lie of needing the American dream of excess to mark our lives as a success? How many of us, like the Mexican fisherman in the story have “the best part” right now, but we have been drug away and enticed by the American dream into believing the answer is more and we reach retirement alone, or with a broken marriage, or with failing health, only to not be able to enjoy what was there all along if we had been content with enough. How many of us work long, grueling hours at jobs we hate in order to pay the bills of all the things we really don’t need and aren’t even home to enjoy? Anyone who has traveled to any extent outside of the US knows that we Americans truly have poverty of soul. 

Perhaps everything we need is here if only we would be content with enough instead of the American dream of excess. Perhaps we really could have it all: love, experiences, joy, relationships, if we learn to be content with what we have instead of always striving for the insatiable more that growls in our bellies, never satisfied. 

What could we give up striving for in order to live in more abundant riches right now?

We are enough. We have enough. 

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