Keeping things in perspective

As a general rule in my professional work, I always work my hardest and do the best job possible no matter what the task. Sometimes, that means staying up late nights staring at a blurry computer screen or rising very early to cut grass at the local golf course.

Any job done right takes hard work, especially building a business from the ground up. I helped start one before I finished university and believe me, there were many late nights and worried moments when we all had to push hard to keep ourselves going. That extra effort and desire to be the best is necessary to be a success in the professional world but a story in a recent post over at Common Craft reminds me to keep it all in perspective:

A boat docked in a tiny Mexican village and an American tourist complimented the Mexican fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

“Not very long,” said the fisherman.

“But then why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more?” Asked the American.

The Mexican explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.

The American asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

“I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children and take a siesta with my wife. In the evenings, I go to the village to see my friends, have a few drinks, play guitar and sing 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. With the extra money the bigger boat will bring, you can buy more boats until you have an entire fleet of trawlers. Instead of selling fish to the middle man, you can go directly to the processing plant and maybe even own your own plant. Then, you can leave this little village and direct your enterprise from Mexico City or even New York City!”

“How long would that take?” asked the Mexican.

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

“And after that?”

“Afterwards? Then it gets really interesting, answered the American, laughing. “When your business gets really big you can start sellingstocks and make millions!”

“Millions? Really? And after that?”

“After that, you’ll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take a siesta, and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends!”

Yes, how true. Working towards a lofty goal can lead to rewarding and fruitful outcomes but what if it’s at the expense of the things you truly care about today? What the story above reminds us is we should strive to live the life we love—today — and it doesn’t matter if you’re talking about professional work or just kicking back relaxing with friends and family.

And always remember to take a look around, don’t burn yourself out trying to achieve what you might already have.

(Now I have to go stick Cheerios on my nose so my daughter will eat her dinner—Don’t ask.)