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Do you know the story of the Mexican fisherman? It is a famous story that has a nice lesson in terms of how much money you need to be happy. 

There one question that has interested humanity for a long time now. How much money do you need to be happy?

There is a lot of research done on this topic, that gives us an understanding of whether money can buy happiness. Money can help when it gives you a basic standard of living. That indicates that up to a certain point, money can buy happiness. When you have reached your standard of living, however, money doesn’t contribute anymore. 

While there is one defining answer according to research, the truth is that it differs per person. One person can feel extremely happy with $70,000 per year and the other person can feel completely deprived. 

This comes forth from a standard of living, or lifestyle inflation, that turns wants into needs. It’s something that you need to be aware of going forward. 

Personally, I believe that beyond the basics, everything else is optional. Most of the things that bring us happiness in life are very basic and free to access. What are those things?

Basics Of Happiness

I’ve written a lot on the blog about human behavior, needs, wants, and much more. Taking that into account, plus my own experience, I believe these are the pillars of our happiness:

  1. Physical and mental health
  2. A home
  3. Quality food that you enjoy
  4. A bigger purpose
  5. Connection with others
  6. Move your body
  7. Go outside

When you check out this list, you notice that very little things on there cost an absurd amount of money. It is something that you achieve with purpose, intention, and consistency. 

Many people are focused on getting more and more, without knowing what they are looking for. 

This is a great moment to talk about a great story that originated in Germany and was told time and time again. Now it’s known as the story of the Mexican fisherman. 

The story of the Mexican fisherman is a short story about slowing down, knowing what you want in life and how surprisingly little you need for that. 

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The Story Of The Mexican Fisherman

There was once an American businessman that was enjoying his holiday at the pier of a small Mexican coastal village. He was relaxing on the beach when he saw a small boat rowing to shore. Inside the boat was a fisherman that had caught several big fish. 

The American told the fisherman that he was impressed and asked how long it took to catch these big fish. 

The Mexican fisherman replied, “Oh, only a short while.”

The American didn’t understand, so he asked for clarification. “Why didn’t you stay longer and catch more fish?”, he curiously asked. 

The Mexican fisherman told him that this was enough to feed his entire family.

The American businessman then asked, “Okay, but what do you do with the rest of the day ahead of you?”

The Mexican fisherman replied, “I wake up early to catch a few fish in the morning. After I’m finished fishing I go home to play with my kids and take a siesta with my wife. We eat dinner and we will go to the village to have a drink with our friends. We drink, we sing, we dance, and we have the best time with my friends. I have to say, we have a wonderful and full life.”

The American businessman wanted to help the fisherman. “I am a Harvard MBA and I can help you! You should start by staying out longer every day and catching more fish. The extra fish you will sell in the village and you can buy a bigger boat with that money.”

“And then?”

“The bigger boat will make sure you catch more fish and bring in more money. With that money, you can buy several boats. In a couple of years, you will have a fleet of boats. Soon you will be able to skip the middle man and sell directly to the plants. Eventually, you can open your own company, open your own production facility to can the fish, and you will have your own distribution network. Then you would have moved out of this small coastal village and move to Mexico City, where you can set up a headquarters.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But then what?”

To which the American laughs and says, “This is the best part! You will live like a king of course. When the time is right, you will take your company public, sell your shares, and become very rich. You will make millions of dollars!”

“Millions?” asked the fisherman. “Okay, and then what?”

The American said, “Then you can finally retire. You can move to a small coastal fishing village where you can fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, and eat dinner. Then you can go to the village to have a drink with your friends. You can drink, sing, dance, and have the best time. You would have a wonderful and full life.”

To which the fisherman responded, surprised, “isn’t that what I already have right now?”

Take-Aways From The Story Of The Mexican Fisherman

Here are a couple of lessons that I took from that story. Feel free to think about any other lessons for yourself. This is simply my interpretation.

The core concepts I want you to remember:

  1. Stories are extremely powerful. Stories like this inspire, invoke change, and teach about values. People remember stories and the lessons they bring. Every story can be interpreted in many different ways, meaning that everyone has their own lessons.
  2. Stop impressing others. When you know what you want out of life, you don’t need to impress others to live a good life. One of my favorite money quotes: ‘Stop buying things you don’t need to impress people you don’t even like’. While you’re working towards financial freedom, stopping to impress others may lower your FI number.
  3. You already have so much. Be grateful for all the things that you already have in your life. The answer isn’t always more, better, or upgrade.
  4. Stop postponing happiness. It’s not fair to yourself to stop postponing happiness. Enjoy the life you have now, while you work towards your absolute dream life. Build joy into your life right now.

What is your main takeaway from the story of the Mexican fisherman?

This article originally appeared on Radical FIRE and has been republished with permission.