Enough Isn't Enough
The short story of a fisherman who discovered the key to lifelong happiness
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Good morning from Buenos Aires, Argentina.
I’ll be spending 5 weeks here, so I’d imagine the next few newsletters will be inspired from my experience here (including this one).
While I’m chomping down on fresh empanadas, I thought I’d share a very short—yet profound—story with you.
The Fisherman’s Tale
A businessman from New York was watching the sun rise over the water in a small town in Argentina. Just as it peaked over the horizon, he saw the image of a man rowing a tiny boat up to the shore.
He could see that the man had caught several large fish. In his best Spanish he asked the Argentinian fisherman, “How long did it take to catch all those?”
The fisherman responded, “Not too long, maybe just 2 hours”.
The businessman was shocked, “So you’re done working for the day? What do you do with the rest of your time?”
The fisherman thought for a moment, then responded, “I fish a little, make breakfast for my children, take long walks on the beach with my wife, enjoy a glass of wine while watching fútbol with friends, talking and laughing until the late hours of the night.”
The businessman perked up, “Back in America, I’m a very rich man. I help businesses like yours grow. I can help you too.”
He continued, “Imagine this. Instead of just fishing for 2 hours a day, you fished for 10 hours. At the end of each day you would sell your fish, saving the extra money you made. In just a few weeks, you could buy another boat, and hire your first employee. After a month of this, you could hire two more fisherman and buy two more boats.”
The Argentinian man looked confused, “But when would I be able to spend time with my children? When would I drink wine and watch fútbol with my friends?”
The businessman laughed, “Sometimes we have to make sacrifices today, for a better life tomorrow!”
He continued, “In no time, you will have grown to a fleet of fishing boats, bringing in more fish than you can sell in your tiny town, so you and your family will have to move to Buenos Aires. At this point you wont need to fish at all. You’ll work in an office, making deals with distributors.”
Again the Argentinian stopped him, “How long will all this take?”
The businessman answered “Oh maybe, 8-10 years, but this is where it gets interesting. With the profits you make from exporting your your fish, you can start to buy other local fishing companies. You’ll probably want to relocate to New York City—where I live—to manage your international operations”.
Without taking a breath, he continued, “After maybe 20 years of hard work, you’ll be able to take your fishing empire public on the stock exchange. Then, you’ll be a very rich man!”
The Argentinian stared at him for a long time.
The businessman responded quickly, “Oh that’s the best part! You’ll be able to move to a small picturesque town in Argentina. You can fish a little, and make breakfast for your children, take long walks on the beach with your wife, enjoy a glass of wine while watching fútbol with friends, talking and laughing until the late hours of the night….”.
Multigenerational Fisherman’s Tale
95 years ago my family moved to the United States.
They were Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, beginning a multigenerational fisherman’s tale.
A tale that begins with my grandfather becoming the quintessential scrappy entrepreneur.
Then my father, squeezing out every last penny of efficiency. Growing his own business as large as possible.
And now me.
Currently in Argentina, searching for my fishing town.
A Broken Generation
When I think of our generation I think: we weigh 30% more than our grandparents, we’re more anxious, our bodies hurt even though we do less physical labor, and we’re more heavily medicated.
As a result, our generation has become a caricature.
We wake up and jump into a cold shower—trying to reduce stress and inflammation—never asking why we’re so stressed and inflamed in the first place.
We quiet quit, because our jobs as spreadsheet overlords are completely devoid of meaning and any connection to the real world.
We fast because we’ve tried Paleo, Keto, and low FODMAP diets, but still can’t understand why we’re unhealthy.
We meditate for 15 minutes a day, because Slack notifications and the endless scroll of Tiktok has severed our last remaining connection to quiet reflection.
We seek eternal life by taking drugs like Rapamycin and Metformin, hoping to tack on a few more years to the end of our lives. Years in which we can actually live—when we can finally move back to our fishing town.
And worst of all, we run on treadmills instead of running outside. Only an American businessman could have invented something as insipid as treadmills.
I can’t help but thinking that the reason our generation is broken, is because we’re so far removed from our little fishing towns.
While we all owe a debt to our parents and grandparents for their pursuit of a better life—it seems they may have mistakenly conflated a better life with a wealthier one.
Now the bill is due, and our generation is paying the price.
There’s no such thing as a lazy Spaniard
When traveling to Madrid, you’ll watch the entire city shut down for two hours after lunch. Shops close their doors, people head home, and a low imperceptible rumble engulfs the city. A rumble made up of one million snoring Spaniards.
In Rome, after a seemingly endless dinner, couples will be seen hand-in-hand walking the streets—a nightly passeggiata. Turning a 3 hour meal, into a 5 hour ritual.
And as it turns out, Buenos Aires is a bit of both. Friends greet each other with a kiss, before taking a long meandering walk through the city. Dinners are practically in slow motion, and always carnivorous in nature. Not 1 in 15,000,000 people are in a rush.
When we hear that Spaniards enjoy a daily siesta, we don’t think “Ugh, how lazy! They’re going nowhere.”
Instead, we usually meet it with envy, “I wish I could do that! What a rich and romantic way of life.”
Now we can all agree that the same wouldn’t be said of an American who blocked off 2 hours every work day, for a little nap.
In the U.S., you’re either catching as many fish as possible, or you’re a bum.
For the past year, I’ve been living in San Francisco.
The weather is perfect, the people are great, and food is phenomenal. But to my amazement, I feel exactly the same way in Buenos Aires.
It’s lively, the outdoor culture is incredible, and the food is sublime.
The same goes for Madrid, Rome, and Lisbon. But what sets them all apart from big American cities is, they haven’t lost sight of one very important thing.
When to say “enough”.
Return to the Fishing Town
Generational unhappiness—in the name of delayed gratification— may be coming to an end.
Recently there’s been a growing movement in response to this relentless pursuit of excess.
Indie Hackers, Digital Nomads, Lifestyle Entrepreneurs.
Regardless of the name, they all concluded the same thing. Maybe it’s time we moved back to our fishing town, and only catch what we need to live.
An aphorism that neatly sums up this philosophy is, “Enough is as good as a feast”.
After generations of scarcity and fear driven pursuit—it’s tempting to believe that more is always better.
But enough was there all along. It wasn’t hard to find, nor was it costly. It only required the courage to stop and ask the same question our Argentinian fisherman did…
P.S. I want to become a better writer, but I can’t do it without your help! If you have just 20 seconds, could you leave me a bit of feedback below and let me know what you thought?