A princess, a fisherman, and the richest man in the world

by | May 16, 2016

“What’s your greatest cause of stress?” I ask.

“I’m not making enough money,” he says. “If I could just make a couple thousand dollars a month more, it would take a huge burden off our shoulders.”

“Yes, I feel you,” I say. “Money problems are no fun. I’ve been there and I can certainly relate. I’ve learned a secret about that, though. You want to hear it?”

“Sure,” he says.

I reveal the secret by telling him three stories:

A princess

The story is told in ancient Buddhist literature of a pampered princess who was walking barefoot in her father’s kingdom when she stepped on a thorn.

In pain, she demanded of her father’s advisers that the entire kingdom be carpeted.

One adviser made her a pair of sandals and kindly encouraged her to wear them instead of carpeting the kingdom.

A fisherman

An American investment banker stood at the pier of a tiny coastal Mexican village when a little boat with just one fisherman docked. The fisherman pulled several large tuna out of the boat.

The American complimented the Mexican his catch. “How long did it take you to catch them?” he asked.

The Mexican replied, “Only a little while.”

“Then why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?”

“I have plenty to take care of my family’s needs,” said the fisherman.

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

The fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas 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 banker scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. 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 L.A. and eventually New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

“But how long will this all take?” the fisherman asked.

“Fifteen to twenty years,” said the banker.

The fisherman asked, “But what then?”

“That’s the best part!” the banker replied. “When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions!”

“Millions, you say. Then what?”

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

The richest man in the world

By the time of his death in 1937, John D. Rockefeller’s fortune was estimated at $1.4 billion, easily placing him among the wealthiest people in the history of the world.

As a percentage of the United States economy, no other American fortune — including Bill Gates or Sam Walton — would even come close.

He was once asked, “How much money is enough money?”

He replied, “Just a little bit more.”

“You get the point?” I ask.

He nods.

I say, “If you were to add $2,000 a month to your income in your current mindset, it still wouldn’t be enough. Then you would say, ‘If I could just add another $5,000 a month — then we’d be okay.’ And on and on it goes.

“The problem isn’t the lack of money — it’s your thinking about the lack of money. James Allen puts it this way:

‘If circumstances had the power to bless or harm, they would bless and harm all men alike, but the fact that the same circumstances will be alike good and bad to different souls proves that the good or bad is not in the circumstance, but only in the mind of him that encounters it.’

“Thinking that more money will solve your problems is like that princess wishing for the world to be carpeted. It’s a literal form of insanity.

“We find happiness when we stop wanting the world to be carpeted and instead put on sandals. We turn inward and choose to be happy. We stop waiting for some magical pay-off in the future to live as we want — we live as we want now.

“Thinking ‘If only x would happen, then I would be happy’ is madness, pure and simple — just as Rockefeller proved. If the richest man in the world couldn’t be content with how much money he had, what makes us think we will ever be if we think more money is what we need?

“Happiness, peace, and contentment can only found right here, right now — no matter what is happening in our external world.”

“So tell me again what your problem is,” I say.

He smiles and responds, “What problem?”

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