Pyrrhus and Cineas – The True Story Behind The Origin Of The ‘Fisherman’s Parable’

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Ferdinand Bol, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Ferdinand Bol, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

If you search “Fisherman’s Parable,” you’ll find dozens of sites repeating what is commonly labeled in terms of the parable of the “Mexican” fisherman. In truth, most of these sites merely repeat a variation on a theme akin to the “Sicilian” variation told to me by my grandfather.

These sites tend to declare the original author of this story is “anonymous.” A few of the more honest ones cite a specific source, namely Heinrich Theodor Böll, a German writer who received the 1972 Nobel Prize for Literature.

Böll wrote a short story in 1963 titled “Anekdote zur Senkung der Arbeitsmoral” (“Anecdote Concerning the Lowering of Productivity”). Rather than a Harvard MBA, the interlocutor is a “smartly-dressed enterprising” tourist. Instead of being Sicilian (or Mexican, for that matter), the “shabbily dressed local” fisherman was found resting at an unnamed harbor on the west coast of Europe. The rest of the story, including its ironic conclusion, remains very similar.

Still, we can’t credit Böll with an original philosophical insight. In fact, the original source Continue Reading “Pyrrhus and Cineas – The True Story Behind The Origin Of The ‘Fisherman’s Parable’”

‘What Success Means to Me…’

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The Parable of the Sicilian Fisherman and the Harvard MBA
(based on a grandfather’s story to his grandson)*

*My grandfather, an immigrant from Sicily, always laughed when he (repeatedly) told this story to me. If it sounds familiar it’s because this Parable has been told in many different ways by many different ethnic groups. Next week I’ll reveal the story behind the original story and why you may have seen this particular version, albeit with a different international flavor.

One morning, a Fortune 100 CEO, vacationing in a lush Sicilian villa overlooking the warm Mediterranean sands, came upon a local peasant sleeping comfortably against a fig tree. The peasant’s children danced around him, only occasionally tugging at the straw hat that protected his relaxed face from the tropical sun.

The energetic CEO studied the placid scene. Curiosity getting the better of him, the CEO woke the native and asked him what he did for a living.

“I’m a fisherman,” yawned the perplexed peasant.

The CEO then asked the man why he wasn’t fishing.

“I’ve caught enough fish for today,” replied the tranquil fisherman. He didn’t seem to mind the CEO interrupting his quiet family life. “I am the best fisherman on all the seas,” he continued matter-of-factly. “Each morning I take 30 minutes out of my day and haul in a boat-load of fish. This is enough to feed my very large family and still have some left over to share with my less fortunate neighbors. I can then spend the rest of the day watching my children grow or whatever else I want to do.”Continue Reading “‘What Success Means to Me…’”