Friday, December 28, 2007

The Businessman and the Indian Fisherman

I practice and learn yoga every week. My instructor learned his yoga by going to study in a "seminary" in rural India. While there he was told an interesting story by another student that gives a lot of perspective.

On a sunny day in India, a businessman walks alongside a river and bumps into a fisherman. They greet each other and the businessman notices that the fisherman is reeling in a lot of fish. He is very skillful, the businessman thinks. So the suit asks the fisherman if he wants to know how to become happy? The fisherman ponders a second and says Sure, what do you know? The businessman explains, "You're very good at fishing. How about we start a fish market where you can sell fish. First we'll need to buy land, with money I can lend you. Then you've got to catch more fish and learn how to market the meat. After that, which may take several years, we should have a successful fish store. You'll earn a lot of money and you'll be happy."

The fisherman goes, "How long will this all take?"
Businessman, "About ten years I figure."
Without thinking, the fisherman says, "Why should I do all those things and wait ten years to be happy when I am happy right now?" The businessman ponders this, and does not have an answer.

Before college I could never figure out why people who graduate take on off-the-beaten track jobs like going to China to teach English or volunteering for the PeaceCorp. I thought, someone's gotta do it, but I won't. In college, people move into different folds. Many become lawyers, doctors, finance whizes, and the likes. But are they all doing it because that is what they really want to do? Is the lure of money convoluted with the pursuit of deep happiness and satisfaction? Are some too much drawn towards the attitude of the businessman when we should be more like the Indian fisherman?

Now, I see in college many are not very thrilled with the prospect of work or graduate school. Many are, but some go to law school or Wall Street for the wrong reasons because their parents want them to or there is peer pressure to do so since everyone else is moving in that direction. Like someone said, why save sex for old age? Delaying what we want to do is negotiating with yourself, compromising. Life isn't perfect and no job or post-college occupation is perfect, but the worst thing to happen is not to forget what we want, but to not know whether we are the businessman or the fisherman.

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