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Striking the Right Work-Life Balance – Are YOU Killing Your Soul?

The cliché work-life balance has become a big joke, particularly in today’s economy where everyone is expected to do more for less.

But why would anyone want to do more? It is likely because of that next promotion or pay raise they may be striving for.

But are they thriving while doing so?  Or are they simply killing their soul in the process?

The answer I believe depends mostly on what is it that “they” are doing.  It is no secret that most people don’t like what they do for a living.

Just ask yourself today, if you were independently wealthy and didn’t need to work, what would you be doing instead of what you are doing these days?  Of those folks, many simply hate what they do.

Epitome of Work-Life Balance: Entrepreneur and the Mexican Fisherman

An American entrepreneur was at a pier in a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellow-fin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied only a little while.

The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish?

The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.

The American then asked the Mexican how he spent the rest of his time.

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta 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, senor.”

The American 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 LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But senor, how long will this all take?”

The American replied, “15-20 years.”

“But what then, senor?” asked the Mexican.

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

“Millions, senor?” replied the Mexican. “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 siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

I still say “wow” each time after hearing or reading this short story, and I must have heard and read it over a hundred times now.  What is the message here?  What is it trying to tell us?  Are YOU thriving toward your goals and objectives?  Or are YOU killing your soul?

Do you possess the right work-life balance? If you had the option to do what you truly enjoy doing, and live life according to your own terms (not your boss), why can or cannot you do it today like the Mexican Fisherman?

Here are some additional thoughts on maintaining the right work-life balance.

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22 Responses to “Striking the Right Work-Life Balance – Are YOU Killing Your Soul?”

  1. Definitely worth a tweet! 🙂 …ultimately I think many Internet marketers can apply this to their own daily lives — especially those wrapped up in the idea of maintaining 100 properties that each make $1/day. For what?!? At what point to you even get to rest and give your mind a break?

    If you’re doing something you are passionate about, the dividends will come — even if its only enough to help you live comfortably. Not everyone wants to be a millionaire and this story is a great reminder of that.

  2. Romeo says:

    Very powerful message, Sunil. Like I had already informed you, this is partly the reason why I scaled back on my blog. Three posts per week is getting me the same results as seven posts per week, give or take. The difference is in my quality of life; though I could probably have something to say about money each day, the time that I spend not writing about it is used for studying, reading other excellent blogs, and doing other things. Thanks for sharing this story. Shared it on my facebook fanpage.

    • Sunil says:

      I am certainly with you on that. Rest, relaxation and recalibration is necessary to continue to provide quality output. I have the same approach toward “work”.

      Reading is relaxing to me, and one is always learning something when one continues to read. All that good stuff comes back to you when your mind is fresh and you begin to write again.

  3. Great story Sunil! This really puts things in perspective and will help me enjoy the present rather than dreaming of the future! All of my extra work might get me a couple extra bucks, but time with my wife and family is definitely more important!

    • Sunil says:

      It is Them who we work so hard for to begin with. While it’s important to have a long term vision / goal, it is just as important (and many would argue that even more so) to enjoy the present with those near and dear to us. We can’t loose the forest for the trees.

      • vince says:

        I believe a lot of small businesses fail because a lot of people go in it because of the money. If they would just concentrated on businesses that they can enjoy, they would have a passion for Success.

  4. Tom says:

    I love the Mexican Fisherman story! It always strikes me when I visit ‘poor’ countries like Mexico, Cuba, etc. how much happier the ‘poor’ people are than us!

    • Sunil says:

      Tom – welcome to the blog.

      You are right. For as much as we have, we sure do complain a lot. I wish more (particularly impatient people like me) just take a step back and think about those that have so much less when we feel like complaining.

  5. Hi Sunil,

    what a wonderful story! It is important to have a goal and work to reach it but what can you do with a lot of money when you are sick because you worked too much? I have chosen to earn money online because I want to have more time with my family staying at home. In my opinion it is not easy to find the right work-life-balance as an employee because you normally have core working hours and sometimes you are staying at your workplace the whole day and only a few hours are left for your family. You may work part-time but then you won’t earn enough money. As an internet marketer you may earn more money by working less and thus have more time for your family! The most important things in my life are health and my family! I will do everything to maintain a good health and a good family relationship.

    • Sunil says:

      Great point Janet. Lifestyle design is a big reason why many opt to explore side gig opportunities or leave the “man” for entrepreneurship all together.

  6. PooSian Siauw says:

    Hey Sunil,
    I like the story very much! I have ever read it some times ago, but every time I read it again like this time,my heart is full with gratitude to our Lord. We, human being sometimes forget how much love we receive from Him, and take everything as granted. And most of the time our greed pushes us without limitation, and then forget what we have got from Him.But like in the story, we have to analyze what we are doing. If at the end of the day we come to the same spot and gain nothing, then what’s all the efforts for? The american entrepreneur’s answer by the end of the conversation should actually be: If you already succeed in all your efforts, then you could S H A R E with others in need. Do you agree with that? God bless you, Sunil.

  7. Sunil says:


    I agree with what you are getting at, and thankfully we have our fair share of Americans that continue to give in good times or bad. We can never have enough “givings”.

    However in the context of this story, the fisherman is already sharing his success. I failed to mention in the story, but in addition to having enough for his family, he catches a few extras that he shares with his local village men. The original version of the story mentions this.

  8. Sunil, I love this parable….unfortunately, I’m probably the Harvard guy in the story :). Of course, I’d rather be building an interesting business than baiting hooks and gutting fish….but I get the idea.

    I’m hoping I can move that 15-20 years down to 5-10! But enjoy life along the way…

    • Sunil says:

      “But enjoy life along the way…” is the critical phrase here. So what if you are the Harvard guy today. If that is what makes you get up every morning then that might be your calling. Only you know what you truly want.

      Curious – what is the interesting business you are working on these days if you don’t mind sharing? As you know this blog has a hodge podge of discussions related to entrepreneurship, which is a topic I am very much passionate about.

  9. I love this post! It’s all about balance in life, isn’t it?

    Why kill the soul? I don’t believe in traveling when I”m retired. I’m going to do it now, darnit! Besides, not to be morbid or anything, but in 15-20 years, one might be chronically ill, get cancer, injured etc. Anything can happen- we should live life now (of course in moderation).

  10. Yadgyu says:

    Being successful is more important than being a good parent or spouse.

    Things cost money. Staying at home doesn’t buy things. Going out there and making as much money as possible is the best thing to do. Everyone wants to live the good life. But the good life costs. So what if you can’t make it to the softball game or the ballet recital! If you are bringing home big bucks, you are doing more for your family than any amount of time will.

    How can a kid be cool if mom or dad only works 40 hours a week but brings home diddley squat? I would rather work a ton of hours and make a ton of money than come home at the same time and sit in the house with a nagging wife and bratty children. A family has to understand that having things is more important than being together. Working less is not an option!

    • Sunil says:

      Welcome Yadgyu,

      I think you will find that everyone’s approach to striking the right work and balance is different. That is because everyone has varying priorities in life, which essentially drive the meaning of “balance” to them.

      Personally, when I decided to embark on the entrepreneurship journey, I knew it would take huge sacrifices upfront just like you mentioned. I also knew however that if I continued to plug through the results would be much rewarding. I have no regrets today as I look back.

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