A management consultant, on holiday in a African fishing village, watched a little fishing boat dock at the quayside. Noting the quality of the fish, the consultant asked the fisherman how long it had taken to catch them.
"Not very long." answered the fisherman.
"Then, why didn't you stay out longer and catch more?" asked the consultant.
The fisherman explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.
The consultant asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"
"I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, have an afternoon's rest under a coconut tree. In the evenings, I go into the community hall to see my friends, have a few beers, play the drums, and sing a few songs..... I have a full and happy life." replied the fisherman.
The consultant ventured, "I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you...... You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat. With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have a large fleet. Instead of selling your fish to a middleman, you can negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant. You can then leave this little village and move to a city here or maybe even in the United Kingdom, from where you can direct your huge enterprise."
"How long would that take?" asked the fisherman.
"Oh, ten, maybe twenty years." replied the consultant.
"And after that?" asked the fisherman.
"After that? That's when it gets really interesting," answered the consultant, laughing, "When your business gets really big, you can start selling shares in your company and make millions!"
"Millions? Really? And after that?" pressed the fisherman.
"After that you'll be able to retire, move out to a beautiful countryside by the sea, sleep in late every day, spend time with your family, go fishing, take afternoon naps under a coconut tree, and spend relaxing evenings having drinks with friends..."
"What else do you think I am doing now?", said the fisherman.
Somebody quoted it aptly that a man is born twice. First the day he's born, second the day he finds out - why? The most important aspect of one's life is purpose, much more important than ambition. One's purpose has to be crystal clear. Rest all flows from it. Being ambitious, being aspirational is good. But without purpose, it brings endless pursuit into nowhere and eventually miserable feelings of emptiness.
The practices followed in businesses, like having long-term vision of ten years, then breaking it down to granular level for shorter terms, should be applied for our personal lives too. Everyone should have their personal mission statement (non-financial) clear in the head. On the death bed, you won't think about your professional successes, failures, missed deadlines, awards, etc., but how beautifully you lived, time spent with friends, family, kids, positive change you brought in others lives.