I am sure, you are all familiar with the story of the American tourist and the Mexican fisherman. If not, click on the link and read it right now.

It describes certain truths about the protestant work ethic. What the story does not really describe but what is yet an important point is that money is simply the means to the end. Admittedly, for some money is the end. Those individuals aim to collect as much as it as possible. If money were seaweed, these guys would spend their life collecting seaweed. As it is, they collect paper. But I digress…

In the story, the end is clearly defined as the easy life of fishing, hanging out with friends, and taking care of the family. This is the aim of both of the fisherman and the tourist.

The means of the tourist is indirect though. While the Mexican fisherman just goes ahead and does it himself, the American plan is to vastly complicate the process through regulations, businesses, middlemen, fishing experts, accountants, etc. to get money so that he may pay others, ostensibly to supply him with the fishing pole, the boat, etc.

Somehow this reminds me of cartoons where a mad inventor has built a five thousand pound machine—he presses a button, the machine cranks violently, steam comes out, light flashes, … and after a minute or so a bell sounds and out comes a cup of coffee.

Now, if the end is to build the machine, the by all means (literally) go ahead. If, however, the means is to build the machine, that is, work a crazy productive ambitious career where the end goal is completely nonaligned with the means. Well, that is just dumb. Don’t ever think you have a duty to work just for work’s own sake.

And this is aptly illustrated by the story.

In other news, check out my interview today at Clarifinancial.

Originally posted 2010-06-14 11:20:44.