A means to an end

Om Malik is a tech journalist, the founder of tech news platform GigaOM, and a venture partner at True Ventures. Although GigaOM shut down in March, I regularly browsed the site for news on the tech sector. After The Information, I think it had the deepest and most insightful coverage of our sector. Unfortunately, in an age of commoditized content, it’s easier to survive by selling clicks than insights.

Om recently wrote a blog post called Gone Fishing. It starts off with a short story about a banker and a fisherman.

“From his office, a banker stood and watched a lone fisherman sitting on the edge of a bridge, carefully taking his time and casting a line into the water below. A few minutes later he caught a trout. The banker went back to work. An hour later, he got up and saw that the fisherman was in the same place and had caught more fish. Every so often he would get up from his desk and walk to the window and see the same guy doing exactly the same thing.

Mystified, he left his office, crossed the bridge and walked over to the fisherman. He asked him if he had ever thought about selling the fish! He could be catching and cleaning fish and selling them to others.

The fisherman asked the banker, “Then what?” The banker said he could have more lines catching fish for him and he could be selling more fish.

The fisherman asked the banker, “Then what?”
The banker said, “You could franchise the whole thing and make lots of money.”

The fisherman asked the banker, “Then what?”
The banker replied, “Then you can go fishing.”

The story is a great reminder that money is just a means, not an end. It’s a means to doing something that matters to you. The corollary is that if you’re fortunate enough to have the opportunity to do something that matters to you in life, and it gives you enough money, you don’t need to do more.

In this case, doing more evolves from being a personal goal to a way to fulfill your responsibility towards others, if you believe you have such a responsibility. Perhaps you could help others by building a fishing business rather than fishing for yourself.