Today I turn 38. My initial reaction to my new age is, I'm getting really close to 40. I should set some goals of things I want to accomplish before turning 40.
Then I think, Why am I focusing on 40? I'm barely 38!
A few years ago I read Strengths Finder 2.0. According to the book, one of my strengths is that I am "futuristic,” which means that I am “the kind of person who loves to peer over the horizon. The future fascinates you. …a better product, a better team, a better life, or a better world – it will always be inspirational to you. You are a dreamer who sees visions of what could be and who cherishes those visions. When the present proves too frustrating and the people around you too pragmatic, you conjure up your visions of the future and they energize you.”
The more I think about it, I realize that this may be more of a weakness than a strength. While hope for the future is a good thing, too much focus on the future keeps me from appreciating all that is here in the present.
A couple years ago I came across the Mexican Fisherman Story (author unknown). This story really changed my perspective on life, as well as my definition of "success."
The Mexican Fisherman
An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin 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, “but what do you do with the rest of your time?”
The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas 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.” 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 New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”
The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”
To which the American replied, “15 – 20 years.”
“But what then?” 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 and become very rich, you would make millions!”
“Millions – 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 siestas with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”
(I found this version of the story at bemorewithless.com.)
So as I sit here on my 38th birthday, with my "futuristic" mind that wants to jump ahead to age 40 (complete with all its external achievements), I've decided that the most important goal I can make is to be as fully present as possible during the 730 days until that time comes (and every day thereafter, for that matter).
This doesn't mean wandering aimlessly. While it's good to have hopes and dreams and a general direction to go, it's equally important to not get too caught up in an elusive "end result" and miss out on the magic in each step of the journey.
Increased presence is the "prescription" I'm writing for myself, which is not guaranteed to add years to my life, but it will add life to the years I live.
This post was originally published on November 11, 2016.