What do you need to be happy?

living a happy life

When our son, Matt, was in high school, he went on a volunteer homebuilding trip to Costa Rica.  When he came home, he told me, “This trip made me realize you don’t need money to be happy.  These people were dirt poor but they were really happy.  It was about their relationships, not material things.”

Here’s a funny story about prioritizing money and relationships.

The American Businessman and The Mexican Fisherman

An American businessman 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 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, señor.”

The American scoffed, “I am a Wharton 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 señor, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied, “15-20 years.”

“But what then, señor?”

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, señor? 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.”

Here’s your reminder, spend more time with the people you love.  They are what really matter’s in your life.


As always, I’d appreciate it if you would help me get the word out about the Matt Kurtz Kindness Award of $250 (nominate someone who inspires you) and the Matt Kurtz Kindness Grant of $250 (submit an act of kindness you would do with $250).





8 thoughts on “What do you need to be happy?”

  1. That was a wonderful story you shared. It makes you stop and think what is really important in your life and not to take it for granted. Thanks Jackie and thinking of you always

    1. It’s a good reminder to stop worrying about the things you don’t have and honor the things you do have. So glad you enjoyed it!

    1. A humorous way to remind people to focus on what’s really important in life. Glad you enjoyed it and will share it!

  2. Jackie, I love all your posts, so thought provoking, and this wonderful UPLIFTING website you have created for Matt. I love you my dear friend and I look forward to your next post.

    1. thanks linda, so glad you’re enjoying it. I know Matt would appreciate this website and love finding people to award for the inspiration and kindness.

  3. Good post. I have always struggled with wanting “more”. I recognize it and work on it by trying to live in the moment, count my blessings, giving back, etc. It’s not easy though. The difference between the businessman and fisherman is their ambition and goals. I sometimes check myself and say “what’s driving your ambition here?”. It seems like the fisherman is driven by supporting his family, buying some wine and live a peaceful life. I imagine the businessman, myself, and many others, we have noble and rational reasons for our ambition but ultimately, there’s an element of fear (insecurity, pride, greed). I don’t compare myself to the person who has less than me and feel grateful, I compare myself to those who have more and feel envy. How much money will be enough? Whether you’re a billionaire or minimum wage, the answer is usually “more”. This is simply human instinct. I try to remember a quote that I read that says, “The one who is truly rich is the one who is happy with what he has”.

    1. I LOVE that quote!

      Why do we all want more, more, more? I read a book called, Lost Connections by Johann Hari – http://2018johannhari.com and it made so much sense. He talks about the job of the advertising industry being to manipulate people into thinking we need whatever it is they are selling. To make people feel inadequate and then offer their product as the solution to making our life great. Their job is to make you want things, that cost money. So you work harder to make more money to get more things because you think it will make you happier.

      Turns out it won’t make you happier. We all have a need to feel connected to other people, to feel valued and secure, to have autonomy and feel we’re good at something.

      We are chasing a way of life that does a bad job of meeting these needs. What we really need are connections. But what we are told we need is stuff, and a superior status. Maybe it’s time to disconnect from social media and advertising and spend more time with friends and family.

      Thanks for that great quote and your wonderful comments!

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