Friday, October 12, 2012

Work and Fishing

While riding my bicycle into the office yesterday, I saw a bumper sticker on the back of a vehicle which read: 

Work is for people who don't know how to fish.

I smiled at this, amused at the public declaration of preferences.  Although fishing is not one of my own passions, I can easily sympathize with the desire to pursue something other than work.

As I rode on, though, I got thinking about the phrasing of the statement, and wondered if there might be a deeper meaning to the statement on the bumper sticker.  It didn't say that work is for people who don't like to fish.  It said that work is for people who don't know how to fish.  This slight difference in phrasing opens up a different interpretation.

I'm sure most people are familiar with the old adage which states:

Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day.  Teach a  man to fish, and he eats for a lifetime.*

What if "knowing how to fish", as referenced in the bumper sticker slogan, is a metaphor for something else?  Could "knowing how to fish" encompass all of the steps involved with planning, implementing, and realizing an escape from the workplace?

Even if this was unintentional, and I'm reading more into the bumper sticker than I should, I still appreciate the truth behind both statements.  First, every time we choose to work, we are choosing to take time away from "fishing" -- all of the other passions that make life worth living.  And second, it's possible to eventually escape from the bonds that work holds on us by "knowing how to fish" -- learning other ways of living that reduce the dependency on the regular paycheck -- which should then free up more time for "fishing".

In the case of my wife and me, we're in the process of learning how to fish -- living without any debts, saving a large portion of our income, and investing for the future.  I look forward to the day when we can choose to "fish" as often as we want.

*Unless the man is vegetarian, in which case the phrase could be modified along the lines of "Give a man some corn...Teach a man to grow corn..."


  1. I really like the correlation between that bumper sticker and trying to retire early. Most of us are currently working as a means to an end. Some people's end is to have the newest and shiniest toy, mine is to have the freedom to do what I want on my own schedule. Your Money or Your Life was one of the best books on the matter of exchanging your time, "life energy", and prioritizing what you spend it on.

    1. Great book! YMOYL was one of the first personal finance books I read and it remains one of my favorite. My wife has it on her list to read as well.