Much time and material is devoted to point a trader in the right direction. Yet this and future short stories aim for the opposite; learning via negativa à la Nassim Taleb.
In other words, the moral of the story can illuminate what not to do.
A collection of fishing rods lay against the side of the boat.
The three men sat calmly beside each other as they oversaw their fishing.
One remarked to the other about the best way to hold the fishing rods. Later, another debated the finer points of hook designs with the first fisherman. Animated by the conversation, the third fisherman spoke definatively about his revolutionary fishing techniques, boat design and the future of the profession.
As their time drew to a close, the men withdrew their equipment and stepped out of the boat.
Walking on to the grass, they each turned to look at their boat; comfortably balanced between a collection of boxes and an earth mound.
Today marked the fourth year they practised fishing on dry land. How much they knew and learned since then!
Dressed in the best and newest smocks, and bearing the finest fishing rods, hooks and freshest bait they each proclaimed their love of fishing; their dedication and smarts. It is only a matter of time until they will catch real fish.
As they returned to town, other fishermen were mooring their boats laden with fish from today’s catch. These old fishermen, with their weathered faces, gruff beards and thick hands began unloading their catch from their battered boats.
The three men ignored these old fishermen, just as they had too ignored their own lack of catch, and quickly moved on. They instead remarked to themselves how one day their comprehensive knowledge, hard work and passion will quickly surpass the abilities of these antiquated fishermen who remained on the pier.
At home, the three men settled into their routines to affirm their zeal for fishing. One had cut out the latest articles and sketches from the Fisherman’s Digest to add to his scrapbook. Another practised casting his fishing rod, trialling a new technique he devised and proceeded to meticulously journal his findings. The latter pleased himself with the quality of the photographs he took of himself and his friends fishing. Energetically, he wrote letters to his friends and sent them the photographs, for everyone to admire their choice of profession.
That evening, the trio had agreed that the following morning they would take their boat into the sea for the first time. The time had come!
Sailing past the old fishermen in their ramshackle boats; the three men cast their fishing rods and waited to catch their fish.
Later that day they returned with no fish in hand.
Instead the three men were only rewarded with the sun bearing down on their necks. The restless sea provided them only sickness and trepidation. Their ingenious casting techniques had only resulted in losing some of their fishing rods to the vast, salty expanse. Their expertly crafted hooks failed to attach to their fishing lines; their bait expensive and barely used.
Returning back to the pier, the three men damaged their boat as they fiddled with rope to moor her. Their fishing smocks, once pristine and fresh, had now transformed into an odorous clump.
The trio repeated their attempts each day in the following weeks; transforming a passionate, confident group into a squabbling, miserable and reluctant mess.
One evening they discussed their woes and mistakes. They had discussed their unjust experiences! The failure of their equipment! They decided that their studiously devised fishing techniques and boat handling must have not worked because of the nature of the sea itself. Finally, they had reached a solution.
The next day, they heaved the boat out from the water and took it back to their well-tested and reliable earth mound. Re-energised, the three men got into the boat and cast their fishing rods, just as they had practised all these years.
Their excitement and love for fishing came flooding back! Look at how their casting techniques now work beautifully! How stylish they look in their fishing smocks in their latest photographs. No more sickness from a rocking boat. How much more left to learn, practice and test! No more sea at last.
The trio never caught any fish, but they were indeed — of course! — fishermen.
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