Saturday, March 30, 2013


This is a reprint of a comment I made over at Z's:

I was once flying back to Germany (I was returning to my unit) via London  on a 747 and there must have been 12 people at most on the plane. 
When the movie was over, I looked around the cabin and saw an older guy with a redhead on his shoulder and he smiled. I smiled back and got up to talk to him.
I asked him where he was going and he said he was taking his wife to Ireland to visit her family.
I asked what he did for a living and he said "groceries".
I laughed and said, "You must be Abner A. Wolff!" (I had worked in a grocery store and he was a big distributor). He smiled and said that Abner was his chief competitor.
I said, "It must be nice to be successful." and he asked me, "What is success?".
I replied, "To have money and be able to do the things you want to do, like take your wife to Ireland."
He asked if I'd heard of a brand of frozen seafood and I said yes (you have, also).
He told me he knew the guy who founded the company.
He was a shrimp boat captain who was not catching enough shrimp to meet his fuel bills. 10,000 pounds would have been a good catch, but no one was getting more than 2,000.
He was also an alcoholic, and one night in the bar he bellowed "I'm the best ### shrimper in the keys and there's not enough shrimp to make a living!".
A guy overheard him and told him that if he was the best shrimper in the keys, bring his haul to pier such and such and he'd get x dollars a pound. That was a high dollar for shrimp.
He went out the next day, and only got about 2,000 pounds again, but on the way back he radio'd his fellow shrimpers and told them to meet him at pier so and so and he'd give them a little under x dollars a pound.
That night in the bar he drunkenly bellowed that he was the best shrimper in the keys and there wasn't enough shrimp to make a living. The buyer was with him and told him he wasn't the best shrimper in the keys. This almost led to a fight, until his new friend told him we was the best shrimp BUYER in the keys.
They went into a partnership, bought a commercial freezer and started a company, and after a while the captain bought out his partner and went on to grow the company to the firm it is today. 
I said, "That's some story. So he ended up a success."

My fellow passenger told me:
"He's on his third marriage, he's in therapy and he's still an alcoholic. Is that success?"

That story had a profound effect on me. I don't know if the teller was a Christian and he was ministering to me along witnessing lines or just sharing some wisdom from his life.
To this day, almost 40 years later, I remember it (and I never got the tellers name).
But it helped me realize winning isn't everything.

"What profiteth it a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?"


  1. I was thinking about asking you over there if you had ever posted this story. It's a great one. It's nice that this "successful" man you met in the plane knew that true success had nothing to do with money.

    Heck, you want examples, just look at the famous idiots in Hollywood. Brad Paisley wrote a great song called Celebrity that illustrated how ridiculous the famous lifestyle was. If you don't know it, you should google the video, it's a classic and hilarious.

  2. There is one more bit of insight you might be pleased you learned, but it's not stated in your story.

    1. You implied it with your last line actually, but it is too much like a parable, meant to confound those who don't have faith. To be a fisher of men, sometimes you need to be more explicit despite the arrows that will come due to it.

      When one puts all into achieving one thing and succeeds, then one is then faced with the question of insatiability. Is that all there is? You mean there's more to life? Oh my God, what have I done with mine?

      Much better to have had an insight into the future as you had. One of my favorite sayings is the smart man learns from his own mistakes, but the wise from the mistakes of others.

      We are rarely wise in all things Ed, but it seems to me you were wise in this.