“There once was a speedy hare who bragged about how fast he could run. Tired of hearing him boast, Slow and Steady, the tortoise, challenged him to a race. All the animals in the forest gathered to watch.
Hare ran down the road for a while and then paused to rest. He looked back at Slow and Steady and cried out, “How do you expect to win this race when you are walking along at your slow, slow pace?”
A day can pass by in a whirlwind. As we battle our to-do lists and rush from here to there, we rarely get a chance to stop for breath – let alone to look back and appreciate how far we’ve come.
But it’s these small actions that we take each day which prime us for our own success. In our society, it might be easier to think that races are won overnight by buying a lottery ticket, getting a million new followers, or waking up to see that your gravy train has finally come in with everything that you wanted in tow…
We think this is what we want – but could we really cope if everything came along all at once? As humans, we need time to adapt, adjust and accept change. If we’re catapulted into a new world without warning then our grip on reality slips. On top of this, due to the Yin and Yang of life, if a deep low were to follow a dizzying high then we’d be exposed to extremes of living greater than we’d ever known before. Having a Tortoise approach protects us against this.
If you’ve ever listened to how super successful people talk about their journey – or read their autobiographies – then you start to see that there’s a common theme of taking actions continuously and diligently in order to eventually get what they wanted.
In a televised interview where Bill Gates and Warren Buffet sat on a sofa together, they were both asked what the single most important ingredient for success was. They said in unison: “focus”. Similarly, in an interview with Mark Zuckerberg, he told the interviewer that it took him 10 years to become an “overnight success”. In the Netflix series Defiant Ones, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails said that he had to enjoy each tiny win along the way until they all added up to the success that we see today.
At no point did any of these people promise immediate gratification or a shortcut to the riches and fame that they now have.
Selling ourselves the idea of overnight success is also selling ourselves a Terrible Lie, as Nine Inch Nails might say. We can’t expect to wake up with abs after doing one workout the day before, and the same is true for most of the goals that we have for ourselves. Consistent effort and intentional focus will take you to where you want to go when the time is right.
I feel like I talk about the importance of timing a lot, but when it comes to achieving amazing things – timing really is everything. A rush can’t produce the best results, nor can it offer the solid foundation that a sustainable future relies upon.
Even though the Hare is full of confidence and appears to make strides over the Tortoise at the beginning, his hubris quickly becomes his downfall. Meanwhile, the Tortoise consistently takes considered action and ends up with the ultimate prize. There’s a big price to pay for playing the short game and expecting victories to be easily won overnight.
Be the Tortoise, and know that what you want is possible if you’re unwilling to give up and unrelenting in your effort.
Be the Tortoise, and enjoy looking back at your many different successes each morning – instead of hoping that one day there’ll be one big success to outdo them all.
Be the Tortoise, and prepare to win the race like the rest of the greats…