Do you remember the old story of the turtle and the hare? The turtle challenged the hare to a race. The hare ran so fast that it was impossible for the turtle to win. Because he was so ahead in the race, the hare stopped to rest and gloat. But guess what? He fell asleep. Slowly and steadily, the turtle kept walking, inching his way toward the finish line. The animals who were watching cheered so loudly for the turtle that they woke up the hare. The hare began running again, but it was too late–the turtle had already crossed the finish line.
The moral of the story: “Don’t brag about your lightning pace, for Slow and Steady won the race!”
In real life it can feel quite frustrating to feel like you’re the turtle. Looking around, people appear to be making more money than you, have a larger social media following than you, are more successful than you, have bigger homes, nicer cars, and slimmer bodies. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking there’s something wrong with you and everyone else has it all figured out. In moments when you’re feeling like everyone else has more talent, physical ability, and resources than you have–remember that it pays to be slow and steady.
Three years ago, a group of us got together to hold each other accountable to exercise. I created a chat for the crew and the challenge was that we each post pictures or proof of daily workouts. We all started strong, exercising daily and showing each other our progress. One of our girlfriends agreed to join the chat but didn’t seem as motivated as the rest of us were. She didn’t go out and buy new workout clothes or running shoes. She made no proclamations of exercising daily. Walking around her neighborhood a few times a week was about as much as she was willing to commit too. Even though she didn’t go “all in” at once, she was pretty consistent about her walks.
After a while, I noticed she was posting pictures on the chat on a more frequent basis. She was definitely thinner and she’d joined a gym. Slowly and steadily, this friend of mine became increasingly committed to her exercise routine and even started making some dietary changes. Today, she looks amazing. She’s managed to lose weight, keep it off and maintain her lifestyle. She probably goes to the gym more than almost every one of us on the chat.
My friend is a turtle.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t get excited about a new project or venture. It’s fun to start something new and I love the enthusiasm that comes with it. But often times we get caught up in the thrill of the new at first and then taper down. We behave like the hare. We may be talented, or have all the skills necessary to succeed – but we lose motivation and momentum …and essentially, we fall asleep. We want quick results and when we don’t see them, we quit. Hares are marshmallow eaters.
We often confuse turtles for hares. Like Lin Manuel Miranda who wrote the wildly successful “Hamilton” musical. At a glance, this young man seems like he got lucky and struck gold with a Broadway play–but that’s because we don’t see the six years he spent writing the play. Did you know it took him one year to write just one song? We see the super-star athletes making millions of dollars but we don’t see the sacrifice, commitment and time they spent working to get where they are.
With the exception of some unicorns, most really successful people are turtles in disguise. They deliberately move forward, overcoming obstacles, gaining momentum, and thwarting distractions. They stay in the race even when everyone around is passing them.
But we don’t see that. We see them as hares because we only see them when they’re rich and famous or have made it.
So what does this mean to you? It’s great to use other’s success as motivation for the goals you’re working toward but it is not useful to use those comparisons as a measure of your inadequacy. If that’s the case, stop comparing. Don’t eat the marshmallow!
A Moment of Clarity
Invest your time and energy in your work. Build your foundation. Be frugal and save your money. Stay focused on your goals. Prioritize your values. Strengthen your core. Keep moving forward. Stay in the game. Don’t be ashamed if you feel like a turtle.
One day, someone might even confuse you for a hare.