Getting there

For quite several years, children have been told the story of the tortoise and the hare from Aesop’s fables.  For some reason, I reckon, it kept coming to my mind when I started my business. The way the hare gets a big lead on the tortoise, grows overconfident and takes a nap. The tortoise wins the race because it keeps trudging along.  The more I think about it, newer moral dimensions I get out of it.  It helped me a lot; I guess it helps you too.

In real life, hares survive only if they can outrun the animals that eat them, which are also very fast. Sprinting means survival. Naps are suicidal. Hares do not take naps in races.

Why do we tell that story to our children? To comfort slow learners, which most children are? I think the story misleads children. It assumes the race is between a hare and a tortoise. It isn’t. It is a three-way race: Hares that pay attention to the race, hares that don’t, and tortoises.

The winners in life are the hares that pay attention to the race. Tortoises lose. They rarely get eaten, but they get played with a lot. The story of the tortoise and the hare is misleading. It leaves out any consideration of steady hares. In a long race, the hare who can pace himself wins. Most hares do not pace themselves well. They get a fast start, but they become sidetracked.  Don’t let kids think it’s good to be a slow tortoise. It’s good to be a steady, eyes-on-the-goal, focused hare.

There is nothing wrong with being a tortoise. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.  This is an affirmation of the tortoise’s worldview. But it is adopted by the hares that plan to win the race, not just finish it.

If you are a tortoise, you rely on a thick shell. A thick shell slows you down. This is the price of safety. It is a very high price for not taking enough risks.  As young hares, tell your children to keep hammering away what interests them most.  That should keep them in good stead.

What seems to be random fates play an important factor in the lives of hares that get ahead in life … I believe we create our own luck, primarily by showing up for the race in life. By running the paces and putting in the bursts of energy, you’re there when amazing things happen.



3 Responses to “Getting there”

  1. Shefaly Says:


    You referred to the predators that could eat the hare and did not develop that metaphor further. 🙂

    Do these or other predators not pose a similar threat to the tortoise too? On tortoises, the thick shell thing would be very useful to many. When faced with these predators, who has a better chance of survival – the hare or the tortoise? If the latter does, is that why it lives for many scores of years versus the hare who lives for may be a score?

    Does it matter who out of the hare or the tortoise needs more sustenance and therefore has to work harder just to meet his basic needs? What role is played by the evolution (upbringing, family background, education, other skills and opportunities to develop those) of the two creatures? What kinds of people prefer hares over tortoises as pets/ employees/ colleagues/ business partners?

    Above all I think it is important to know whether you want to participate in a race at all or set up your own race.. 🙂

  2. Krishna Says:

    Oh Shefaly, yeah… that’s a great angle to think… Or is it because you sizzled straight out of your obesity thesis to take sides with the turtles 🙂 ?

    I test the moral from that fable. Why would a turtle symbolize just persistence and not sloth? Why does it like to be saddled with a wrap so heavy and live so long? Darwin has taught us “extinction due to disuse” – or how fishes lost their wings, homo-sapiens lost their tail. So species have the mechanism to self-evolve. If the ancient tortoises had put that yoke to gradual disuse, successive generations would’ve been much lighter, even as they would’ve died younger. The very quality of persistence assumes negativity, in that it put up with a lifetime of arduousness and never worked towards an agile but shorter life all other species around it led.

    Doesn’t it spin the theory on its head…?

  3. Shefaly Says:

    Krish: “Or is it because you sizzled straight out of your obesity thesis?” Actually I am still sizzling in the midst of the obesity thesis 😦

    Darwin also taught us “survival of the fittest”. AFAIK as a species, tortoises live far, far longer than hares do. Whether one chooses long term survival or quick burn out is the free choice on offer, is it not? Especially when framed in the context of your earlier debates on making professional choices that set one free intellectually but do not dent one’s professional profits…

    Back to the thesis.. 😎 The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades!

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