Life lessons from my favourite story: The Tortoise and the Hare

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Everyone has heard of this story. The story where a hare challenged a tortoise to a race, and because he got cocky and took a nap, ended up losing the race to his slow and steady competitor.


Well, almost everyone knows that this story is a motivational story. And indeed it is. Just that I don't see it the way most people see it. We encourage people that it's ok to go slow and steady, just as long as you don't stop. But in today's context, I believe that this story teaches a very different set of morals.


1. Slow and steady wins the race. Fast and steady wins the race.

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We all know that the only reason why the hare lost the race is because he got complacent and took a nap under that tree. But had he been a hardworking and motivated hare and just sprinted all the way to the finish line, there is no way in hell that the tortoise would have ever managed to beat him.

So the moral of the story shouldn't be "Slow and steady wins the race", but "Fast and steady wins the race." And that is so true in today's society, where everything is moving at a blazing pace, as long as you are not fast enough, you can be sure that someone is going to overtake you.



2. Both talent and effort are equally important.
Many people always say that hard work beats talent. Well, as we can see from the corrected quote above, this is only true if talent doesn't put in enough effort. Take this chart for example.



The Hare does pretty well in the talent department when it comes to racing. Just that he didn't put in enough effort. But even so, he only just barely lost to the tortoise. Imagine if the hare had woken up just a little earlier, or just put in another 10-20% more effort, he would have still easily beat his slow and steady challenger.


So the moral of the story here is that in order to excel at something, you need to first know whether you have the talent for it. Yes, you can be good at it purely through hard work, but all it takes is for a talented hare with 30% effort to leave you eating his dust.



3. Choose the battles that you know you can win.

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The hare is actually a pretty cunning fella. He challenged the tortoise to a contest that he knew he would most probably win. He knew his talent, as well as his opponent's lack of talent, and chose a race which gave him a clear unfair advantage. The tortoise was probably just too dumb or too cocky to see it.

Why didn't the hare choose to compete in a "who can stay at this spot for the longest time" contest? Or even a "Who can take the most number of pebbles thrown at him" challenge? Because he was smart enough to know that racing would be the battle that would be easiest for him to win.



4. Luck is more important than you think.

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After understanding the 3 lessons above, we can clearly see that the Hare was actually the real winner in the brains department. I attribute the tortoise's freak win to just pure dumb luck. Had the hare managed to wake up just a few minutes earlier, or had the tortoise tripped over an unseen rock just before the finish line, we wouldn't be telling the story the way we are telling it right now.


In singular events like this, lady luck plays a very important part in deciding the outcome. Heck, the hare could have been putting in 100% from the start of the race, but caught a cramp from the get-go, and Mr tortoise would have still won the race.


The power of lady luck only diminishes when the something is repeated enough times to cancel out the freak outcomes. Had they repeated the exact same race 99 more times, how many more races would you think Mr tortoise would have won?


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The same goes for life in general. Unlike Mario, we don't get to "lose a life" and get a second chance to reply the entire scene again. Life is a sequence of "touch and go"s. Every chance you get in life is your only chance to do it under those current circumstances.


So have an open mind and make full use of every opportunity that life throws upon you. Find your talent and wow the world with it. Don't aim to be like the tortoise who never gives up. Aim to be the hare that puts in 100% effort, leaving his opponents in his dust.


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