The Tortoise and the Hare is a classic story with deep life lessons
This old story is about an overconfident Hare (rabbit) who mocks a Tortoise for being slow and therefore, “inferior” in the eyes of the hare. The disrespectful and provocative attitude of the Hare leads the Tortoise to eventually challenge him to a race.
Once the race begins, the Hare leaves the tortoise in the dust as anyone would expect. The Hare finds himself so far ahead of the Tortoise that he decides to rest and take a nap. He is confident the Tortoise can never catch up at this point.
However, once the Hare wakes up, he realizes the Tortoise has passed him and moved way ahead. The Tortoise is now so close to the finish line that the Hare cannot catch up to him. The Tortoise ultimately wins the race.
The lessons the story aims to teach are not presented directly. The story teaches valuable life lessons through example without telling you exactly what to make of it. But four obvious lessons you might take include:
#1: There Are No Guarantees In Life
Its common for people to assume having an advantage in a situation means guaranteed success. However, this is a very short-sighted viewpoint. It is easy to forget how many factors are at play in any given situation that are outside of your control.
You can apply The Tortoise & The Hare situation to a car race just as easily. Maybe a race between a sports car and a bus. The sports car has the obvious advantage and the highest probability of winning. However, many factors can change this. The car can blow a tire, suffer mechanical failure, or crash causing the bus to win the race.
The same analogy applies to every competitive situation. People overcome seemingly impossible odds all the time.
#2: Don’t Underestimate People
People can fall into delusion over how much they truly know about the people around them. While some people are an open book, it’s rare to find someone with no secrets at all.
Usually, people assume they know the people around them more than they really do. In fact, it has been shown that the average person believes they know their friends and family better than their family and friends know them. If everyone is walking around with this attitude, it is clear that we overestimate our knowledge of others.
Making arrogant assumptions about the people around us can lead us to reading people incorrectly and underestimating their abilities. You can find many instances where seemingly “normal people” committed heinous acts to the surprise of their friends and family. When loved ones are interviewed, they often say there were “no signs”.
You can also look at various celebrity suicides such as the suicide of Anthony Bourdain as another clear example. These situations show how little we really know about the internal lives of the people around us.
This is why trying to put people in a box can be dangerous. People can be complex, changeable, and unpredictable.
#3: Don’t Treat A Marathon Like A Sprint
One of the biggest and most common mistakes average people make is seeking out “quick fixes” to complex problems. Crash diets, get-rich-quick schemes, and rushed romance are all examples of this.
People want instant results and don’t have the patience to put in the time, effort, and commitment it takes to build something sustainable. They want to plant a seed tonight and see a fully-grown tree appear the next day.
In chasing after “quick fixes”, people regularly burn themselves out before they get any results. This leads them to giving up before they ever had a chance to succeed. In many instances, people have the talent, intelligence, and ability to achieve their dream, but they lack the patience or the confidence to keep going. And due to their impatience, they lose out to the person with less talent, intelligence, and ability than them.
#4: Too Much Confidence Can Hurt You
Excessive confidence in a situation can actually lead to sloppy execution. Overconfident people might under-prepare for a situation, believing victory is “inevitable” and therefore, they can mostly “relax” and wait for the results.
A great example of this in pop culture can be seen in Avengers Endgame (2019) [Spoiler Alert] where Thanos, the villain of the movie, infamously states: “I am inevitable”. This line is said by him twice in the movie. He first says it early in the movie as a call back to the previous movie (Avengers Infinity War) where he succeeds at stopping the most powerful heroes in the universe (The Avengers) from defeating him.
The second time Thanos says the line is near the end of the movie as his “younger self”. Through time travel, his younger self had a chance to see his “older self” succeed in the future. This leads younger Thanos to be overconfident in his abilities. This is an overconfidence his older self didn’t have before actually achieving success. And thus, the course of time is changed as a result. In the end he was not “inevitable”.