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Tortoise or Hare….Who won the race?

Tortoise or Hare....Who won the race?
Picture courtesy – janekahanfolio.com

Once upon a time a tortoise and a hare had an argument about who was faster. They decided to settle the argument with a race. They agreed on a route and started off the race.

The hare shot ahead and ran briskly for some time. Then seeing that he was far ahead of the tortoise, he thought he’d sit under a tree for some time and relax before continuing the race. He sat under the tree and soon fell asleep. The tortoise, plodding on, overtook him and soon finished the race, emerging as the undisputed champ. The hare woke up and realized that he’d lost the race.

The moral of the story is that slow and steady wins the race. This is the version of the story that we’ve all grown up with.

But recently, someone told me a more interesting version of this story. It continues:

The hare was disappointed at losing the race and he did some soul-searching. He realized that he’d lost the race only because he had been overconfident, careless and lax. If he had not taken things for granted, there’s no way the tortoise could have beaten him. So he challenged the tortoise to another race. The tortoise agreed.

This time, the hare went all out and ran without stopping from start to finish. He won by several miles.

The moral of the story? Fast and consistent will always beat the slow and steady.

But the story doesn’t end here.

The tortoise did some thinking this time and realized that there’s no way he can beat the hare in a race the way it was currently formatted. He thought for a while and then challenged the hare to another race, but on a slightly different route. The hare agreed. They started off.

In keeping with his self-made commitment to be consistently fast, the hare took off and ran at top speed until he came to a broad river. The finishing line was a couple of kilometers on the other side of the river. The hare sat there wondering what to do. In the meantime the tortoise trundled along, got into the river, swam to the opposite bank, continued walking and finished the race.

The moral of the story? First identify your core competency and then change the playing field to suit your core competency.

The story still hasn’t ended.

The hare and the tortoise, by this time, had become pretty good friends and they did some thinking together. Both realized that the last race could have been run much better. So they decided to do the last race again, but to run as a team this time.

They started off and this time, the hare carried the tortoise to the riverbank. There, the tortoise took over and swam across with the hare on his back. On the opposite bank, the hare again carried the tortoise and they reached the finishing line together. They both felt a greater sense of satisfaction than they’d felt earlier.

The moral of the story? It’s good to be individually brilliant and to have strong core competencies but unless you’re able to work in a team and harness each other’s core competencies, you’ll always perform below par because there will always be situations at which you’ll do poorly and someone else does well.

Teamwork is mainly about situational leadership, letting the person with the relevant core competency for a situation take leadership.

There are more lessons to be learned from this story. Note that neither the hare nor the tortoise gave up after failures. The hare decided to work harder and put in more effort after his failure. The tortoise changed his strategy because he was already working as hard as he could.

In life, when faced with failure, sometimes it is appropriate to work harder and put in more effort. Sometimes it is appropriate to change strategy and try something different. And sometimes it is appropriate to do both.

The hare and the tortoise also learned another vital lesson. When we stop competing against a rival and instead start competing against the situation, we perform far better.

This Post Has 8 Comments
  1. This was really interesting. Thanks for the read. They should rewrite the classic story and seriously consider republishing it this way – if they haven’t already.

  2. hiee. nice story… i have a project in which i have to choose a text and write about it. i have to say why i liked it and what i learn from it… i am thinking of choosing this article. can u gimme some ideas on what should i right. thank u..

  3. To whom it may concern,
    My name is Skye Judd, a student of Sky View High School, in Smithfield Utah. Part of the Cache district. I am a participant of the debate team and I am contacting you to ask where you found the story: New Story of the Hare and Tortoise. I use this piece in one of my events and I need to know what the ISPN number is. I know this isn’t your typical letter, but it would surely be appreciated if you were able to reply to this e-mail as soon as possible. This is something that means so much to me, so if you could get me this information, or tell me where to find it, I would be eternally grateful. Thank you! Skye Judd

  4. I have fallen in love with the illustration of the hare and tortoise. Who’s the artist and where did you find it? I’m currently picture researching for an Open University Course on Time Management and would love to find out if I can use this illustration. Source and contact would be much appreciated.
    Kindest regards
    Sofi-ona

    The Open University
    Walton Hall
    Milton Keynes
    UK

  5. Here’s the version we are using on the website for the Time Management course out of curiosity:

    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?’
    Hare stretched himself out alongside the road and fell asleep, thinking, ‘There is plenty of time to relax.’
    Slow and Steady walked and walked. He never, ever stopped until
    he came to the finish line.
    The animals who were watching cheered so loudly for Tortoise, they woke up Hare.
    Hare stretched and yawned and began to run again, but it was too late. Tortoise was over the line.
    After that, Hare always reminded himself, ‘Don’t brag about your lightning pace, for Slow and Steady won the race!’
    Regards
    Sofi-ona

  6. I too have fallen in love with the illustration of the hare and tortoise and would love to find out if I can use this illustration for a CD cover. Source and contact would be much appreciated.

    I have a bit of a time problem here, so if you could please get back to me asap, that would really help me.

    many thanks,

    Peter Link
    Creative Director
    Watchfire Music

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