Some of you may be familiar with Aesop’s fables. For those of you who aren’t, Aesop is believed to have been a slave and story teller from ancient Greece. His fables all have two things in common. The first is that they are fictional, with the main characters often being animals. The second is that they all contain some sort of a lesson that is meant to teach the reader about living an honest and moral life. One of Aesop’s best known fables is titled: The Tortoise and The Hare.
The Tortoise and The Hare
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 and 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!”
“Slow and stead wins the race”, has become one of my personal mantras. Before I go into why, I want to talk about walking trees. No, not Ents. Walking trees. Growing deep within the jungles of Ecuador is an amazing species of palm tree. These trees rest several feet to meters off the surface of the jungle, standing on stalk-like roots that grow into the ground. As the soil in the jungle erodes, it is rumored that the roots lift out of the soil over time and grow back into solid ground. This can result in the trees to move up to 20m in a year. There is debate in the scientific community around whether or not this phenomenon actually exists or if it is simply the jungle floor shifting from massive amounts of rain and soil corrosion but “walking trees” is still a fun concept! I wonder if Tree Beard’s latin-american cousin speaks a Spanish dialect of Entish?
If you look around you, so many people are preoccupied with where they want to be instead of focusing on where they are. This often results in them cutting corners, taking shortcuts, or trying to fast track themselves to where they want to be. Sadly, this often ends with a short-lived enjoyment of success before falling back down to where they started. You all know someone who has experienced this or maybe this describes you but why does it happen? It’s because those people did a shoddy job at building what I like to call their “personal pyramid”. What is the most stable structure in the natural or man-made world? A pyramid. Why are they so stable? It’s due to several factors. The first is that, no matter where in the world you find them, they are built out of high quality and structurally stable material that is very resistant to change: stone. The other factor is that each successive layer is build upon a previous layer that is already stable and can appropriately support the next layer. Most of you probably think of the pyramids of Giza (below) when you think of pyramids. These structures have been standing for well over 4,000 years. Pyramids are stable. Enough said.
Whether you are building a physical structure or simply trying to accomplish a goal, keeping a pyramid in mind and the principles that make one so sturdy is useful. Most people, thinking that they will get to where they want to be faster, build towers instead of pyramids but towers aren’t NEARLY as stable. Building a pyramid sucks. It’s hard work, it’s painstaking, and it takes time. But once it is built it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon unless you drop a bomb on the thing. In terms of our own lives, making them as steadfast as a pyramid is often difficult because to do so involves healing. Most of you will agree, the greatest obstacle between us and our goals is often lurking in our own minds and egos. In an attempt to deny or ignore our personal wounds, shortcomings and character defects many of us hastily try to get to where we want to be without much thought of how we are going to stay there once we arrive. The drive to rush things is often born out of comparison. We see Suzy, who we graduated with and seems to be doing so much better than us, has a great job, nice things, and has her sh*t together. Then we ask ourselves, “Why can’t I be like Suzy?” or “Why don’t I have what Suzy has?” and we proceed to concoct a plan to achieve a life that is comparable to Suzy’s as quickly as possible. More often than not, our plans don’t pan out how we had envisioned.
We spend so much time thinking about where we want to be that we lose track of where we are. How can we construct a stable foundation for the next level in our pyramid if our minds are all the way at a peak that doesn’t even exist yet? The fact is, and I have seen this time and time again in my own life, we are where we are for a reason. It is because there is something we need to learn about ourselves that will help us grow into better, stronger people. Many never realize this, they want what they want and they want it now. If you just focus on where you, instead of where you want to be, you will ensure that you will take every moment needed to heal, learn, and grow so you can build a firm foundation for the next level of your life. Once you reach it, having put in the necessary work to make it as stable as possible, you don’t have to go back. If you are like the walking trees of Ecuador, with branches reaching towards the light and roots towards ever more solid ground and keep telling yourself “slow and steady wins the race” then one day you will look back on the life you have constructed and you will see that you have built a pyramid instead of a tower.