Fable of the tortoise and the hare retold

Patience literally pays when it comes to success

In Summary

• Those who don’t find success in their youth enjoy it more when it eventually comes

Kenya's new currency
Kenya's new currency

You have heard this story about the tortoise and the hare, but not quite like I’m about to tell it.

There was once a speedy hare who wouldn’t stop teasing Tortoise about how slow he was. ‘Do you ever get anywhere, Tortoise? Are you moving right now? I can’t tell,’ Hare would ask with a mocking laugh.

Tortoise had had enough of listening to Hare tease him, so one day, he challenged Hare to a race. Hare was surprised and amused by the challenge but he agreed, relishing the thought of how badly he was going to beat Tortoise.

After the relevant permits had been acquired from the authorities, allowing the race to take place, all the animals in the forest gathered at the starting line to watch the race. Fox was officiating, and after he explained the rules to the two competitors, he stood to one side, starting gun in hand.

‘Ready,’ said Fox, ‘get set…’ Two booms were heard. The much quieter one was from the starting gun and the loud one was the sonic boom of Hare breaking the sound barrier the instant he got off the line. Tree trunks and spectators on either side were blown back by the shockwaves and all anyone saw of Hare was a blur. Hare was gone.

‘Bollocks,’ said a dispirited Tortoise. That said, he set off at a glacial pace after Hare.

Way ahead, meanwhile, Hare spotted the Fable Land Marriott. He had read good reviews about the place and, seeing as he was way out in front, with no hope of Tortoise catching up, he decided to take a break.

‘Hello, Sir,’ said a smiling giraffe hotel receptionist, ‘Welcome to Fable Land Marriott.’ ‘Hi,’ said Hare. ‘I’d like a room for the day, please.’ ‘Yes, Sir,’ said the receptionist. ‘And how would you like to pay, Sir?’ Hare whipped out his credit card.

After the receptionist had typed up his details and handed him his room key-card, Hare asked for the room service menu. ‘I’ll send it right up, Sir,’ said the receptionist. ‘The vegan menu, Sir?’

‘Of course,’ Hare said.

Later, after the food had been brought up, and he’d eaten his fill, Hare decided to take a nap, thinking, should Tortoise even catch up, I’ll just dash to the finish line and beat him.

Most of us know what next transpired. Hare overslept, and by the time he woke, slow and steady Tortoise was crossing the finish line to win the race.

The moral here is slow and steady wins the race, which ties in to a theory that those who don’t achieve success in their youth find that when they do eventually succeed, their achievements are far greater.

In other words, late bloomers, when it comes to long-term success, are happier and more successful, for they’ve had to deal with struggle and failure most of their lives. Early achievers, by contrast, only get to find out later in life that things don’t always go your way, but by then, they don’t know how to deal with defeat.

Personally, I’d have preferred early spectacular success, but since that didn’t happen, hasn’t happened, I kind of have to go along with this late-bloom-is-better theory and wait patiently.

A man who is master of patience is master of everything else – George Savile