November 25

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The Power of Story (Part 4) – 5 important lessons you didn’t learn from this childhood fable…


Do you remember the story of the tortoise and the hare? It’s one of Aesop’s fables that we have been told, read about in books, and probably watched on TV. So, what’s the moral of the story?

Easy right? Slow and steady wins the race!

Of course, we know that stories have the power to teach multiple lessons that apply at multiple times in our life. And, each time we apply the lesson to a new situation in our lives, the story takes on greater meaning. It takes on greater meaning because it is anchored in our personal experience. The more experiences we apply it to, the broader and deeper the meaning.

What if I told you that there were more layers to this story that provided additional lessons for all of us?  What if I said that you are missing half of the story by not looking at it from multiple viewpoints?

The beautiful thing about stories is that their lessons are multidimensional.

Stories Are Multidimensional

What do I mean by multidimensional? I mean that it has greater depth than the surface meaning. Just like watching a movie in 3D or gaming in virtual reality, every story has multiple dimensions.

So, how are stories multidimensional? Typically, most people only look at a story from a single character’s point of view.  However, only viewing a story through one character’s eyes is limiting. It doesn’t teach us the whole story.

In order to see the other dimensions of the story, you simply put yourself into a different character’s shoes.

Let’s take the story of the tortoise and the hare again. Instead of looking at the story from the narrator’s point of view, let’s look at it from hare’s point of view. The hare was fast, and he knew he was fast. He was confident in his skills which is good. However, he was also arrogant in thinking he was better than the tortoise and could beat him in a race any day.

Learn From Other Characters

No one disagreed that the hare was faster than the tortoise. However, races aren’t only about speed. They are also about endurance, focus, and perseverance.

The race starts and the hare runs off way ahead while the tortoise slowly but steadily takes step by step. The hare is now so far ahead that he can’t even see the tortoise anymore. So, the hare loses his focus on winning the race and becomes distracted by some pretty flowers he would like to eat along the side of the road. He eats until his belly is full and feels a little tired. He looks but still can’t see the tortoise. So, he decides to lay down and rest for a bit before he finishes the race. Pretty soon, he’s sound asleep on the side of the road.

We all know the end of the story. The tortoise passes the hare while he’s sleeping and wins the race.

But what did the hare learn from this?

Here are the Midlife lessons that go beyond “slow and steady wins the race”:

  1. Distractions are often the biggest goal killers. Had the hare not allowed himself to get distracted, he would have easily won the race.
  2. There’s a time for everything. There’s a time for racing, a time for enjoying the flowers, and a time for resting. Make sure you do them in the right order.
  3. There’s a difference between resting and sleeping. Resting while you are on a journey is fine, but falling asleep is not. I don’t mean literally falling asleep. I’m talking about sleep in the sense of not being conscious who you are, where you are, and what you are doing.
  4. Confidence is helpful, and arrogance is never good. The difference between confidence and arrogance is comparison to others. Confidence says, “I am good.” Arrogance says, “I am better than others.” Always be confident, never be arrogant.

There’s one final lesson that I’ll share in a moment.

Let’s say it is the Friday before your vacation. You have a flight booked at 8pm to go with your spouse to Hawaii. It’s 8am, and you have 10 things on your “To Do” list at work. Your boss also knows you are going on vacation and greets you in the morning with an extra task that he or she would like you to do before leaving. It’s not a huge project, but it will take an hour of your time.

What do you do? Do you go slow and steady like the tortoise? Do you start out like it was Monday morning and you have all week to finish? Or, do you go like gang busters determined to get everything done by 5pm so you can still catch your plane?

You start with your bosses’ project first and complete three of your 10 items by noon. You could keep working through lunch. However, you know your productivity will drop if you do that. Instead, you decide to spend 20 minutes eating and do a 10-minute meditation that will re-energize your brain.

You start back on your To Do list at 12:30pm. By 3:00pm, you have knocked off 4 more items off your list. You only have 3 items left, but you are also a little tired and weary. You decide that a 15-minute break will help you rejuvenate and get your energy. While refilling your drink in the breakroom, some of your co-workers are hanging out and telling stories. They’re laughing and having fun. They ask you to join them.

It seems like a fun distraction. On many days, you would consider joining them. However, you think about your trip to Hawaii and how much more important that is than having a laugh with your co-workers. You are not better than them. You just have different priorities.

You sit back down at 3:15 and plow through your remaining 3 To-Do items. At, 4:55pm, you are gathering your things and heading out the door. You have a great sense of satisfaction because you know you ran a good race.

You moved quickly. You kept your focus. You rested when you needed to but didn’t fall asleep. You kept your priorities and finished what you needed to do. You were confident in your abilities, but never arrogant towards others.

Here’s the final Midlife Lesson:

In the story that you call Your Life, sometimes you need to be the tortoise, and sometimes you need to be the hare. Sometimes, you need to go slow and steady, and sometimes you need to go fast. Learning the lessons of both the tortoise and the hare will make you more versatile and more productive.

Here’s the Mighty Challenge of the Day:

  1. Choose one area of your life or situation that could be better.
  2. What is the story you are telling yourself about the situation?
  3. Envision that the story has a happy ending. Imagine in detail what the happy ending looks like.
  4. Now pretend you are the narrator of the story. The narrator knows the story has a happy ending if the characters will only do what they need to do.
  5. What would the narrator tell you that you need to do?
  6. Right now, plan how you will start doing what the narrator has told you.

Bruce Fleck

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