We have heard the Aesop’s Fable of the legendary race between the hare and the tortoise in which the tortoise won the race because he was slow and steady. Hence, came the famous saying that ‘slow and steady wins the race.’ If we investigate the story, we would realize that the tortoise won the race not because he was slow, but because he was steady. If the hare would have been even half as steady, the tortoise had no chance to win the race. Hence, running slowly was a serious handicap of the tortoise and he was saved only because he was steady. This fable thus highlights the role of steadiness or perseverance for getting success in life. It teaches us that even if we are less talented, we can still achieve success, if we are steady in our endeavour.
This story, however, assumes that there are only two players in the game; one is smart but stupid, while the other is slow but steady. In the real world, the competition is much harder and there are many competitors. The hare lost due to his arrogance and complacency; which is not true in real world. Most people in the real world are highly competitive and in order to win the race, you must not only be steady, but also quick.
The modern world is a competitive world. Gone are the days when success and privileges were dependent upon your birth or talent alone. The modern society across the world is much more egalitarian today and privileges can be earned and achieved on merit. Democracy is the most favoured system of government where every citizen enjoys the same rights. This change in human society has led to competition everywhere. One has to perform to the best of one’s abilities to achieve success in life be it in any field, whatsoever. For example, lakhs of students appear in the Civil Services Examination for only a few hundred seats. If you wish to get education in a top Engineering or Management college, you have to be at the top level to succeed the competitive examination. You have to be the best if you wish to succeed as an entrepreneur, writer or a singer. There is no place for mediocrity in the modern world.
We all want success in this world because successful people are valued more in the society due to better income, higher position and power. They hog the limelight and occupy the leadership position in any organisation. The losers and the less successful people have to be contented with lower positions.
Success, however, does not come due to luck or chance. Pele, Legendary football player, summed up the secret of success thus, “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do”.
The harsh reality of the world, however, is that despite the desire for success, most people fail in life because they are not willing to work hard constantly for extended periods to prepare themselves for success. They want to enjoy the fruit of success without willing to pay the price for it. Bobby Knight, an American basketball coach advised, “The key is not the will to win… everybody has that. It is the will to prepare to win that is important.”
You can’t win in life unless you have prepared well in advance. While winning is a joy which most people want, preparation is found painful and most people avoid it. It is not easy to keep working hard not only for days and months, but often for years to achieve success in life. And you can’t spend all your life trying to win competitions. You have to be quick to accomplish your goal faster than others.
Speed matters in every field of life. If you are a student, it pays if you learn fast and are quick to make a career choice. If you are in a leadership position, you must take quick but accurate decisions to make your organisation more competitive and rise to higher echelons of power. A quick performer in any domain of work improves the productivity of the organisation and makes it more efficient and competitive.
While speed is extremely important for success, the role of perseverance cannot be underestimated. You must be willing to work hard continuously for a long time till you achieve success. Just like it takes time for a seed to become a tree and bear fruit, it takes time for your hard work to fetch you success in life. A student works for almost two decades from early school to higher education and beyond, before he gets a good job. A sportsperson has to toil for years to win a medal and make his country proud. People have to spend their life in public to achieve success in politics.
It is not only the lack of hard work or perseverance that keeps most people away from success. What often makes people give up their quest of success is the pain of failure. When we fail in our endeavor despite hard work, our heart is broken. We wish to leave our dreams and settle for something less. It is in those moments we must keep our focus and not get distracted to other things. It may be worthwhile to remember that all great people suffered numerous failures before they achieved success. “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career,” Michael Jordan, the legendary Basketball player shared his mantra, “I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed”.
There are many examples when people succeeded because they were quick and steady. Buddha chose his quest of knowledge to help the humanity of its suffering at a very early age and strived for several years before he got Enlightenment. Swami Vivekananda was hardly 30 years of age when he gave his groundbreaking speech to the 1893 World's Parliament of Religions in Chicago. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates set up their companies when they were still in their colleges. They all achieved success because they were quick to decide and also steady on their chosen path.
It is thus evident that speed and perseverance are the most important ingredients for success. Technically, we need to develop efficiency by producing more output with least input to become more competitive. However, we must also remember that excess of everything is bad. We must not be too quick in decision making else we may commit more mistakes. At the same time, we should not work so hard that we burn ourselves out before we reach our goal. We have to find an optimum balance of quickness and steadiness to achieve lasting success in life.
Failure is part of the journey of success. We must not lose hope even if we fail in our attempts. We should learn from failures but must never quit until we reach our goal. While most people quit after their first failure, a winner keeps working hard courageously despite suffering the pain of failures in the process. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said it aptly, “Success is never final and failure never fatal. It’s courage that counts.”