Tortoise and Hare – Lessons from the Hare

What kept the Hare from winning, and what can the Hare do next time to win? If you are losing to people who are less skilled than you in competition, here are things you can do to win.

To recap the story: The classic tale of the Tortoise and the Hare teaches us how a slow turtle can win a race against a fast rabbit by using consistency and persistence. “Slow and steady wins the race” is the common quote to explain how consistency can help a slower animal like the Turtle defeat a faster animal like the Hare. The story also shows how the persistence of not giving up when you think the other person is better than you can lead you to win. These lessons fall into the category of “here are good things the turtle did that you should do as well.”

Today I will study the Hare to determine why the Hare lost and what the Hare can do next time to win.

Lesson 1: Estimation

Let’s explore the most common reason cited for why the Hare lost: arrogance. The story goes: The Hare slept because the Hare thought it had time to sleep and still win the race. How did the Hare calculate this? The Hare must have estimated the following variables:

  • Time for Tortoise to Finish the Race based on average estimated speed of Tortoise
  • Time for Hare to Finish the Race based on average estimated speed of Hare
  • Time for Hare to Sleep = (Time for Tortoise to Finish the Race) – (Time for Hare to Finish the Race)

If the Hare was correct in these estimates, then the Hare would have woken up in time and won the race. Therefore, it is more accurate to say the Hare did its estimation wrong than to say the Hare was arrogant.

For each estimation, the Hare could be overestimating, underestimating, or accurately estimating. Therefore, there are 3×3 = 9 possible outcomes.

I won’t go through all 9, but you can imagine how each one would lead to a different lesson. Overall, the lesson is to improve your estimation and include an appropriate margin of error.

Lesson 2: Fear of Success

If we assume the Hare did not need the nap, then the Hare chose not to win in order to take the nap, because if the Hare could finish the race, the Hare could have taken the nap after winning. So we ask: Why would the Hare not choose to win? Perhaps the Hare was afraid of success. What causes a fear of success?

People pleasing can cause a fear of success. If the Hare was concerned the crowd would shame the Hare for beating the Tortoise too badly, the Hare would want to let the Tortoise catch up on purpose. In this example, the Hare craved external validation more than victory and lost for that reason.

Pity can cause a fear of success. If the Hare felt bad about beating the Tortoise too badly, then the Hare would want to let the Tortoise catch up on purpose. This again is an example of how craving external validation can lead to defeat.

Low Self-Esteem can cause a fear of success. If the Hare felt it didn’t deserve to win, then the Hare could have self-sabotaged itself from winning.

Finally, pity or disrespect can cause a fear of success. If the Hare viewed the Tortoise as weak and unable to handle a loss, then the Hare could lose on purpose because the Hare viewed the Tortoise with such pity, such low regard, that the Hare could not respect the Tortoise enough to win.

Other less likely but possible reasons for the Hare’s loss are: underestimating the Opportunity Cost of the nap (loss of momentum, loss of awareness of the tortoise’s progress, loss of progress) and ADHD (losing focus on the race mid-race).

Or the Hare could have a Fear of Victory–the idea of defeating another animal could go against morals or values held by the Hare. The way to get over this fear is to accept that the Tortoise is an independent person capable of taking care of itself and doesn’t need the Hare to take responsibility of the Tortoise. The Hare just needs to be a humble and polite winner and be a good friend to the Tortoise and help the Tortoise if the Tortoise is in need. Otherwise, the Hare should respect the Tortoise’s ability to take the loss and the Hare should take the win.

In conclusion, add more margin of error to your estimations, and seize the victory with haste when you have the chance.


    • Hare good habits: taking breaks, taking naps, take time to be with friends and play
    • Tortoise bad habits: no rest, might burn out
    • Give the Hare the benefit of the doubt, maybe he was running his own race or had issues of his own
    • Compete with yourself not with others.
    • Over-confidence always marks the downfall of a player even when he’s apparently more competent than his opponents.
    • Identify your strengths and use them
      • can we say that the hare is better than the tortoise? Did the tortoise wallow in self-pity thinking how he can never be as fast as the hare? No. The tortoise realized that his strengths are different from those of the hare and that does not make him any less competent than the hare.
    • United efforts reap better rewards
      • the tortoise and the hare can team up and take turns using each other’s strengths when the situation calls for it.
    • the race is not always to the swift
    • slow and steady > quick and careless
    • persist until you succeed
    • know your strength, believe and do it
    • the loser now is later to win
    • if you are going to sleep before/during a race, remember to set the alarm clock

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