Turtles only advance when they stick their neck out

2012

The world is full of insightful quotes. It's one thing to agree with them. It's something more to incorporate their truth into our lives. What I like about many quotes is that they reflect universal principles of success, and who in their right mind doesn't want more of that?

Many inspirational quotes include great imagery and symbolism. For example, the axiom about turtles advancing only when they stick their neck out has more symbolism than just emphasizing a need for risk.

In the story of the Tortoise and the Hare, the tortoise is depicted as a slow-moving creature that succeeds using the principle of steadiness. I know several people who perceive they are doomed for a life of mediocrity in the business world because they're not assertive or aggressive when it comes to business. These people can learn from the turtle's symbolism: by sticking out their necks to take calculated risks and moving steadily forward, they can achieve their goals.

The turtle quote can be partnered with many similar sayings, such as "no risk, no reward," or "nothing ventured, nothing gained," or "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Many inspirational quotes revolve around the need for risk and just getting started, but over the years I've come up with several other truisms to help people succeed. Here are just a few:

Slower up front equals faster down the road. This is often a helpful phrase for Type A personalities to memorize. Those who are driven hard to succeed often see the shortest distance between two points as being a straight line, but that is not necessarily the case. When dealing with "slower moving people" (about 65% of the population), faster-moving people benefit by slowing down and working with people in ways that create harmony, not pressure. They're frequently surprised to find that it's true: The end result of moving slower up front is often faster results!

You'll go where you're focused. If you've taken a good driving course you've learned that your vehicle tends to go in the direction you're looking. The same principle applies in just about every aspect of life: You will move in the direction of your focus. If you're looking only at the trouble spots, you're likely to stumble. But if you're focusing on the path of actions that lead to success, you're likely to achieve success.

Acknowledgement does not equal agreement. Good communication skills include being able to acknowledge someone else's point of view (there are several talk radio hosts I abhor because they fail miserably at this). Unfortunately, many hold the mistaken belief that acknowledging someone's point of view is the same as agreeing. Not true! You may believe the moon is made out of blue cheese. I am quite capable of acknowledging your belief without agreeing with you. The axiom of "acknowledgement does not equal agreement" will serve you well in becoming a better communicator.

The ability to stand up and talk does not a trainer make. Training other people is itself a learned skill. To truly be able to transfer knowledge, skills, and attitudes, one must be able to take people from "point a" to "point b," which can be especially difficult in front of learners who have diverse experiences and backgrounds. In other words, if you're designing, developing, and delivering training, you need to be a lot more than just a subject matter expert with good speaking skills.

Only make new mistakes. This saying goes hand-in-hand with a quote attributed to Theodore Roosevelt; "The man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything." The idea is that everyone makes mistakes. Unfortunately, some people keep making the same mistakes over and over. Instead of watching people do this, help them learn.

Mistakes should be seen as learning opportunities. Any parent who does nothing but scold children for making mistakes is, in fact, making a huge parenting mistake. Good parents help their children learn from mistakes. In the same way, good managers should use workplace mistakes as opportunities for learning.

Example: As the story goes, one of IBM's big failures was the IBM PC Jr. It was called the "Edsel of computers" due to its poor design. When the product was quickly discontinued, the manager overseeing the project expected to be fired. He went to his own manager and asked if he should clean out his desk. Instead of firing him, the manager replied, "We just spent several million dollars training you. Why would we want to fire you?"

The principle of learning from mistakes can also be tied to one of my favorite sayings, "Good judgment comes from experience; Experience comes from bad judgment. "

Whatever sayings permeate your mind are the ones that will influence your life. With the idea that you will go where you're focused, may I suggest you choose your thoughts carefully.

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About The Author

Dan Bobinski
Dan Bobinski

Dan Bobinski is a training specialist, author, and an accomplished keynote speaker. He's been providing management and leadership training to Fortune 500 companies as well as smaller, regional concerns for more than 20 years.