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Why Going Slow Will Help You to Survive

By Kay Hirai For The North American Post

Here’s a story for you to think about…

After I opened my first hair salon in 1980, I worked hard to build my business. I scrimped and saved and put in long hours of work, but I never felt like I was going anywhere with it. For me, every year was a financial struggle. Yet when I looked around, my peers all seemed to be doing so well. They bought fancy cars and traveled all over the world to attend exciting beauty symposiums.

I wondered, “What am I doing wrong?” Why did I feel like I was so far behind the other business owners?

I had no choice but to follow the principles of Kaizen that I believed in… take small incremental steps, one step at a time. I have kept at it for 38 years. It is finally gotten a little easier for me, but it is still not an easy ride.

Over the years, however, I became aware of one important thing. As I looked around me, all the business owners whom I had envied, and had believed were so successful, had all gone by the wayside.

When people approach me and make the comment, “You are so successful,” I always reply by saying, “I don’t know if I consider myself successful, but I know for sure that I am a survivor.”

Almost every day, I think about the story of the Tortoise and the Hare that I read as a child growing up in Japan. This ancient Greek tale, narrated and written by Aesop, was one of my favorite books to read in the evenings after I finished my homework. As you read this story, think about which character you most relate to…

Story of the Tortoise and the Hare

Once upon a time, there lived a Hare and a Tortoise. The Hare prided himself on his speed in running and jumping. He looked at the Tortoise and shook his head in disgust at how slow he moved.

One day, the Hare challenged the Tortoise to a race to the top of a faraway hill. The Tortoise agreed.

The arrogant Hare laughed and said to the Tortoise, “You are foolish to accept this challenge, you will never beat my speed…not even if you crawled for a thousand years!”

Early, the next morning, they started the race. The Hare’s speed was so fast that he could not even see the Tortoise after hopping less than a mile. He eventually got bored and decided to take a nap. The Hare eventually woke up, started to hop along, and decided to take even a longer nap.

Meanwhile, the Tortoise was moving slowly in his usual way. He kept his pace, slow but steadfast, calculating every milestone he reached. When the Hare got up from his sixth nap, he realized that time had flown…he slept through the whole day. The Hare jumped up and hopped as fast as he could to the top of the hill. He finally reached his destination, huffing and puffing, only to find that the Tortoise had been there for quite some time. He had staked a flag on the very top of the hill and was snoozing peacefully under a shady tree.

Question: What did you learn from this story? Do you associate yourself more with the Hare or the Tortoise?

Editor’s Note: Kay Hirai is a social entrepreneur, author and artist. This column will be regularly published in this paper. Kay can be reached through her website at www.keikokayhirai.com.