Dear millennials: Be the tortoise, not the hare

“Warren Buffett is one of the best learning machines on this earth. The turtles which outrun the hares are learning machines. If you stop learning in this world, the world rushes right by you.” ― Lucas Remmerswaal, 13 the Tale of Tortoise Buffett and Trader Hare

We all know how it feels to be behind in life, don’t we? The Instagram feeds and Facebook announcements tell us how many amazing things are happening to the people around us. It’s easy to take a look at everyone’s success and wonder, “what have I done recently?”. It’s moments like these, when you’re feeling downtrodden and unaccomplished, to remember the tortoise.

If you haven’t heard Aesop’s fable of the tortoise and the hare, here’s a little reminder: The tortoise and the hare compete in a race. The hare boasts to the tortoise that he will win. When the race begins, the hare sprints ahead, surpassing the slow and steady tortoise. But then the swaggering hare gets tired from his run and arrogantly decides he’s got plenty of time to nap mid-race. As he snoozes, the tortoise marches on and eventually passes the hare and wins the race.


So what can we take from Aesop’s tale? Essential career advice for millennials


Not only can we learn from the hare’s overconfidence, but we also can also take a lesson from the tortoise, her attitude, grind and grit. The animal’s patience and perseverance helped her overcome a seemingly impossible opponent. Though many of us don’t have this sort of direct competitors in our lives, it’s important to channel the slow-moving strength of the tortoise in the pursuit of our lifelong goals and passions.


career advice for millennials


A lot of today’s articles and advice columns are focused on achieving success and getting quickly to the finish line, being efficient and powerful and accomplished. It’s time to nail that interview, get the promotion and climb the ladder as fast as possible. And while the pursuit of these short or medium-term accomplishments is important and can inspire us to continue to follow our dreams, oftentimes what we need to do is zoom out a bit, remind ourselves of our humanity and shortcomings and realize that the “finish line” in our careers is a long way off. Short-term setbacks or a lack of momentum won’t keep you from accomplishing long-term goals, if you invoke the pluck, stamina and grit of the tortoise. Being constant and patient in the long term will lead you to outperforming the eager, bright and ambitious individuals who burn bright and fast.


career advice for millennials


It’s not just Aesop’s fable that makes this point. The psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth found that a major factor in whether or not a kid would be successful in life was grit. Persevering, especially when it feels like your peers are miles ahead of you, will lead you to accomplishing your goals.

In a TED Talk Duckworth says: “We studied rookie teachers working in really tough neighborhoods, asking which teachers are still going to be here in teaching by the end of the school year, and of those, who will be the most effective at improving learning outcomes for their students? We partnered with private companies, asking, which of these salespeople is going to keep their jobs? And who’s going to earn the most money? In all those very different contexts, one characteristic emerged as a significant predictor of success. And it wasn’t social intelligence. It wasn’t good looks, physical health, and it wasn’t IQ. It was grit.”

So don’t worry so much about falling behind or measuring up to what everyone else is doing right now. We are all in our own races and have our own goals. What’s important is that you stay motivated by not burning yourself out, keep working towards your goals and learn continuously throughout your journey. Too much swagger or impatience will one day hold you back.


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1. based on ITU Pictures, by Millennials Jam Workshop: Youth and ICTs beyond 2015, CC-by-2.0

2. based on Cognizant Quality Engineering & Assurance Summit – Boston, by PRO Cognizant Technology Solutions, CC-by-SA 2.0

3. based on Millennials Jam Workshop: Youth and ICTs beyond 2015, by ITU Pictures, CC-by-2.0


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Elizabeth Trovall

After short stints in Argentina and Belize, Elizabeth is finishing up her fourth year in Santiago, Chile. Elizabeth writes about international internships, life abroad and professional development for The Intern Group. She also reports on politics, business and culture in Latin America for public radio and print media. An Austin, Texas native, Elizabeth first left home to earn her journalism degree from the Reynolds Institute of Journalism at the University of Missouri. Besides her friends and family, she misses live music and Mexican food the most.
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