Lesson #10: Turtles Last Longer Than Rabbits

turtle and rabbit

#10: Turtles Last Longer Than Rabbits

You’ve heard Aesop’s story about the tortoise and the hare. In this classic tale, the hare takes off quickly in the race. He looks impressive, to begin with, because he leads from the get-go. The tortoise looks like a loser at the back of the race.

In a way, the hare represents the classic American success story. For quite a while, prior to my life-altering medical accident, I looked pretty impressive too. I left the starting gates in my adult life on a full-speed run. Anybody who counted success as being connected with high-speed accomplishments would’ve liked what they saw in me. I squeezed 25 hours of accomplishments out of each day.

It suited me well to work for up to 14 to 16 hour a day. It didn’t suit Janie or my kids well. They felt abandoned at times. I convinced myself this was just the price one had to pay to go into orbit with success. I now realize that orbit would continue to expand ever wider. I would never get to the point of saying Enough!

The Real Thing

There is a fabulous pet store in my town. It’s the sort of store you might expect to find in a city like New York but a little surprising to find in Oregon. It has all sorts of exotic critters. A while back they even had small kangaroos hopping around the place! The first time I went in I saw what looked like a very large wooden tortoise on display. As I looked closely I was admiring how realistic this carving looked. It was almost real. Then it’s head moved a bit. It was alive! I jumped back a few inches.

Tortoises are like that. They don’t do much of anything quickly. At times you can think they are wooden because they aren’t all that fast at responding to life.

Looking back I now realize I was headed for a quick, short burnout as a rabbit. I was looking at a few decades of life at most. I was surging forward at a full-on sprint. I wasn’t holding back any reserve. It was 150% at all times. Ask anyone who was around me during those days. It was perhaps almost comical to watch. On second thought it was probably just sad.

Join Us Turtles!

At one time I was convinced that the apex of my life had been attained by my early 40s. I had written a popular, best-selling book. I had planted a very large church. People regarded me as something of an expert on a number of topics. Life was good, but where would I go from there? My conclusion: it would all be inevitably downhill from that point onward.

I had read a few books on the seasons of a leader’s life—good books one and all. There is merit to the notion that we go through seasons as leaders. There is no doubt that leaders move through long seasons of development. But my self-awareness was way off. I now see that I was amazingly short-sighted to think that I was at my greatest point of accomplishment at such an early age. Such thinking was nothing short of arrogant! That was my view before my death. Now that I’ve emerged on the other side of the grave I’ve changed my perspective considerably.

skillsSweet Skills

I have acquired a steady stream of fresh skills in a variety of areas. Many new skills have come my way since my so-called “apex” a few years ago. Ministry gifts have been stirred up in me in just the past couple of years that I hadn’t thought were possible. I am a far better writer and editor now than ever. I am better at speaking than in all my years of communicating. Most of all, I am more excited about learning and moving forward now than ever.

What does all of that mean? Simply this: I won’t hit my full stride until I hit age 70 or 75. If you like my books, blogs, articles, Tweets, etc. be encouraged. My best stuff won’t be published for another 20 years or so! That’s fairly amazing. It wasn’t that long ago that I thought I would be dead by that age. Now I see from the long view. God is allowing me to unpack his gifts in me bit by bit.

He has a turtle pace in mind for you too. Are you willing to slow down to the point that you can allow the pace of God to catch up…?

Lesson #11

Steve has spoken, mentored and modeled to churches and leaders around the world with the simple message that anyone – regardless of their gifting or experience – can be involved in bringing God’s loving kindness to others. His first book, Conspiracy of Kindness has been translated into several languages with more in the works. His first book has sold over 300,000 copies. Altogether his books have sold over 500,000 copies.


  1. Great analogy and good news for tail-end baby boomers like me about to turn 50– the best is yet to come.

  2. So it’s true; Tortises ultimately beat rabbits…Old dogs are ever learning new tricks…And the greater glories of the garden are reserved for the late bloomers. Wisdom like a fine wine surely improves with age. A highly insightful, and encouraging word for God’s people in today’s world. Thank you Steve. Well done!!!

  3. Being a tortoise or a hare is measured in your mind not by what the world measures. In addition to the benefits that Steve has outlined, you also get to hear from God (he can be a gentle quiet whisper as Elijah found out ) – that is the best part.

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