“Slow and steady wins the race” is garbage

July 17, 2014 by Joshua
in Education

As long as I can remember, I’ve considered the phrase “slow and steady wins the race” garbage. I don’t understand why they teach it to kids instead of useful lessons.

We all know the fable by Aesop about the tortoise and the hare from which it comes.

The hare makes fun of the slower tortoise. They race. With a big lead, the hare takes a nap then wakes up to find the tortoise, crawling slowly but steadily, about to win. The hare tries to catch up but doesn’t. Then the tortoise or the storyteller says “Slow and steady wins the race.”

The animals’ speeds or variations of them isn’t the issue! The issue is the hare went to sleep in the middle of a footrace.

Overconfidence, sure. Stupidity, yeah. Poor decision-making, check. All areas to learn and grow.

But the hare didn’t go too fast, nor did the tortoise’s slowness help.

I get lessons like “Overconfidence loses races,” “Sleeping in the middle of a footrace will cause you to lose,” “Stupid decisions lose races,” or things like that. But I don’t see slowness winning races, ever. Nor do I think teaching kids irrelevant lessons helps them either, not when there are relevant issues worth learning.

I can see advising people to race marathons differently than sprints, not to lose sight of a goal before finishing, and such. But I consider advising someone, especially kids, to run a race slowly or, by extension, not trying one’s best on anything important, stupid.

Even for a marathon, the winners run incredibly fast—like twenty-six sub-five-minute miles in a row. If you run a marathon slowly and steadily, you will lose the race as sure as if you take a nap in the middle of it. For a sprint, forget it. Do you think Usain Bolt would win if he ran slowly, no matter how steadily? No, he runs as fast as he can.

I mean all this figuratively, not just literally. It applies to many areas in life beyond races.

That misguided lesson leads people to do things slowly that they could do quickly. And it keeps them from learning to finish jobs before slacking off, keeping the confidence in check, and other useful lessons.

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