The Lion and The Gazelle

This is one of my favourite quotes.

Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle: when the sun comes up, you’d better be running. ~ a quote from The Economist 1985.

I get complacent, a lot. I despise the idea of being complacent, but I enjoy it when I’m in a state of one. This is nothing unique to me though, it’s just what naturally happen when one becomes better at things. It’s comforting to be good at something. When someone tells me that I did a good job, it polishes my ego, verifying that I don’t need to do anything more. It’s a good enough job, and I can stop.

But the truth is, I’m not even running. Let’s use an analogy in this post.

Once every year, there are two races that are held in different locations: one is a marathon in a desert and another is a 10 km run in the forest. The marathon has 1000 runners competing in it. All of them are used to the harsh heat, lack of water, and long distance torture. The price for finishing the race is large, but only very few can make it even to the last phase of the marathon. The forest short race however, has only 10 runners competing. It’s far from a marathon, and more like a walk in the park, where everyone will be fed fruits along the way, so that they can enjoy the run. If you win the forest race, you get nice lucrative prizes, which are, on average larger than the desert race. But it varies, in some rare years, the prize for the desert race is astronomically larger than the forest’s. No one knows when this happens though.

Every year, I walk fast in the forest, and I walk faster than other nine among the trees. I can’t see how fast the desert runners have blitzed passed me in terms of actual speed. Fortunately they can’t see me either, and I get to win because only I, and people slower than me race in the forest. Oh, I forgot to mention, it’s a VIP entry only, so the same people do the race with me every year. But here’s the scary bit, once every decade, at some random time, the entry is open to the winner of the desert marathon who doesn’t get much in the desert marathon. A kind of consolation prize if you like.

I don’t know when this marathon winner is going to join the forest. But I know one thing, when it happens, I will lose and it will be hard for me to give away the prizes I’m used to receiving every year.

I better start running.

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