Why Tortoise Beats Hare: The Advantages of Gradual Success


Have you ever been asked how you accomplished something and answered, “I don´t know, it must have been luck!”

I haven’t.

Why? Because every time I’ve accomplished anything I’ve put in the hours, dealt with rejection, re-strategized and put in more hours before crossing the finish line.

And if I had to, I´d do it again.

I’ve never had a fluke. Thus, getting paid to publish fiction and winning a literary prize have been cause for ridiculous personal fanfare.

My husband is a Colombian television director who produces, publishes and releases stuff all the time. But when I get something out into the world I run up to him with torrential pride and say, “Anything you can do I can do slower.

That´s right, not only does it take me forever to write fiction, but I´m proud of it!

Upon reflection I came up with three reasons why the slow road to success is ten times as sweet.

1. Repeatability

Gradual success makes you acutely aware of the process, which means if you were asked to do it again, you could. Which is a big part of the reason I started this blog in the first place. When you put so much conscious learning into something you want to put it to some practical use.

2. Humility

This one might not feel so great when you´re going through it, but the fact is its much more painful to fall from arrogance than to grow from humility anyway. In the end humility is a huge advantage. Everyone prefers to work with humble professionals.

3. Inevitability

When you´re in it for the long hall, you reach a certain tipping point where no matter what it takes you´re going to go through with it. This should help ease your doubt, because at that point you are the one in control of your dreams.

The next time you get jealous about an “overnight success,” stop. Even when you do hear about someone´s instant fame, chances are they’ve put their 10K hours. So do yourself a favor and repeat, “Anything you can do I can do slower.” Then get back to work.

emily maher

Emily Tamayo Maher lives in Bogotá, Colombia with her husband, Mauricio, and son, Martín. Her stories have appeared in Midwestern Gothic and Redivider. She was awarded the 2014 Beacon Street Prize for fiction. She holds a BA from the University of Iowa where she received the Laurence Scholarship for creative writing, and an MA in International Affairs from the New School in New York. Currently, she teaches English literature for the International Baccalaureate Diploma program.

11 thoughts on “Why Tortoise Beats Hare: The Advantages of Gradual Success

  1. I find myself referencing this tale a lot with my students. “Slow and steady wins the race!” They get so overwhelmed by looking at people as finished products without knowing all the steps and mistakes that everyone has to make. I might also add a fourth benefit to your list, which would be “satisfaction.” If your very first short story was published, you would be happy, but you wouldn’t feel the excitement as deeply as you do having had to work hard for it.


  2. This is such a great point of view. I know someone who always says, “don’t compare your chapter 1 to someone else’s chapter 5,” which I also love because it reminds me to keep doing my own thing. And congrats on the publishing!

    Liked by 1 person

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