Why Going Slow will Help You to Survive

Here’s a story for you.

After I opened my first hair salon in 1980, I worked hard to build my business. I scrimped and saved and put in long hours of work. But I never felt like I was going anywhere with it. Every year was a struggle in financial hardship. Yet, when I looked around, my peers were doing so well. They bought fancy cars and traveled all over the world to attend exciting Beauty Symposiums.

I wondered, “What am I doing wrong?” Why did I feel like I was so behind compared to other business owners?

I had no choice but to follow the principles of Kaizen which I believed …take small incremental steps, one step at a time. I kept it up for 38 years. It’s finally gotten a little easier for me but still no fancy cars or lots of vacations.

I became aware of one thing. As I look around me, all the businesses owners whom I envied and believed were so successful have all gone by the wayside.

When people make a comment, “You are successful,” I always reply by saying, “I don’t know if I consider myself successful but I know for sure that I AM A SURVIVOR.”

Almost every day, I think of the Japanese tale I read when I was growing up in Japan. I definitely relate to the turtle. As you read the story think about which character you relate to. Do you think you are the rabbit or the turtle?

My own drawing of the rabbit and the turtle
My own drawing of the rabbit and the turtle

A Japanese children’s tale to remember:

Once upon a time, there lived a rabbit and a turtle. The rabbit prided himself on his speed in running and jumping. He looked at the turtle and shook his head at how slow he moved.

One day, the rabbit challenged the turtle to a race to the top of a far away hill. The turtle agreed.

The rabbit laughed and said to the turtle, “You are foolish to accept this challenge, you will never beat my speed…not even if you crawled for a thousand years!”

Early next morning, they started the race. The rabbit’s speed was so fast that he could not even see the turtle after hopping less than a mile. He eventually got bored and decided to take a nap. He eventually woke up and started to hop along, and decided to take even a longer nap.

Meanwhile, the turtle was moving slowly in his usual way. He kept his pace, slow but steadfast. He calculated every milestone he reached. When the rabbit got up from his sixth nap, he realized that he had slept more than a few hours…he slept through the whole day. He jumped up and hopped as fast as he could to the top of the hill. The rabbit reached his destination, huffing and puffing, only to find that the turtle has been there for quite sometime. He had staked a flag on the very top of the hill and was snoozing peacefully under a shady tree.

Question: What did you learn from this story?

Comments

Tamara Turner
Reply

March 21

Dear Kay,

Many thanks for your “Going Slow” post.

Since being recommended to you by a co-worker of mine in 1975, I have watched your steady progress from Capital Hill, to the salon taken over by Metro, to the chair in a downtown salon, on to First and Jackson Street, and finally to Mercer Island. Your faith in your employees—sometimes heartbreaking—and your consistent investment in training, maintaining quality, and public service are the reasons why you survived while others did not; and these are some of the reasons why I have been your customer for 40 years. (Another example: who but you would have stood by Max and tried to help him find an outlet for his energy, intelligence, and his loving little self?)

Kay, you are a unique person. You have met new challenges (and even looked for them!), and worked your way through every setback. Today, you have become more than a survivor, and I hope you will enjoy what comes next—including being able to simply be.

I look forward to reading your book and to many more years of you sharing your wisdom,

Tamara

KayHirai
Reply

Tamara,
Thank you for your message, well said.
You are such a good writer.
We’ve known each other for a long time so thank you for going through my ups and downs with my business. I really appreciate our loyal client/friend relationship.
You are a very special person.

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