Organizational Excellence

People and Process Improvement

Let the Rabbits Run, redux

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(It seems I get a query or two a day on this parable. Tells me there are a lot of rabbits who want to be allowed to run. STOP making them take swimming lessons!

What really gets me is that the education system is hell-bent on teaching rabbits to swim. I know, I know…we cannot allow anarchy to rule the schoolhouse. No way can kids be allowed to learn only what they like and what they are good at, just as we can’t permit them to avoid what they hate…I’m just sayin’.)

A parable from the book: Soar With Your Strengths, by Clifton and Nelson. This book is a classic!

 Imagine there is a meadow. In that meadow there is a duck, a fish, an eagle, an owl, a squirrel, and a rabbit. They decide they want to have a school so they can be smart, just like people.

With the help of some grown-up animals, they come up with a curriculum they believe will make a well-rounded animal: running, swimming, tree climbing, jumping, and flying.

On the first day of school, little rabbit combed his ears, and he went hopping off to his running class. There he was a star. He ran to the top of the hill and back as fast as he could go, and, oh, did it feel good. He said to himself, “I can’t believe it. At school, I get to do what I do best.”

The instructor said, “Rabbit, you really have talent for running. You have great muscles in your rear legs. With some training, you will get more out of every hop.”

The rabbit said, “I love school. I get to do what I like to do and get to learn to do it better.”

The next class was swimming. When the rabbit smelled the chlorine, he said, “Wait, wait! Rabbits don’t like to swim.”

The instructor said, “Well, you may not like it now, but five years from now you’ll know it was a good thing for you.”

In the tree-climbing class, a tree trunk was set at a 30-degree angle so all the animals had a chance to succeed. The little rabbit tried so hard he hurt his leg.

In jumping class, the rabbit got along just fine; in flying class, he had a problem. So the teacher gave him a test and discovered he belonged in remedial flying.

In remedial flying class, the rabbit had to practice jumping off a cliff. They told him if he’d just work hard enough, he could succeed.

The next morning, he went on to swimming class. The instructor said, “Today we jump in the water.”

“Wait, wait. I talked to my parents about swimming. They didn’t learn to swim. We don’t like to get wet. I’d like to drop this course.” The instructor said, “You can’t drop it. The drop-and-add period is over. At this point you have a choice: Either you jump in or you flunk.”

The rabbit jumped in. He panicked! He went down once. He went down twice. Bubbles came up. The instructor saw he was drowning and pulled him out. The other animals had never seen anything quite as funny as this wet rabbit who looked more like a rat without a tail, and so they chirped, and jumped, and barked, and laughed at the rabbit. The rabbit was more humiliated than he had ever been in his life. He wanted desperately to get out of class that day. He was glad when it was over.

He thought that he would head home, that his parents would understand and help him. When he arrived, he said to his parents, “I don’t like school. I just want to be free.”

“If the rabbits are going to get ahead, you have to get a diploma” replied his parents.

The rabbit said, “I don’t want a diploma!”

The parents said, “You’re going to get a diploma whether you want one or not!”

They argued, and finally the parents made the rabbit go to bed. In the morning the rabbit headed off to school with a slow hop. Then he remembered that the principal had said that any time he had a problem to remember that the counselor’s door is always open.

When he arrived at school, he hopped up in the chair by the counselor and said, “I don’t like school.”

And the counselor said, “Mmmm, tell me about it.”

And the rabbit did.

The counselor said, “Rabbit, I hear you. I hear you saying you don’t like school because you don’t like swimming. I think I have diagnosed that correctly.”

“Rabbit, I tell you what we’ll do. You’re doing just fine in running. I don’t know why you need to work on running. What you need to work on is swimming. I’ll arrange it so you don’t have to go to running anymore, and you can have two periods of swimming.”

When the rabbit heard that, he just threw up!

As the rabbit hopped out of the counselor’s office, he looked up and saw his old friend, the Wise Old Owl who, after listening to little rabbit’s sad tale, cocked his head and said, “Rabbit, life doesn’t have to be that way. We could have schools and businesses where people are allowed to concentrate on what they do well.”

Rabbit was inspired. He thought when he graduated, he would start a business where the rabbits would do nothing but run, the squirrels could just climb trees, and the fish could just swim. As he disappeared into the meadow, he sighed softly to himself and said…

“Oh, what a great place that would be.”

A great place, indeed. Weigh in:

  • Was owl smoking something to plant those fool thoughts in rabbit’s head?
  • Why would, or wouldn’t, rabbit’s utopian business work?
  • How much of your work makes you feel like a rabbit running? And, how much of your work makes you feel like a rabbit in water?

The whole “Strengths” genre is fascinating. Plan on seeing much more about this soon.

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  1. […] Moral of the story…Let the Rabbits Run. […]

  2. […] A Little More Help…Who are the SME’s Best Suited to Provide Guidance for Each Topic? Hint: squirrels climb trees a whole lot better than rabbits. Let the Rabbits Run. https://craigalan.wordpress.com/2010/07/14/let-the-rabbits-run-redux/ […]


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