A Zen Master and his student were walking through the woods one day when they came upon a scene of a fox chasing a rabbit.
The Master turns to his student and asks, “which one will win this chase?”
The student artfully analyzes the situation. He argues that size, speed, and cunning is with the fox. Given its great predatory skills, the fox will eventually win this chase.
The Master smiles, “Your analysis is well developed and is quite true on paper. There is one error in your thinking. You see, the fox is merely running for his dinner, but the rabbit is running for his life. The will to survive will win this chase.”
I’ve always used this fable to teach my players the difference between casual interest and soulful commitment. Players who only play for dinner lack the passion, the commitment, the resilience and grit to see the chase to the very end. But players who are “running for their lives” want it as much as they want to breathe. They are willing to put all they have on the line for what matters most to them.
I’ve been reflecting lately, though, and even that explanation is not enough. Some of our society’s greatest leaders and success stories talk about “hunger”. They encourage us to find that hunger, to stay hungry, that you really don’t want something until you are hungry.
I’ve heard and read great motivational stories of people who succeeded because they were hungry enough to fight for it. If the fox was running for dinner, and he was hungry enough, then he should win the chase, right?
We know this is the case, because of the predatory ecosystem of nature. Predators do win chases, because if they did not, they would cease to exist. We are not yet overrun with rabbits. There are still foxes hunting them.
But…we are not witnessing the extinction of rabbits, either. So hunger may be the magic driver of success for many foxes, but why are some rabbits winning?
We have a real conundrum here. After further reflection on this fable, what should I say to my players?
I am choosing to teach them about The Hunger and The Hope. I am going to encourage them to attack the game, learning, and life with the deep and willful hunger of the fox, but to also draw upon the powerful and unfettered hope of the rabbit.
The real winners of our chase are those who can channel both The Hunger and The Hope.
When you feel that Hunger well up deep inside you it transforms your run into an all out sprint to thrive. You don’t merely want a meal, you want to feast on the spoils of a chase well run. It is not about eating, it is about thriving!
When you are driven by that Hope building within your soul it evolves you from a victim on the run to a master of fate who will survive. Hope is one of those eternal emotions that compels people forward. It has been called upon throughout our history as the driving force behind some of the greatest survival stories of all time.
People with Hope “find a way”. The refuse to be the victim. They do not accept defeat. They overcome the fear, the adversity, and the odds to survive.
If you want athletes who will succeed in and beyond the game, you need to teach them to be both the fox and the rabbit in the fable.
They should have a deep hunger based on passion, joy, desire, and excellence. The fox who wins the chase is not running for dinner, he is chasing his destiny.
They should also have an immense feeling of hope that comes from belief, confidence, faith, and trust. The rabbit who wins the chase is a survivor, running to his destiny.
Stay Hungry, Be Hopeful. Channel both animals to win the chase.