The hurrier I go, the behinder I get…
(The White Rabbit, Alice In Wonderland – Lewis Carroll)
Being an active entrepreneur for so many years, people have often asked me the classic question ‘what is the key to success?’ But the challenge in todays ‘hack everything’ world, is the hope for a one sentence answer. Why is it that so many entrepreneurs go to their grave trying to win the game of Life, only to realise too late it was their own rules that made it impossible?
However, when looking at the bigger picture it revealed a much deeper pattern that was running my life. A pattern so disruptive it virtually guarantees unhappiness. A pattern I call ‘The Curse of the White Rabbit’.
The analogy I use here centers on the metaphor of a dog track. Imagine an oval track with a series of ‘traps’ that form the start line. When the traps open, the dogs run around the track and the first one across the line wins, much to the delight of those who gambled their money on the fastest mutt. Now, an obvious question would be ‘why do the dogs run?’ What if the dog is much faster than the other dogs, will it now catch the rabbit? Nope. Ah, what if it has a better trainer? Nada. A better diet? Zippo. Sleeps in a better kennel? Not happening.
OK, let’s be un-doglike and pause for a second. So, even if we have the world’s number one greyhound (let’s call him Flash) that wins every race he enters, he’s still never going to catch the rabbit. Why? We already know it has nothing to do with not being good enough. In fact, he excels in every respect as a fine canine specimen but still, no matter what else he does, no matter what strategy he tries or training regime he follows, he is never going to be able to catch the rabbit. It is because the game itself is designed specifically so that he will never catch the rabbit. And the closer he gets the faster it goes.
So many of us are playing the game of life, business, relationships, you name it, still chasing an elusive rabbit we have never caught. The rabbit has many names. Happiness, success, fulfillment, feeling good enough, approval, acceptance and love are some of the most common. We spend our life chasing a white fluffy tail that seems just inches away, convinced that as soon as we catch it we’ll win the prize. As a result we spend our life on the track, getting exhausted and often disappointed and blaming ourselves for not being good enough to catch it. We learn new skills, get an MBA, set more aggressive goals, master time management, go to the gym, look for more resources and try to get better in various aspects of rabbitcatchology. In short, we focus exclusively on ways to run faster on the track. Sometimes we do catch the rabbit we thought we were chasing, such as a specific goal we had set. The new job, the new car, a new relationship or our first million. It doesn’t matter. Just when we thought we’d be happy with our ‘prize’, out of nowhere another white tail appears. And before we know it we are chasing the next one. We are not sure why. We thought we would be happy with our first million but clearly not. Of course, we now need two million in case we lose the first and then surely we’ll feel like we have arrived. Trust me, it’s never going to happen.
The reason for this perpetual chase is because we were never actually playing the game of get the million in the first place. We just thought we were. We were playing the game of when I get a million (catch the rabbit) then I’ll feel fulfilled or good enough. Then I’ll have proved to myself and the world I have what it takes. Then I will have arrived! The problem with playing that particular game is it’s unwinnable. IT’S BECAUSE THE GAME IS SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED SO YOU CAN NEVER CATCH THE RABBIT OF FULFILLMENT BY CHASING IT ON THE TRACK OF ACHIEVEMENT.
That doesn’t mean that you should not set goals, go for your MBA or look for a loving relationship. That’s like Flash saying to his other dog friends “You know, I’ve won three races this week but I’ve still not caught that damn rabbit. I’m going on strike until I figure this thing out and if I can’t then I quit.” No, the reason Flash still runs is because greyhounds love to run. That is what greyhounds do. Entrepreneurs love to set up businesses, that is what entrepreneurs do. But if we are doing it with the mindset of having to catch the rabbit in order to feel fulfilled or that we are going to arrive at a destination we think will make us happier than we are now, then we will always be stuck on the track chasing a fluffy tail that seems forever just out of reach no matter how fast we run. They key point here is that greyhounds do not get their fulfillment from catching the rabbit. All of the dogs in the race are super happy at the end of it because greyhounds love to run. It is what they were created for. Who cares about the rabbit? That just makes it fun, gives a purpose, a goal and something to chase and is a good enough excuse for them (not that they need it) to be who they are at their best.
In modern society we have been so hypnotized to chase fulfillment through achievement, we never stop to realize it’s not working and we’ve been sold a dummy. We just keep blaming ourselves for not running fast enough and in doing so miss a fundamental realization. A truth so powerful and so obvious that it has the capacity to break the curse and shift the entire game if we can take our attention away from the rabbit long enough to feel it.
By contrast, people who break the curse make a critical shift in thinking. They recognize the fact they already won the biggest prize in history. Out of 400 million sperm and against all the odds, THEY came first. They were born wearing a gold medal and have nothing more to prove. They are not focused on trying to earn love but instead radiate it as an expression of who they are. Grateful for the opportunity to be living in a time in human history that thousands of generations before us could only have dreamed about. They realize the real difference between riches and poverty is not numbers on a bank statement. After all, $1m can make one person feel wealthy and another nearly bankrupt. They understand that feeling wealthy is therefore nothing more than the perception of abundance triggered by gratitude. Whereas poverty is simply the perception of scarcity triggered by fear & loss. They are comfortable with the fact that no matter what they have done or what they haven’t done, they are worthy of love. They don’t and never did need to earn it. And most importantly, through all of that awareness, they finally come to the unavoidable truth mentioned earlier which has been waiting for us all along. A message of freedom that states:
I ALREADY AM THAT WHICH I SEEK.
From this awareness there is no need to chase anything in order to prove yourself. All of the energy spent in desperation trying to catch the uncatchable can now be spent on the joy of running which, paradoxically, usually means more tails get pinned to the wall. Not that you need them. And it is from this place the curse is lifted and you are free to play the game on your terms.
In summary, don’t be one of the masses running at 90 miles an hour to nowhere. I played that game for way too long before it nearly killed me. Others aren’t so lucky. They spend their lives so busy and focused on the end destination of bagging the bunny, they miss the entire purpose, which, as many wise people have said, it’s about loving the journey.