Once upon a time, there was a turtle. He was a happy turtle who lived in the woods moving about as turtles do… slowly. He did, however, marvel at the other animals such as rabbits, squirrels, and deer that moved past him at such a remarkable pace. He wondered what it might be like to be them, seeing so much of the world so quickly. When he would see one of these animals pass by him, he would stretch out his long neck to see over the logs and undergrowth in the forest floor and watch them bound through the woods and wonder, “what must that feel like?”
He noticed that most of the animals went back and forth on this one path, so he decided he would follow that path in one direction every day and see where it would lead him. The forest had plenty of food and water, and, of course, he carried his house with him! So that is what the little turtle did, day after day he travelled down the path, craning his head as the various other animals passed him by.
Then, one day, a remarkable thing happened. As the turtle plodded down the path, he heard some unfamiliar sounds. It was similar to sounds animals made when talking to each other, but it was more musical than anything he had ever heard, except maybe bird songs. Then he saw two strange animals walking down the path toward him, and they were walking on two legs. One had very long hair the color of a fawn in spring, and the other had much shorter hair more like the color of the hair around a racoon’s eyes. He stopped and craned his neck to see them better, when, suddenly they both started running toward him. He was frightened as they got close and the one with the short hair actually reached out one of the two legs it was not using to walk or run. The turtle instinctively retreated within his shell, when all of a sudden he had a sensation unlike anything he had ever imagined. Actually, it was like something he had imagined when he saw birds flying from tree to tree in the forest. A weightless freedom and a sense that he was travelling at a tremendous rate. As scared as he was, he could not help but open his shell, just enough to peak out.
What he saw was a blur. The creatures that he saw coming at him on the path, now somehow had him. He did not understand it completely, but he was travelling down the path the way he had walked all these many days, but at the speed of a rabbit. Things were somewhat jumbled as the creature with the short hair somehow carried him suspended so far above the forest floor, it was dizzying to look down. So he shifted his vision to the side, and the world was rushing by him in as fast as a deer. “So this is what it feels like to travel like a deer”, he thought. Feeling exhilarated beyond all imaginings, he stuck out his head a little farther. The sensation of the wind rushing around him was like a terrible storm, but without lightning, thunder or rain!
He turned his head back toward the direction the path was leading, and just as he did so, there was an overwhelming, blinding amount of light. It dazed the little turtle for several seconds until the pain in his head from the light dissapated, allowing him to open his eyes for a second, then two, then three, and finally being able to take in the world around him. There was no longer a path, or any brown dirt. The ground was green like moss but it moved like waves on the water, blown by the wind. There were no trees in sight, and looking up he saw beautiful blue sky, and fluffy white clouds like he had caught glimpses of as he would cross glades, now and again, but now the sky stretched on forever!
The next thing he knew the creature that had him, and the other one, stopped abruptly. As he pulled his eyes down from the clouds, he saw there were two more creatures similar to the ones that brought him here, but even bigger! One of them had short hair, and the other had long hair, but the colors were reversed from the previous two creatures. The large, short-haired creature was standing by a row of what looked like small trees without limbs on them. It came toward him, again on two legs, and moved one of those limbs not utilized for standing in the turtle’s direction and, suddenly, he was with the larger creature. Before he could react the creature placed him atop one of the small trees, and the four creatures moved a short distance away, and sat on what looked like a perfect square of colorful autumn leaves in the middle of the waving sea of green, but it was not autumn and the only trees around were row of small limbless ones like the one he was atop.
“So this is what it feels like to be on a tree top like the squirrels and birds,” the little turtle thought to himself. As he craned his neck in all directions to marvel at the things that he had never even thought to imagine, he had no idea what was in store for him from this point forward. He was not, however, any longer fearful. He knew that this day had been so good, and so far beyond anything he had ever dreamed possible, and he was ready for the next adventure!
As a leader I can absolutely relate to the turtle on the fence post. As Dave Ramsey relayed on one of his “EntreLeadership” podcasts recently, when you see a turtle on a fence post, you know one thing for sure. He did not get there himself! When we accomplish things as leaders it is easy to sit on the fence post, bask in the sun and stand in awe of the journey that brought us to the remarkable place we find ourselves. If, however, we ever forget about the ones who brought us there, we may just find ourselves alone, watching the sunset, filling the chill of night descending, with nowhere to go but down, and the landing may not be easy!
So tell me! Will you admit… you too are a turtle on a fence post?