Fables and other moral stories made their way into our books and cartoons when we were kids, but somewhere along the way, we've often forgotten some of the important lessons they teach. Whether these fables are familiar or not, here are some of the best lessons that you can learn no matter what age you are.
The Ants And The Grasshopper: The Importance Of Thinking Ahead
The Story: A team of ants is working hard all summer to prepare for the harsh, cold winter. Meanwhile, a grasshopper spends the entire summer singing, goofing around, and wondering why the ants work so hard. When the winter comes, the grasshopper has nothing to eat and nearly starves to death (gruesome for a children's story, huh?). The ants save him and he understands why they worked so hard.
The Lesson: Just because you don't need something right now doesn't mean you should put it off. It's OK to take time to enjoy the fun things, but you may not always have the metaphorical ants to save if you. You don't want to wait until winter to buy a heater, wait until the day of the journey to buy a plane ticket, write that essay the day that it's due, or start saving money too late in life. Think ahead, stop procrastinating, and always be prepared for what's ahead.
The Dog And His Reflection: Be Content With What You Have
The Story: A dog is heading home after finding a big, juicy bone. On his way home, he happens upon a river and sees his reflection in the water. He thinks he sees another a dog with a bigger, better bone than the one he has so he barks at the "other" dog to try and get his bone too. When he barks, his bone falls out of his mouth and he has to go home with no bone at all.
The Lesson: We always want more than we have, but when you take inventory of your possessions, you might realise that the bone you have is enough. It doesn't mean that you shouldn't strive for bigger and better things, though. You should just be careful about always wanting more. Eventually you may find that your desire to have your cake and eat it too will lead you to actually having nothing at all.
The Crow And The Pitcher: Don't Give Up When Things Look Bad
The Story: A crow is flying around on an abnormally hot summer day looking for water. He comes across a pitcher of water, but when he tries to stick his beak in he can't reach the water. He tries and tries, slowly getting more dehydrated. He's about to give up and accept his fate when he has an idea: he drops small pebbles in the pitcher until the water level rises to the point where he can reach it.
The Lesson: Where there's a will, there's a way. Persistence is the key to solving any problem you have because eventually — even if the situation seems dire — you WILL find a solution. Your idea might not be as bad as you think it is, and is just in need of some iteration. Whatever it is that you want to do, just keep plugging away. As Wayne Gretzky once said: you miss 100% of the shots you don't take.
Belling The Cat: Execution Is More Important Than Ideas
The Story: A family of mice is living in fear of a cat that hunts them all day and night. Tired of fearing for their lives every second, they decide to try and think up a plan to help their situation. After some time, one of the younger mice comes up with a brilliant idea. The mouse suggests that they tie a bell around the cat's neck, so they can hear it approach and always be able to hide in time. All the mice agree, except one: the oldest, wisest mouse. The old mouse agrees that it's a good plan in theory, but asks "who will be the one to bell the cat?"
The Lesson: Ideas are essential to solving problems, but even more essential is knowing how to execute the idea. You know that to get into a locked house, you need a key, but without the key it's irrelevant. When you cook up your ideas, either for work or something else, always know how it can be executed before you present it. If you don't have a good way to execute your idea, it's OK to ask for advice, but never boast about your idea until it's truly ready for prime time.
The Young Crab And His Mother: Lead By Example
The Story: A young crab and his mother are spending the day on a beach's warm sand. The young crab begins to walk around, but can only walk sideways in either direction. The mother crab scolds him and tells him to point his toes in front of him and walk forwards. The young crab explains that he would love to walk forward, but he doesn't know how to do it. He asks his mother to show him. The mother crab gets up and tries to walk forward, but she too can only walk sideways. She sheepishly apologises and lays back down in the sand.
The Lesson: The concept of "do as I say, not as I do" rarely has the same effect as leading by example. When you're in a leadership position you may not always have the opportunity to lead by example, but you should do it as often as you can. Nobody likes it when you demand they do something you can't do. If you can't lead by example, and you need someone to do something that you can't do, ask by explaining their strengths and admiring their ability. Instead of saying, "I can't do this, you need to," you're saying, "I wish I could do this, but you're better at this than I am. Could you help me out?" Leadership skills can be beneficial in all aspects of life.
The Gnat And The Bull: You're Not As Important As You Think
The Story: A gnat is buzzing around a meadow and eventually decides to rest on the horns of a bull. After resting for some time, the gnat decided it was time to go. Before he left, he begged the bull's pardon for using his horn as a resting place. The gnat expresses that the bull must be very happy that he's finally leaving, and the bull replies: "It's all the same to me. I did not even know you were there."
The Lesson:We often overestimate our own importance. That's not to say you're insignificant, but the selfish things you say and do can make you look like a fool. The Gnat is trying to be polite, sure, but really he was just trying to make his presence known. As much as you might think you're the life of the party, you're probably not. Just be yourself and don't be a Gnat.
The Hart And The Hunter: Don't Underestimate Yourself
The Story: A deer was drinking from a river and began to admire his antlers. He then began to think about his hooves, and he wished his hooves were as big and majestic as his antlers were. To the deer's surprise, a hunter appeared and fired an arrow, barely missing him. The deer took off into the trees and realised that he was able to get away only because of his small, nimble hooves. He realised how truly great they were, but as he was looking at his hooves, his antlers got caught in some tree branches. The hunter caught up to the deer and just before the he met his fate, he lamented his love for his antlers and wished he should have realised how great his hooves were sooner.
The Lesson: We often have things about ourselves that we dislike. For example, I hated my voice for the longest time. I couldn't stand hearing recordings of myself. I thought my deepish voice was weird sounding and I thought other people did too. Later on, though, my voice became one of my greatest strengths. It earned me radio gigs, a lot of roles in plays and short films, and I eventually found a way to turn it into a voice of authority. What we think is our greatest weakness can often be our greatest strength, and having confidence in yourself is important. You just have to find the utility in it and realise that everyone feels the same way as you about something.
The Lion, The Donkey And The Fox Hunting: Learn From Others' Failures
The Story: A lion, donkey and fox were all hunting together. After they had acquired a great deal of food, the lion asked the donkey to divvy up the spoils. The donkey divided the food into three equal parts and asked the lion to choose what he wanted. The Lion then attacked and ate the donkey. After he finished eating, he asked the fox to divvy up the food. The fox gathered all of the food into one heap and only kept a little for himself. The lion said: "Ah, friend, who taught you to make so equitable a division?" The fox replied that he needed no other lesson than the donkey's fate.
The Lesson: Look at the mistakes others make and take note. Failure is OK, and it's an important part to reaching success that you shouldn't be afraid of, but there's nothing wrong avoiding the steps others took to failure. Also, give a lion all of your food if you're in that situation.
The Wind And The Sun: Kindness Is King
The Story: A dispute arose between the wind and the sun about who was the stronger of the two. They decided to settle the issue by seeing who could get a passing traveller to take off his cloak first. The wind blew with all his might, but the harder the wind blew, the tighter the traveller grasped his cloak and wrapped it around himself. Then the sun shined its soft, kind rays, and as the traveller felt more of the genial warmth, he finally removed his cloak. The sun was declared the winner.
The Lesson: The wind and the sun are metaphors for brute force versus persuasion and kindness. A kind and gentle manner will sooner lay open a poor man's heart than all the threats and force of blustering authority. If you need something from someone, you'll often be better off being calm, humble, and kind. People respond better to kind words over angry yelling.
These fables are more than children's stories. They are the original advice columns, self-help books, and life hacks. Some of these fables may teach different lessons to different people, but the morals they carry can help you go about your life in a better, more productive manner. That kid that loved story books and cartoons is still inside of you somewhere' let them teach you a thing or two.