This is a quote repeated hundred times, attributed to hundred people, reproduced in hundred posters and that you can find in multiple of hundreds Google search. Yet, a great quote!
Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or a gazelle-when the sun comes up, you’d better be running
It’s a good story, a good metaphor, a good parable.
Unless you know about lions and Africa.
This is a in-passing comment from one of the multiple sites where the ubiquitous quote dwells digitally.
I’m no expert, but I am from Africa and it’s a known fact that lions hunt mostly between dusk and dawn. If this was in fact a quote by an African, he was not well informed or connected with his heritage.
Here in Britain we have started the frenzy of the upcoming General Election. Rhetoric trumps facts. Spin outplays reality. It’s a game of cleverness over substance, of cooked messages over spontaneity. It’s a wonderful world. In this world, many people will declare themselves lions experts even if they have never seen a lion, hunters connoisseurs even if they have never gone hunting, gazelle authorities even if they can’t distinguish a gazelle from a rhino. Until somebody shouts: excuse me, do lions not hunt at dusk?
In our organizational world we have similar Expert Pontifications on management by management consultants who have never managed any company, by leadership experts who have never led an organization, by advisers whose sole merit is the title in the business card, by entrepreneurs coaches whose only entrepreneur track record is on getting aspiring entrepreneurs into a seminar.
Excuse me, do lions not hunt at dusk?
Hmmm… If the point of a story is delivery of the facts contained within, then it’s nice if the facts are correct. Using examples from your own experience and your own expert knowledge helps to ensure that.
But if the point of the story is some other kind of lesson, then often it doesn’t matter if the story is factually true or if the details are right. The story you quote has a message that perhaps is worth thinking about (not my favorite, but anyway…) even if the local experts know that lions hunt at night or that they despise gazelle meat. Or think of Aesop’s fables — good stories with a message, but full of things that are obviously not true: animals building houses, running races, doing complex planning, talking to one another, and so on. These are still valuable stories, even though factually absurd. And then there are all the stories and parables from religion. They have provided valuable guidance to most of the human race over centuries, whether or not they are factually true.
Thinking is mostly metaphorical. The wrong metaphor can get you into a lot of trouble, so you have to think about what stories you want to learn from.
When a story is obviously metaphorical, there’s no need to say so. In other cases, I have often said “I don’t think this story is true, but that doesn’t matter. Think about it anyway.”