On “keeping up” – and why Tortoises go faster

On “keeping up” – and why Tortoises go faster

I filmed this video while attending an event in Toronto in Canada a while ago – and since then it’s become one of my most popular videos ever.  I’ve shared it over and again with my membership and my clients.

I created it as a reminder to you (and to me too!) that there is no such thing as trying to “keep up” when it comes to your business – in fact, that sort of thinking can actually slow you down!

It is actually totally ok for you to be more of a tortoise than a hare – the truth is, being more of a tortoise just might get you there faster!

Watch the video or scroll down to read the blog instead.

On being a Tortoise

When my own mentor talked about how people often give up too soon in business because they feel they are not going “fast enough” or not “keeping up” it reminded me of something that happened to me a few years ago, well before my current business existed.

At that point, I was taking a course in online marketing and setting up a website to help people with anxiety.   The teacher wanted us to see it as a long-term thing and not some kind of “get rich quick” scheme.   He told us that if we wanted to build a genuinely successful business online, then it was going to take time and that we would actually get there more quickly by going at a slow and steady pace – by taking small actions every single day. He encouraged us to think of ourselves as tortoises – slow and methodical but knowing that we would get there in the end.

I was so impatient in those days – I was very hard on myself and was just desperate to be further ahead than I was.   But I could see he was making an important point.  So, to remind myself, I bought myself a little soft toy of a tortoise which I kept on my desk, and all my passwords at the time had some variation of the word tortoise in them just to remind me that it was ok to take my time!

A more recent reminder

One of the things that has prompted me to talk about this today is that at the time of recording the video I had recently opened enrolment for the Business from the Heart membership.   What was really interesting to me was that by the end of the first week we’d already had a handful of emails in from people saying things like, “I’m worried about being in this membership because I feel like I’m not keeping up” or “I feel I’m falling behind already”.  This after only a week.

Now, this was particularly fascinating to me because it’s a membership – it’s not a course with modules you have to work through at the same pace as everyone else.   It’s built and designed to be a “go at your own pace” type of a model, to meet people wherever they’re at.

And of course this is something that happens to so many of us: We are so naturally inclined to compare ourselves unfavourably to other people or to some idealistic vision of ourselves and where we think we should be and find ourselves lacking.

When actually the reality is that there is nothing to keep up with we just need to keep moving forward.

Embrace your inner tortoise

I would love to encourage you to embrace your inner tortoise. Particularly if you have life circumstances that mean you can’t go at your business all guns blazing. And so many of us can’t – you might be a mum of young children, you might have health challenges (which has always been my journey), the car might break down, a pet gets sick, or any of the other things that life throws at you.

Life is like this, there is no such thing as a smooth run.  Yet it can be easy to beat yourself up because you’re not where you think you should be by the time you think you should be there.

Being more of a Tortoise

What are you comparing yourself to?

I want to encourage you not to compare yourself to other people who are possibly many years ahead of you in business, and perhaps have completely different life circumstances to you or to some ideal vision you might have built up in your mind about where you think you should be right now. Because life and business don’t really follow a lovely smooth trajectory for any of us.

When you’ve bought a course and you haven’t “kept up” with the modules week by week it’s easy to think “Well I’m not keeping up so I’m just going to give up”. I’ve found this happens with my online course and sometimes I meet people who tell me: “I couldn’t keep up, so I just stopped”.

Imagine that!   Deciding not to learn a valuable skill that could transform your business, all because you might take a month or two longer to learn it than someone else.

What I’d love you to do instead is to compare yourself to yourself! 

To look instead at where you were a month ago or a year ago. Because if you just keep moving forward at your own pace, you’ll definitely make progress towards the business that you are dreaming of.  Who cares if it takes you a little bit longer?

The important thing is that you get there!

My mentor was talking about this because he sees the same pattern with his students and he shared a really useful exercise:

Get a big sheet of paper and draw three columns.

  1. In the furthest right-hand column, write a list of where you want to ideally be – where is it you’re heading? How do you want your business to look? What sort of business model will you be following? How many clients will you have? What sort of revenue will you have?
  2. In the middle column, write down where you are right now, listing against the same criteria that you put in the right-hand column.
  3. Finally, in the left-hand column, write down where you were a year ago. Now sit back and notice how far you’ve actually come!

This allows you to acknowledge and celebrate your own progress. So often we don’t pause to celebrate where we’ve got to because we’re too busy beating ourselves up because we’re not where we think we should be yet. But where we think we should be is really just some story we’ve made up.

So I really want to encourage you to allow yourself to go at your own pace.  Instead of focusing on “where you are not yet” focus on making progress.  You will be surprised at how, even if you take the smallest steps and actions consistently every day, every week, every month, you’re going to look back a year from now and think “Wow! Just look at how far I’ve come.”

And this doesn’t have to be big action, it doesn’t have to be a huge complex activity that’s going to take a huge amount of time and energy, it can just be these small consistent steps week in, week out that can build on each other.

You’re not alone

And it’s not just you that falls behind with things, I want to share an example that I hope will encourage and inspire you…

I’d been interested in starting a membership for a while but felt I didn’t know enough about it so decided to join a course to learn how.  But at the time I bought it, I was moving house, going through a website redesign and rebrand that required a huge amount of time and focus, and I had a lot of clients going through a group mentoring programme. It was a busy time and I wasn’t able to engage in this course in the way that I would have liked.   It had a Facebook group and weekly modules and Q&As. Other people were taking action and launching memberships and I wasn’t doing anything at all.

But I understood that I didn’t have to do everything right now. So I just did what I could when I could.   Most of it well after the course had officially “finished”.  And at the end of November – 6 months after the course had ended – I launched my first membership to the founding members.

If instead of allowing myself to go at my own pace, I’d got halfway through that course and then said “Oh I can’t keep up with this course, everybody else is miles ahead of me so I’m just going to give up,” imagine what would have happened… I wouldn’t have the 300 plus members that I have today.

As I already mentioned, I was at a live event for people who want to build or launch membership sites when I recorded the video, and there were people there who’d got memberships of literally thousands of members. But instead of comparing myself with those who have bigger memberships than me and finding myself lacking, I’m choosing to celebrate myself and the fact that I did launch. I launched it more slowly, I’ve got over 300 members now, but when I look at myself a few years back, I didn’t have any members at all. So comparing myself to me, I’ve got a lot to celebrate!

I’m celebrating the fact that I got started and I will use that to fuel me and give me momentum going forward, rather than feel like I’m lacking and falling behind.

Because the truth is that there is no such thing as falling behind, there is no such thing as keeping up. There’s just you and your individual journey and the business you want to create.

So my important message for you is to just focus on moving forward at your own pace, whatever that pace is, because that’s the only way you’re ever going to get there.

If that means you’re more a tortoise than a hare, you might just get there faster and go further than the hare ever does!

What about you? Does what I’ve said here resonate?  Have you been slowing yourself up because you’ve got frustrated that you’re not moving faster?  Do share your thoughts in the comments below – I always love to hear from you.

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Please leave a comment as I would love to hear your thoughts


  1. Andrew Cheffings on June 14, 2022 at 10:24 am

    I always enjoy reading these blog posts. They give me a little boost! Today’s was particularly good. I really enjoyed the little exercise, and you’re right – I did discover that I had made some significant progress! This is particularly important to me because I have no business revenue now, I had none a year ago – but – I have so much more in place now and I am actually engaged in some practice now (whereas before I wasn’t at all) even if it is not yet paid, and I’m now able to have a good conversation with strangers about what I am doing without feeling the need to apologise or make justifications.

  2. Lucy Davis on June 4, 2020 at 9:50 am

    Catherine, I watched your video because it popped up for me just as I was having a conversation with myself about how behind I was on a course I am doing and trying to think of what i would say to explain why. Just like being back at school and you haven’t done your homework on time! So I stopped for a few minutes to listen to you and its reminded me that I am doing this for me and at my pace around all the other things I have going on, and that’s ok! I’ve never been a runner, quite happy to be a tortoise!! Thank you.

  3. Linda Anderson on June 29, 2018 at 10:54 am

    Such a wonderful post, Catherine, thank you!

    Being compulsively in ‘hare’ mode has landed me in all kinds of trouble in the past and often resulted in long delays. I’m slowly (haha) learning the lesson though and enjoying embracing my Inner Tortoise!

    Also, as Kathy says, being in a hurry all the time takes its toll on the body.

    Not only that, it cuts us off from this moment here now, which is where the magic of life happens ? Tortoises unite!

    • Catherine on July 27, 2018 at 7:27 pm

      Ha! Linda, so funny that you’ve been tortoise-like in your journey to learn to be a tortoise! I’m glad you are getting there (slowly… 🙂

  4. Anne Thomas on June 28, 2018 at 6:22 am

    Thank you for this! So encouraging! I signed up for an online course in February and simply haven’t started it yet! Just haven’t found time. I will, but not just yet! But thank you x

  5. Bev Hanna on June 27, 2018 at 5:03 pm

    Thanks, Catherine:
    I’ve had a terrible couple of years, but just last week, I finally got all the tech sorted out for my first email list, landing page and lead magnet. I’ve even completed a detailed overview of my first training course, and I’ll start writing scripts this week.

    I have two subscribers! WooHOO! I know this seems like peanuts for someone who has loads of time and ambition, but for me, it’s a huge win. It took me months to get to this point, (and more years just thinking about doing it), but I’ve overcome the first large hurdle. I know it will take time before the next big win, but my inner tortoise is in charge now – she’s off and running (well, more like shuffling, but she’s on the move – you go, girl!)

  6. Sian Milne on June 27, 2018 at 12:47 pm

    Thank you Catherine! This really resonated with me and was such good timing as I am experiencing all these feelings that you describe right now. The exercise was a great exercise also.

    • Cherie Bennett on June 27, 2018 at 5:22 pm

      Wow Catherine,
      what can I say apart from I’m feeling overwhelming relief right now thanks to your blogg.
      I totally resonate with that hare!
      I always beat myself up for not keeping up & being in that place that other people are & where I think I ought to be.
      But looking back at the reality & the major
      health setbacks & life happenings that I’ve encountered scince I first started my business & how far I have actually come now, I’ve decided it’s definitely ok to be a tortoise.
      I realise I have kept going & not given up despite the odd being stacked against me, but I also realise I now need to be less hard on myself & start celebrating my achievements. I was starting to get myself in panic mode again as I’m nearing the end of my notice to a 30 year career in the dental profession. Something I’ve been trying to give up for a long time to find my real value in making a difference to others & sense of purpose & self fulfilment, & here I am.
      But instead of excitement & celebration I’ve been battling with those annoying mind gremlins that are telling me I haven’t got my business established enough yet, what if I don’t earn enough to break even & cover my bills etc. So I was definitely getting into hare mode very quickly.
      Thankfully you were inspired to do this blogg & I’ve resonated with it completely.
      It couldn’t have come along for me at a better time. Just want to end by saying a heartfelt thank you from a very grateful tortoise! ??xxx

  7. Lorraine Biggs on June 27, 2018 at 11:45 am

    I totally resonate with this blog, Catherine. I started my business in April 2016 and have been a total tortoise; however, I haven’t beaten myself up (too much) because I knew that my mindset and feeling resourceful and resilient were key to my success. So, I’ve put myself in challenging situations that have brought up all of my insecurities around being visible (i.e., Catherine’s Mentoring Group) and then I’ve been self-healing along the way. Knowing that I’m going to be stronger in the long run once I have all of my “gremlins” validated and unmet needs healed. And today, July 2018, I now have worked with 18 clients. I signed up 3 in one week, last week which is a huge milestone! I did this by just by putting one small step in front of the other over the days, weeks, months. And, in fact, I did step back from the business (just kept working with the current clients) because I was going through such a tough time. It feels like a very slow methodical process and I know I have lots more work to do to put everything into place (including sorting out my website) but it’s happening slowly but surely. So, I am able to share my passion by facilitating lovely women to reach their goals and live their life to its fullest potential. ? Thank you Catherine for providing the supportive, encouraging, safe space to work at my own pace which has contributed to making my dreams come true on MY journey (no one else’s).

  8. Kate Wolf on June 27, 2018 at 11:12 am

    I love this Catherine – thankyou! Sometimes my tortoise and my hare have internal fights, but I did that exercise and it’s very encouraging! I think I’ll let my tortoise win more often 🙂

  9. Kathy Ponter on June 27, 2018 at 10:53 am

    I really enjoyed the tortoise advice being given here. Although I advocate this completely with clients, I can still get ‘agitated’ by the seemingly busy productive people I meet and a little voice inside me says ‘you should be doing more’. I think we all need to be reminded, less is more, less haste, more speed.
    Thank you Catherine for the reminder and permission that going at your own pace is the best way.
    I did a talk recently about wellbeing and spoke about rushing and being in a hurry. This is an exert of it:

    “One of the questions on your sheets is what percentage of time do you spend being in a hurry, ticking things off a list, rushing around being wonder woman. Is there a problem to being in a hurry? When we are rushing, we use excessive tension and force to do things, if we are always in a hurry we start to use too much tension and force habitually. This can be exhausting. Being in a hurry is all about the end result, tick, done. But is life really like that? Is that living? I think ticking things off a list is a modern myth because life is a process, a journey, an experience and if we just want to get it done, tick…….where’s the possibility for joy, creativity or reflection in that? Also being in a hurry requires our nervous system to be on high alert, that nervous energy that keeps us going, keeps us running along in spite of our underlying exhaustion. Are we addicted to the sense of importance that being in a rush gives us? Or maybe the stress hormones that keep us going? But what is that doing to us?
    Why when we have every time saving mod con do we feel we have far less time? Are we choosing to organise our lives like this or is it being imposed? If like me you are one of those people who feels they are rushing around getting very little done, this is something to consider. When I catch myself going into ‘hurry’ mode I remind myself less haste more speed, more tortoise and less hare.

    My advice is say no to hurrying…… to rushing. Plan time around every part of your day, leave 10 mins earlier, allow time for lunch, even if it’s just 10mins with a cup of tea and a biscuit, enjoy it. Chat to people. Make that part of your day, not an interruption to your busy schedule of getting things done.
    Developing self awareness, taking responsibility for our wellbeing, putting it at the centre of our lives, it’s a brave move”

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