Every morning in Africa a gazelle wakes up.  It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion, or it will be killed. 

Every morning, a lion wakes up.  It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. 

It doesn’t matter if you are a lion or a gazelle … When the sun comes up, you’d better be running.

— African proverb; recently popularized by Thomas Friedman in The World is Flat.

Apologies for the pretty grim imagery, and the stress of the moment.  Especially for you high-empathy readers out there.  But there’s a lesson here that bears noting.

We need to be continuously improving.

Sometimes, just to survive.

You think this is overly dramatic?

Globalization has pitted companies across oceans as direct competitors.

Megastores have threatened the local mom-and-pops storefronts.

A crowded job market provides fierce competition for those looking to land a job.  It also provides a plentiful supply of talent to companies wanting to upgrade …

We are all feeling the stress.  The hunted, and the hunters.

And even the observers; in such a fast, competitive, on edge world, can children sense the stress of mom and dad after a day of running at work?  Do you think grandparents worry about their children, and their grandchildren?

While not everyone is running the race, everyone is affected by it.

I think there is only one thing to be done about it.

I know we often bemoan the pace, the always-on always-connected present state of affairs … and I know we often wish for a return to a slower time.  If only we could go to sleep and wake up to yesterday’s pace.

The reality — one that we need to come to terms with — is that we need to wake up and work on our ability to run without the stress.

Learning is now a survivor skill like never before.

I need to learn how to get proficient and comfortable with mobile technologies.  She needs to learn how to be more influential with her public speaking.  He needs to learn how to be more collaborative.  They need to learn how to embrace change.

And on and on.

For it’s a jungle out there.  Whether you are running to get, or running to get away … make no mistake that you need to get better.

For you very well may be running for your livelihood.

(And you may not want to wait until the sun comes up.  The early bird gets the worm!)