A long time ago, there was a turtle who lived in a pond with two swans. The turtle was good of heart but loved to talk. She always had something to say and she liked to hear herself say it too.
After all three had lived in the pond happily for many years, there was a period of dryness in the land. That is, there was no rain for many weeks. At last the pond dried up completely.
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The two swans knew they would have to leave their home and fly to another pond with water in it. They said goodbye to their turtle friend but she begged them, “Don’t leave me here! I don’t have anything to eat and no water to live on. I will almost certainly die if I am left here.”
“But how?” said the swans. “How can we take you with us if you cannot fly?”
“Oh, find a way! Take me with you! Please take me with you!” pleaded the turtle.
The swans felt so sorry for their turtle friend that at last they came up with a plan. They said to the turtle, “We have thought of a way for you to come with us. We will each hold of one end of a long stick.
You will hold onto the middle of it with your beak and never let go until we land. If you open your mouth, you’ll just fall to the ground.”
The turtle promised not to say a thing. And so, as planned, they all flew away into the air carrying the turtle on the stick between them. As they sailed higher above the trees, the turtle wanted to say, “Wow look how high we are!” but she remembered the swans’ warning.
Soon they flew over a town, and some people looked up and shouted, “Look at those swans carrying a turtle! How silly!”
The turtle thought, “Why don’t they mind their own business?” but she remembered not to say anything.
Soon more people came to see the sight. They pointed, “How strange! A flying turtle! Look, everyone!”
The turtle was dying to speak. She wanted to tell all these nosy people to go away. Automatically, she opened her mouth to say, “Be quiet, you stupid people!” But when she did, she let go of the stick and fell to the ground. She landed on her back and her shell cracked into a thousand pieces.
Turtle lived to tell the tale but her shell has remained that way to this day. Her cracked shell reminds us of what can happen if we talk too much and also the merits of sometimes just holding our tongues in situations where we could easily fight back and speak up in retort.
Online, there are a few tips we can take from this story of the turtle.
Firstly – 1. We all know that the ability to be anonymous and across the world gives people a sense of safety in their negative comments. Trolls are born from the fact that they are safe behind their screens somewhere you can’t get them and so they can say whatever they please.
Say for example, we put up a video on YouTube and it has taken us weeks to do. Even worse, if we hate seeing ourselves on video and then we see many comments talking about how big a ‘loser’ we are on screen – it automatically makes us want to shout back, to call them out for the rude and mindless twerps they are.
We hate them for making us feel defensive and angry in our vulnerability. You must be careful that you do not get into an online attack war with any of your viewers or social media friends regardless of the situation.
Not on YouTube, not on Facebook. You must be bigger than them, maintain your dignity. Once your bad comments are out there, it can ruin your whole reputation for a few minutes of anger. Just be careful.
2. Here’s an expert tip that’s extremely obvious, but usually completely ignored by entrepreneurs everywhere that I agree with: “You should be able to explain your startup in one sentence. That’s it. No exceptions.”
Harrison Weber, the journalist said this and he was right. Too much talking, explaining and understanding of something can bore and tire already tired consumers. Keep it short, simple and effective.
3. Lastly, when you Tweet – don’t just come online to tweet about your business. Talking about yourself every day loses you respect. Take ten minutes to re-tweet and look at other’s people’s posts – interacting and commenting as if you are interested in the world around you and not just in what you are selling.
If the little turtle had have been less concerned about what people thought of her and more interested in the kind swans that were saving her life – she would be living in a nice new pond by now so take heed.