It was several years ago, now.
Rain was pelting down.
I was driving along, concentrating hard on the water washed road ahead.
Through the windshield, past the swishing windscreen wipers, I noticed a car on the side of the road.
The driver was sitting motionless, in the gutter!
What on earth was he doing there, sitting in the gutter by his car, in this torrential rain?
The scene didn’t appear right, of course. So I pulled over.
I grabbed my umbrella and started to walk towards him. But that old umbrella proved completely useless in the downpour.
When I got to his side, totally drenched.
I asked him sheepishly, “Are you OK?”
He looked up at me.
At first he didn’t say anything.
He didn’t look great at all.
And then it came. He told me his car had broken down, his mobile phone battery was dead, he was feeling anxious and stressed, and didn’t know what to do, just sitting there, feeling numb … a cascade of woe.
I decided to give this guy a hand. He really needed it. So I called the roadside service and then sat down beside him … in the gutter … in the soaking rain.
While we were waiting, the guy started to tell me about his life. He was a greyhound trainer.
He described how greyhounds chase fake white rabbits around and around the track.
The white rabbit’s speed was set mechanically to be just a fraction faster than the greyhounds could run, of course.
Poor old greyhounds, chasing the white rabbit in vain.
But not always!
Every now and then, my new friend told me, a power outage would come. The white rabbit would stop and the greyhounds would catch up to devour their plastic prey.
Very quickly the greyhounds would realize their “tasty morsel” was not so palatable.
No big deal, you might think. But in fact, something tragic happens for the proud racing greyhound trainers and owners.
You see, when this happens, the greyhounds have to be retired. They simply will never race after that white rabbit in the same way again.
They’ll never fully commit to the race at full speed again.
Just a couple of percentage points slower in this greyhound game makes all the difference. It’s the end of their career.
Now this story got me thinking.
We chase our own white rabbits, thinking that satisfaction or meaning will be found or eliminated once we catch our own “white rabbits”.
Many in our society never catch their white rabbit. They spend a lifetime chasing it, though. All the while, they’re committed to the idea that, if only they could just catch that rabbit, everything will be OK.
Ironically, a number of my clients are the ones who caught their own white rabbits.
They reach their success level. Everything material they wanted in life, they’ve achieved. But rather than satisfaction, they experience a crisis of meaning. Their values are challenged.
These people caught their white rabbit.
And once they catch it, they find it tastes like plastic.
They may even think that they need to chase green rabbits or blue rabbits. Maybe it’s yellow rabbits? They look out for new rabbits to chase, thinking it will all be OK.
But, often, once a rabbit has been caught, they discover they don’t really like chasing rabbits anymore.
It’s a poignant realization.
Do so to ensure that, whether or not you catch it, it won’t matter so much.
The chase is your life, not the catch.
Most of the time we’ll never know if our rabbit tastes of plastic until we actually catch it.
But dissatisfaction won’t come to those who enjoy the chase rather than the catch.
The catch will become just another amusing anecdote rather than a moment like getting lost in the wilderness.
Hold on, I haven’t quite finished our story with our distressed driver.
Eventually the road service did come. The greyhound trainer’s car was restored.
As he was about to drive off he turned to me to give his thanks. It was then he said, “Mate, I’ll give you a tip. Put everything on my dog in the next race on the weekend. Put your house on it.”
Now out of politeness, I thanked him for his tip. But I took his advice as nothing more than the optimism of a proud owner. I was sure he was seeing the future through rose colored glasses.
A couple of days later I looked up the odds for his dog. It was up around 600 to 1. It was actually the biggest outsider in all the races that day.
I have to admit, I felt sorry for the guy.
I could see his desperately disappointed face as his dog came in last.
A week later, I discovered his dog came in first.
“The one that got away!”