3 Life Lessons from 3 Dead Frogs

Don’t worry.  As near as I know, Kermit is fine.  While “It’s Not Easy Being Green” from time to time, there are several frogs that have had it a great deal worse than that musical Muppet.  Today, I am using three examples of tragic frog fates to help us learn how to survive as humans.

In the 1996 novel, The Story of B, environmentalist author Daniel Quinn retells an old fable.

“If you drop a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will of course frantically try to clamber out. But if you place it gently in a pot of tepid water and turn the heat on low, it will float there quite placidly. As the water gradually heats up, the frog will sink into a tranquil stupor, exactly like one of us in a hot bath, and before long, with a smile on its face, it will unresistingly allow itself to be boiled to death.”

Lesson #1.  When things aren’t going your way, it is better to take decisive action sooner rather than later.  Hope is not a plan.

I see this lesson played out in real life over and over again.  People defend everything from bad investments to bad relationships.  They feel somehow tied to a decision they made in the past. This is the one that ended up getting them into trouble in the first place.  To their detriment, they resign themselves to a negative outcome, rather than reevaluate their original decision with the benefit of hindsight.  When I see such a person finally take action, they almost always wish that they had done so sooner.  For more on this concept, I encourage you to revisit “What to Do When You Deserve Better” and “Two People to Forgive & One Trick to Moving On.”  

The second lesson that I will share comes from another timeless fable (of some disputed origin).  I came across it in the script of a recent movie:

“Two frogs fell into a churn of milk.  Both the frogs tried for some time to escape but in vain. One of the frogs lost hope and said, “I can’t swim anymore" and he drowned to the bottom. The other did not lose hope.  He kept on swimming. He kicked, jumped, and flailed until his movements churned the milk into butter. The frog climbed onto the butter and hopped out of the churn.”

Lesson # 2.  Once you start working on a goal, stay active until you’ve achieved it.

Much like the first lesson, this one is about improving your situation.  Rarely is a solution as simple as deciding to exit the liquid and just jumping out.   When jumping once doesn’t work, perhaps something else will.  While some analysis may be helpful, it is unlikely that one will purely ponder their way out of trouble.  Take action and be prepared to keep taking action.

The last lesson of the day is not from a classic fable, but rather from the 1981 arcade game Frogger (some would call it a classic).  Many journalists and magazines list Frogger among the greatest video games of all time.  The objective of the game was simply to direct a frog to its home by crossing a busy road.  Keep in mind that simple things aren’t always easy.  This road involved five lanes of traffic moving in different directions at varying speeds!  Once you took your first step onto the pavement, standing still for more than a few seconds was guaranteed to end in a flattened cartoon frog.  Everyone who has ever played the game has experienced a moment of panic where you can’t decide whether to move left or right or forward or back.  You try to move rapidly in multiple directions and then…splat!

Lesson #3.  Hesitation and indecision can result in pain.

There is relative safety on either side of the road, but danger and potential disaster for a frog between the white lines.  Reaching a goal is largely about commitment.  Losing momentum or vacillating between your own thoughts on what to do next can get you hurt.

In conclusion, it turns out that we have a great deal to learn from the tragic outcomes of fictional frogs*.  Like playing Frogger, following these lessons may be simple, but not necessarily easy.  Nevertheless, achievement of goals does seem to involve the same key components as surviving as a frog.  Make a decision to reach a goal, take action in the direction of your objective, and be relentless in your efforts along the path.

Related: A Guaranteed Way to Have Everything You Want

*No actual frogs were harmed in the making of this essay.