A rabbit and ox are neighbours. They’re mates, mostly. See, whilst Ox lumbers on the treadmill, Rabbit sprints to show off. You’ll never be as quick as me. I’m long-distance state champ, baby! Rabbit preens, and kisses his biceps. Well, the night before his birthday, the Jade Emperor gathers his twelve beastie buds. The zodiac order will be decided, he says, by whoever gets to my banquet first. Rabbit sets off at daybreak and meets no other animals en route. Feeling pretty confident, he stops for a nap. When he wakes up, three animals have made it to the party first — including old slowpoke Ox.
This is how (with some creative embellishments) the rabbit came fourth place in the zodiac calendar. A couple of Sundays ago, two billion people worldwide rang in The Year of the Rabbit. Growing up, for me, the Lunar New Year meant exchanging âng-pau, red envelopes stuffed with crisp £20 notes, and the odd visit to London’s Chinatown. Now living in Chiang Mai, I was delighted to dive deeper into the celebrations. It turns out that this year’s focus has a lot to do with Rabbit’s untimely nap.
“The Year of the Rabbit is a time for reflection, rest, and renewal,” says Jenelle Kim, doctor of Chinese medicine. Unlike 2022’s Year of the Tiger, full of aggressive, active energy, 2023 offers an opportunity for quiet self-reflection. “The Year of the Rabbit symbolises longevity, positivity, auspiciousness, wittiness, cautiousness, cleverness, deftness and self-protection,” describes cross-cultural expert, Dottie Li.
There’s a lot we can learn from Rabbit’s story. After all, nobody appreciates an effective rebrand quite like a marketer. Once characterised by his agility and arrogance, today Rabbit’s recognised as a symbol of clever thinking, contemplation and good fortune. What strategic changes did our furry friend make? How did he redefine his values? How can we embody these same traits to make 2023 our year too?
The subject at hand is speed
As a society, we’re obsessed with it; as an industry, speed is gospel. By nature, marketers are close to the capricious beast of culture — we hold the weather vane, ready to respond to whichever new direction the wind blows. Ad agencies and start-ups alike pride themselves on their fast-paced, reactive results. In 2012, Mark Zuckerberg credited Facebook’s success to their motto, “move fast and break things.” Over a decade later, the world is moving faster than ever and agility is not only essential to stay ahead, but survive. Just look at the pandemic. Innovation is crucial — but in the chaos of constant change, can we make in-depth, sustainable decisions if we don’t take time to pause?
Naval Ravikant is an entrepreneur, investor and CEO / co-founder of AngelList. Recently I stumbled across this clip where he reveals the power of doing nothing. As adults, we’re under perpetual siege of new experiences, thoughts and ideas that we don’t have time to fully process. Our “email inbox” of unresolved issues piles up and floods back in when we’re unoccupied. It’s overwhelming, so we seek constant stimulus as a distraction. Even whilst relaxing, we’re watching Netflix, scrolling through social media — we even use apps to meditate. “You just have to sit there and work through those emails one by one,” Naval says. “It’s self therapy. Instead of paying a therapist, you’re listening to yourself.”
Reflection isn’t something you can expedite
It requires repetition and persistence. It’s uncomfortable, especially in a world that equates inactivity to incompetence. Yet studies prove that meditation enhances the function of your brain. Regular meditation has been found to increase the cortical thickness in the hippocampus, in charge of memory and the ability to learn new things. It decreases the volume of the amygdala, responsible for fear and stress. Meditation can reduce anxiety, help combat addiction and preserve our ageing brains. Slowing down is a sort of superpower.
Insights take time. Pivoting is pointless if you don’t utilise data in your strategic decision-making. We’re enamoured by stories of overnight success, fascinated by the next shiny new thing, but innovations that endure demand structure. It’s just like Mark Zuckerberg said: move fast and things break. When you slow down and analyse the data, create thinking space with the right talent, you can deliver real, lasting purpose and meaningful experiences for consumers and clients alike.
I can only speculate on how Rabbit felt when he woke up. I imagine he was burnt out. Most likely his ego was bruised. I like to think that he sought advice from the steadfast Ox, a symbol of diligence, strength and stamina in the zodiac. His story shows us that speed won’t always get us where we need to be. In The Year of The Rabbit, what better time to slow down, self-reflect and find new ways to work smarter, not harder.
Featured Image: Mike Von / Unsplash