Not All the Turtles Make it to the Sea

Sea turtles hatching as a metaphor for business.
Photo from

Jack and I watched this movie called Tortuga, about an adorable sea turtle’s journey from birth through adulthood. The movie starts on a beach where adult female sea turtles have dug hundreds of nests in the sand, each containing up to two-hundred eggs. Thousands of eggs simultaneously hatch. The infant turtles instinctively dash for the water. They’re so cute. Wait. What’s that? A crab! No! A hawk! The horror!

Sadly, not all the turtles make it to the sea.

This part of the movie was too violent for Jack. It was scary and sad. Unfortunately, the real world is sometimes very scary and very sad too.

Corporate Darwinism feels a bit taboo in today’s world of employee nap rooms and on-site certified massage therapists. But here’s the truth. Competition, survival of the fittest, natural selection, evolution, etc., these concepts exist in nature AND in business. I wouldn’t be writing an honest management blog if I didn’t write about a manager’s responsibility to hold people accountable.

In our organization accountability means being responsible for actions and results. Within large groups of people there will always be some employees who either lack the talent or lack the will to deliver an acceptable result to the company. There are hawks in nature for a reason, and sometimes a manager has to be a hawk.

But just as every predator is also prey, every manager has a boss, which means managers need to think like those little turtles too. We are always in a competition. The are plenty of rival companies, coworkers, counterparts in other departments, and job seekers chasing the same opportunities and resources that we are running after. Maybe there’s enough to go around, but what about when there isn’t?

In Tortuga, only 5% of the sea turtles made it to the sea. A good leader should crush those odds. Effective hiring decisions limits the need for attrition. Encouragement, honesty, clear communication, training and development, empathy, and care can lead 90-99% of a team to achieve their individual and group goals.

I outlined my personal survivalism manifesto here.

It’s always sad when someone loses their job. But it’s inevitable. It’s part of nature. And being prepared for this fact is part of being a manager.


Bonus nature metaphor content: The fable of the lion and the gazelle.

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 whether you are a lion or a gazelle: when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.

You can read more about this fable and its origins at the Quote Investigator’s cool blog: