Risk vs Reward: a Lesson from The Tale of Peter Rabbit

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How do you decide when to accept advice or follow instructions given? Do you weigh them to evaluate the risk? If the risk is greater than the reward, what do you do then? If not following the advice leads to personal danger, does it make sense to take the risk? The Tale of Peter Rabbitby Beatrix Potter offers some clarity on the issue.

Cover of the first edition, The Tale of Peter ...
Cover of the first edition, The Tale of Peter Rabbit (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mrs Rabbit is a widow with four kids – Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail and Peter. All the little rabbits are obedient except for Peter Rabbit who is a rebel. Peter has a mind of his own and doesn’t always listen to his mother. He is the kind of guy who loves to push the limits. Before his mother goes shopping, she gives them explicit instructions, “You may go into the field, or down the lane, but don’t go into Mr McGregor’s garden.”

Mother Rabbit feels it’s very important to instruct her young ones since she lost her husband when he ventured in McGregor’s garden and Mrs McGregor puts him in a pie by. Did Peter heed her warning? No! What would be the fun in doing that?

In life, the bigger the risks, the greater the rewards and Peter thinks he understands the concept. McGregor has really delicious vegetables in his garden – lettuce, French beans, cabbage, cucumber, parsley and radishes…. Peter feasts on lettuce and French beans until his stomach is upset, then he decides to look for some parsley hoping that it will settle his stomach. While searching for the parsley the young rabbit encounters McGregor who starts shouting and waving his rake.

Peter becomes disoriented and cannot figure out which direction he came from and is running around all over the place losing his jacket and shoes in the process.  He is very scared, after all he is only a kid, and starts to sob. Some sparrows hear, and encourage him to get going, just in the nick of time. McGregor almost catches him with a sieve. He dashes into the tool shed and jumps into a can, which unfortunately contains water. Peter is cold and starts to sneeze. McGregor hears him and the chase is on again.

After much wandering around, Peter eventually finds the gate where he escapes to the rabbit hole and flops down. His mother wonders what became of his clothes. Peter catches a cold and has to remain in bed having chamomile tea while his three brothers feast on bread, milk and blackberries for supper. Did Peter go on an adventure or a misadventure?

There are many times documented in history when others sacrificed their lives for the greater good of humanity. Peter isn’t one of those people, he did what he did for himself. Was the risk he took worth the reward?

The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter is a cautionary tale with a powerful lesson. Please share your thoughts in the comments box below.

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