Yertle the Turtle

So many people think they are powerless. Life just happens to them and they are pushed along in the current of a river that’s too strong to escape. Taken under by a rush of water, they feel like they’re always trying to find their footing, to get enough air.  They are peons in someone else’s major drama.

Too bad. And NOT TRUE.

We each have the ability to create a life that works for us. When we feel helpless and incapable of changing our circumstances, we’re letting Yertle have the last say.

Yertle the Turtle likes his pond and he rules it well, at first. But power corrupts, and Yertle’s desire to rise higher and higher makes him build his throne up, up, up, on the backs of his fellow turtles.

People see this as a story about tyranny and social justice. I like to look at it as a story about how one guy – the turtle on the bottom, a fellow named Mack – decides to take control and change his life. Tired of being squashed into the mud by Yertle’s obsessions, the little Atlas shrugs. Actually, Mack burps.

That plain little turtle whose name was just Mack,
Decided he’d taken enough. And he had.
And that plain little lad got a bit mad.
And that plain little Mack did a plain little thing.
He burped! And his burp shook the throne of the king!

Like the little turtle on the bottom of the stack, you have the option of staying in the game and just being a stepping stone to someone else’s dream-come-true, or shaking off the yoke of complacency and creating a new reality for yourself.

So often just going with the flow seems so much easier. And for all the folks who don’t like to cause waves, just sucking it up feels like the safe way to live life. But safe isn’t always best. And sometimes getting a little mad is a good thing if it creates the motivation for you to change what you don’t like about your life.

Not everyone is cut out to be a king. Not everyone wants to be a king. But not being a king doesn’t mean you have to be someone else’s pawn. You can be king of your own world, master of your own future.

If you hate your job, hate your husband or wife, hate your life, then change it. Get a little mad. Figure out what you do want and then figure out how to get there. There are no extra points for being long-suffering or a martyr. Doormats get stepped on. If you want to have a different life, you must do something different. Go ahead, burp!


I’d like to add a new section to the website next year. In it, I’d like to feature 5 people as they journey through their financial lives. If you’d like to share you journey and you fit into one of the following categories, please send me a sample of your writing, and let me know if you’re prepared to commit to writing one blog per week for six months. I’ll be judging based on the samples I get, so make sure you’re on topic, witty and an interesting read. Here are the categories I’m looking for:

  • A student who is still in school
  • A stay-at-home mom or dad who is tasked with managing the family’s finances
  • A single person who is trying to keep work and life in balance, while achieving a specific goal
  • A working mom or dad who is part of a double-income family with kids
  • A body who is about to retire and is getting ready to make the transition

This isn’t a paid gig. (I maintain this website as a labour of love… my give-back.) You’re doing this to a) establish yourself as a writer, b) share your experiences with others, or c) get some feedback from the folks here. If you’re interested, please send your contact info along with your sample to with the word WRITER in the subject line. Once I’ve short-listed potential writers, I’ll give you a call to chat, so include your phone number and email address in your contact info please.


Gail Vaz-Oxlade

Gail Vaz-Oxlade wants YOU! Join to get smarter about your money and help others get smarter about theirs. Isn’t it time we eliminated financial illiteracy? Come find me on Google+ and on Twitter.

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22 Responses to “Yertle the Turtle”

  1. We tried to take so much control over our lives that it was driving us batty. We didn’t even bother sending the specifics to God, we just prayed that Hubby would get a job, any job, for the summer. Yesterday he got the perfect one. The one with all the specifics God read in our minds. Hubby started this morning with a spring in his step.

    My advice to job seekers out there, learn to drive a forklift. It’s not hard, I’m a girl and I can drive one although the first time I did it was in an emergency and not a training exercise. I was the only girl on the job site and the men felt that forklift driving was way beyond me. I still watched how it was done. Then one day the ladder fell and they were all trapped at the top of the work project. I made fun of them of course before the boss just yelled at me to get the forklift.

  2. When we got married, I lived by the philosophy, that if you don’t like something, change it. I worked part-time in a retail store, which felt demeaning working alongside teenagers, when I had graduated with a post-secondary education, mainly because everyone would ask, “Why are you working here?” but it was a time of cut-backs, and it was a job that helped pay the bills. Meanwhile, there were a LOT of problems in that store, and I would come home frustrated. Finally one day, I typed out all the issues, and how these issues could be affecting the store’s bottom line, then put it into their suggestion box. Well, apparently, it was read at the next staff meeting, then brought to head office. As a result, a new position was created in the company, and it was offered to me! A year later, they unfortunately announced their closure, but by then I had a job in my field, and a feeling of accomplishment for trying to make change. That has stayed with me, and thus, when things look bad, I figure out what can be done to make it better. Over time, I have also come to realize that there are some things you need to let go and have faith in God’s plans too.

  3. I would disagree slightly with Gail on the post in regards to “get mad”. Because in my personal experience / observation, I find that sometimes people get lost in the “rage”.

    Everytime you get mad — you have made a choice in how you react to a set-back.

    For example, my bf drives me nuts. He is very easy to anger. He’ll get to a line-up and get furious and ranting about the line. He has high blood pressure and a heart condition… so really, you’re going to potentiall ydamage your health more from a store manager’s inability to schedule; or multiple people phoning in sick; or a mistake on a cashier’s part in closing to take care of another job when a line-up built up…..

    For what purpose?

    If I find a large line-up, I will usually do one of the following: 1) ask a cashier to page more cashiers to the front, 2) once I complete my transaction, if I have time I will ask the cashier to page a manager and then make my complaint or 3) phone in the complaint if I do not have the time or 4) leave the items, and not give the store my money.

    I’m no zen princess, I get angry too…. but once I’ve calmed down, I look at the situation, analyze and try to figure out what did my anger get me?

    And it is true that sometimes you need to express your frustration when it will help the person you are speaking to understand the importance of the issue to you. But usually if you do it when your emotions are not in control and you’re angry, people become defensive.

    So get motivated!

  4. Love this blog today Gail! Thanks for the lesson. I do agree that in cases like this, anger can be a good motivator. This is about key life changes, and more often than not, you need to get to a point where you are fed up with status quo before you do something (ex. stop being a doormat!).

  5. I love this:

    “If you hate your job, hate your husband or wife, hate your life, then change it.”

  6. avatar Christy CC Says:
    July 6, 2011 at 10:54 am

    Albiet strong words I say there are two types of people in life, leaders and victims. Sometimes its harder than what I would like… but I choose to be a leader and try my best to encourage others to be the same.

  7. Love this blog. I take this blog in the context that you need a motivator to change YOUR life. And being upset and angry can usually start a change. It wasn’t until I was truly UPSET and frustrated with never having money that I went and changed my finances. I have a very restricted budget at the moment but I would rather do it while I am at home then try and pay off a mountain of debt while out living on my own when I am responsible for so much more.

    I do my best to calm down before approaching a situation but I do need a fire under my butt to get me moving! thanks for the reminder

  8. Some people don’t like the words ‘mad’ and ‘anger’. I read someone else use the term ‘motivation due to irritation’. There, something less emotional. It has to irritate you enough for you to want to do something about it. (I’m pretty sure it is the same idea.)
    Even making a change has to be in balance. Choose you battles and learn from these experiences.
    I do agree that we can affect our circumstances. We cannot control everything, but we can control a lot of what we do about it.

  9. avatar Flynnycat Says:
    July 6, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    I had the misfortune of meeting one of my husband’s ex-girlfriends. She is definitely the victim type who blames “the universe” for all that wrong in her life. She is all too happy to take credit when something goes right, but when it’s wrong, it’s “the universe’s” fault. She’s big into astrology and numerology, which is okay if you keep it in perspective, but she fails to take accountability for anything in her life and just blames “fate”. She’s horrible with money–in fact, my husband tried to help her understand budgets and money management. But she has no impulse control, goes broke after spending wildly, then blames “the universe”. But then she rants on Facebook about how instead of whining, we should all take control of our lives and make happen what we want to have happen! Truly a frustrating person to deal with in any capacity. Perhaps I will anonymously send her a copy of Yertle the Turtle, although I think its message would be lost on her. I hadn’t really thought much about victims vs. leaders until I met her. Now I definitely understand the difference and endeavour to not be like her…..yikes!

  10. Great blog Gail! I was in the situation about 5 years ago – hating my job, constantly complaining about it, and rushing around trying to be a mom to my two young girls, and a wife. I came home one day just really ticked off about something my boss did, and that was the catalyst. My husband and I finally sat down and discussed what would happen if I quit my job. We actually realized that we would SAVE money – no daycare, less traveling and most important – less STRESS! It was one of the best decisions of our lives. I can stay home and make sure the girls get to school on time, make dinner for everyone at night, go on school trips with my girls, and fill in at the school for lunch supervisions (paid). The change was scary – but overall, the best thing we could have done. It just took a “burp” in life to get us to change!!!

  11. Wow, I fit in the category of single person trying to find my way. I am going to write a little didity to see if it is fitty for others to read.

  12. avatar colleen Says:
    July 6, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    Guess I won’t be blogging for Gail. I don’t fit any of the five catergories. Oh well…

  13. You’re not the only one, Colleen. I don’t fit any of those categories either. I wonder how many others don’t.

  14. avatar Samantha Says:
    July 6, 2011 at 10:27 pm

    I’m guessing that most who don’t fit the 5 categories are working single mom’s like me. I’m coming back from parental leave in a month and trying to figure out how to fit daycare, 25% of my take home pay, into a budget that was already stretched. While it would be great to see us represented in blog form, who would have time to write it? Any time between getting home from 8 hours at the office and my daughter’s bedtime, and all waking hours on weekends belong to her. Once she’s in bed, out comes the laptop to finish the rest of my 12 hour work day and I’m guessing my experience is pretty typical. I’ll rely on those who have someone else to trade off with to do the blogging and I’m optimistic that some of their tips will be useful to us as well. After all, the stay at home parent’s tricks for feeding a family of 4 on one income are bound to work on my little family of two.

    My tip for the week for those on a super tight budget, try limiting your entertainment budget to $2 a week for a while – the price of a lottery ticket. Don’t worry Gail – it’s not my retirement plan – I just figured out it’s cheaper than a $6 video rental and I can squeeze more than 90 minutes of fun out of fantasizing about what I’d do if I won. I’ve even discovered it has the added bonus of helping me figure out my financial priorities. I imagine what I’d do if I won $50,000, then $100,000, $250,000 and so on. It’s interesting to see where I’d put my money first. As I think about what I would do for family and friends I get a great reminder of how blessed I am to have so many loved ones to list. And as I think about which charities I’d give to first it also serves as a great reminder of how blessed I already am and that there are plenty of people who would give anything to have what I already do (an awesome kid and our good health).
    Linking back to today’s blog, it’s also a great way of getting in touch with what needs to change, and maybe leads to getting “mad” enough to do something about it. If you won the lottery would you be excited to tell your spouse or wish you didn’t have to? If you won enough to retire would you leave your job on good terms or do you fantasize about telling your boss where to go? If you didn’t need the paycheque how would you fill your days, is that other something you’d rather be doing a possible alternate career path you just haven’t had the courage to pursue?

  15. I love this post. I have never understood the appeal of being a peon/pushover/doormat. I wasn’t raised that way I guess. Tonnes of really crappy things happened to me as a youth, but I refused to be a victim. I decided that’s just a tiny protion of my life and moved away from the bad situations as quickly as I was able. I took command of my future first by getting the grades I needed to get the best options open (and some bursaries too)and made a run for the finish line always looking to where I wanted to be next. It’s a tactic that has worked very well so far. Lazy people call me “lucky” but I am just a determined goal setter.
    Hmm… I fit a category, (A stay-at-home mom who is tasked with managing the family’s finances) so I guess I could give it a try…. but as such a person who is also self-employed, it may be tricky.

  16. Well I fit in to the mother in a double income plus kids scenario but I’m not sure I would be that interesting. Plus I just started my own blog for fun and I need to focus on it. Every once in a while I update our debt story on here anyways plus I’m sure I’ll send in a story when we are all done (in less than 1.5 years).

  17. @Colleen @Linda @Samantha

    I think you’re being restrictive in your assessment of Gail’s categories…. and I’m pretty sure if your writing stands out, and you have something interesting to say, and an interesting way of saying it…. you’ll be in the running.

    It’s Gail’s blog, she can change her categories, or even add an additional one….

    It says single person, doesn’t mean that person can’t be a single person with kids for example.

    Go for it if you want to….

  18. avatar colleen Says:
    July 7, 2011 at 10:20 am

    My husband and I are ‘double-income-no-kids’. We are in occupations that have widely variable incomes. And it is an industry that hasn’t provided a pay raise in 5 years. Yet the cost of living goes up and up and up.

    We are at the point now that we are cancelling the landline phone, and changing our cell phones to ‘pay-as-you-go.’ Cable is going to take a service decrease. (If I had it my way, I’d cancel cable altogether.) Next call is to raise our insurance deductibles to reduce those costs.

    I am looking forward to ‘time-of-use’ hydro billing as I do all my laundry late at night when hubby is at work, so that should make a difference there. We’re even putting up a clothes line this weekend.

  19. Does anyone know the deadline to apply?


  20. […] common question. Here’s why you should take action and stop asking silly questions.Yertle the Turtle [Gail Vaz-Oxlade] “Doormats get stepped on.” It’s as simple as that. If you lie […]

  21. Belive in your self people. you are powerful.

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