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5 Examples of Outrun The Bear

Outrun the bear is a humorous story of unknown origin about two friends who encounter an angry bear in the forest. One friend begins to pray while the other prepares to run. The first friend rightly points out "you can't outrun a bear" to which the other replies "I don't have to, I only need to outrun you." This is a well known joke that is also considered a truism. The following are common interpretations.

Fair Weather Friends

Outrun the bear gives an example of a fair weather friend -- an individual who is friendly when times are good but will abandon you if you face problems in life.


Intuitively, you would think that your best strategy in dealing with a bear would be to stick together and use the human talent for cooperation. However, the jogger has a point whereby his best option may not involve cooperation but rather independence. This certainly has parallels to real life. For example, extremely talented software developers can commonly produce more than small teams of average developers such that cooperating can reduce their productivity and work quality.


Outrun the bear is most commonly interpreted as a metaphor for competition whereby you need not seek perfectionism to win but simply need to outdo your strongest competitor. For example, a manufacturer of ping pong tables that need not produce a perfect product to dominate the market because the competition all have terribly inferior products.


Outrun the bear could be interpreted as an example of pragmatism whereby the jogger simply feels that one friend can survive but not both.


In the story, the jogger doesn't find an ideal solution to the problem that would save both friends. Instead he finds an easy solution that involves a terrible loss. This can be viewed as mediocrity whereby the jogger does the minimum required to survive and offers nothing beyond this minimum. Going back to competition, if you only seek to outdo your competition you may still end up with unhappy customers, poor reviews and lower sales as compared with truly pushing yourself to deliver an excellent product or service.


This is the complete list of articles we have written about pragmatism.
Human Factors
Optimistic Drift
Outrun The Bear
Pragmatic Principles
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