The Modern Fable of Monkeys That Are Actually Humans

There was the famous experiment on monkeys. You get five of them into a cage with ladder, with banana on top of it. As soon as they enter the cage, monkeys immediately rush to get their beloved food. But reaching for ladder triggers cold shower.

Quickly, monkeys realize that this banana should be left alone.

Then you swap one monkey for a new one. As it, inevitably, rushes for a banana, it gets beating from the others. Few moments later, it knows that it’s not worth it.

Then you swap another one, with the same result. Then the next, and so on. Soon, all the monkeys are swapped and each of them knows that was taught a lesson.

Which is where we play evil scientist and add a new monkey in. Without a doubt, it tries to reach for banana, only to get its beating.

As all its predecessors, it has no idea why it got punished.
Other (swapped) monkeys have no idea why they punish the new one – none of them ever got wet.
Apparently, this is how things are in that specific cage.

The best part of the experiment?
IT WAS NEVER CONDUCTED.

We have no idea if monkeys would act this way.

The scariest part of the experiment? We know, well enough, that regardless of how monkeys would behave, we would act as the way they did. Just the social element of our human nature.

When put in a new environment, we don’t want to be the one to rock the boat. Reaching for banana is challenging the status quo – and nobody likes that. Unless we’re conscious and deliberate about it, we don’t really want to expand our comfort zones.

And without it, we’re becoming obsolete, as someone competing with us will expand theirs.

Remember that as you walk into your monkey cage this morning.

Are You The Sixth?

There are several rules that decide the origin, highlight, and the ultimate fate of every society. There’s the commonality of values, however temporary that may be, deciding it’s appearance. A set of people brought together for whatever the reason, though deciding to stay together far enough the needs of survival, defined in myriad of ways. Then there’s the bright spot – a society rises, grows, and ultimately outshines every other around, attracting all kinds of decent folks, along with freeloaders and some plankton.

Then, as it inevitably fades, it reaches state of stability. Low enough not to become a spot on a radar for big sharks, big enough to thrive. Hey, have you thought about the people around you? Your closest circle of friends.

What are they like?

Seriously, sit there for a while and figure out what it is that defines your inner circle.

What are they like? What is it that defines them? What are the core beliefs that hold them together?

Really, write it down.

Got that? Now it’s going to get harder.

Look at the things you figured out. If you average them out, they will quite accurately describe the actual reality of one person.

That person is you.

There’s a reason for that. Being a ultrasocial species, we seek acceptance above everything else. Whatever role we currently play in the society – father, mother, single at particular age range – there are things our inner circle expects us to do. Everyone outside it expects everybody within to adhere to adequate set of rules.

The system scales up indefinitely, to encompass whole mankind, though that’s irrelevant.

Thing is, subconsciously, you will attempt to comply to rules of your inner circle. Ever heard of all those idiot kids doing the dumbest things imaginable? They do it for the very same reason for which you’re buying a flat on a 40-year mortgage, an enormous size TV set, and get a new car every four years. Odds are, you need neither of these.

Though everyone around has them. Darn it!

And as you might thing I just made my point, I’m not even close.

Career-wise, how far up do you think all these people in your inner circle might get? Executive status? Start-up owner? Just a regular Joe?

Whatever your circle is, you will attempt to keep up with them.

  • Hang out with the winners, winners you shall be.
  • Hang out with the average Joe, average Joe you shall be.
  • Hang out with losers bringing you down, a loser bringing others down you shall be.

There’s the old saying:

“If you hang around with five idiots, you will be the sixth.”

Now, let me state the obvious. It is cruel. Some people just aren’t cut for big wins, epic achievements, and coming victorious out of the greatest of risks. And that’s perfectly okay. There’s nothing wrong with this.

As long as you make a conscious choice.

Now, look around you again. Do you think these people will help you go up, or bring you down to the level of their acceptable mediocrity?

Just don’t be cruel when making cuts. It’s not their fault they feel complacent. It’s not your fault you don’t. It’s just the fact of life.

Look around, make your choice, cut mercilessly.

Don’t be a sixth idiot. Unless, obviously, you want to. That’s your choice.

You Will Fail

For whatever reasons, quite often wrong or misperceived, we all try to introduce some change. Be it about our own lives, our teams, or our whole organisations, we want to make things better. Rest assured, it is never easy. Change sucks, is painful, and sometimes requires unearthly amounts of willpower. And it’s when you only apply it to yourself! Thinking of your family, your team, or whatever bigger entity – you may as well start praying.

Because, at one moment or another, you will fail miserably. Continue reading “You Will Fail”

How Can You Tell?

If you work anywhere near software development, I can bet your organisation is Agile. Well, unless you live under the rock, work in some government institution, or your business is driven by grants. Still, monstrosities aside, nobody wants to admit working the old waterfall way. It is almost as cool as showing up in a car concourse in Skoda. Which, for those of you without a drop of gasoline in your blood, means utterly uncool. Agile has been the dogmatic new black for quite a few years now. Rest assured, I have no problem with that. In theory, it makes all the sense in the world.

Which is why I want you to ask yourself – how can you tell your organisation is Agile? What are the symptoms? What is the reason you want to give the only cool answer? Continue reading “How Can You Tell?”

How to Change the World

Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to change the world. Some of my ultimate goals did include obvious choices, like world domination. Which would, clearly, be the best fate that can be imagined for the whole mankind. Well, with years passing, the idea evolved. For now, it kind of settled on a meaningful eulogy. Something more than, “Well, there was this guy and now he’s not around”. Inevitably, as I attempted to conquer, dominate, or just alter some areas of reality, I failed quite often. After all, there’s no reason for you to call me the Supreme Leader. Yet.

Still, by failing quick and often, I got pretty close to how to actually change the world. Continue reading “How to Change the World”