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Friday, November 30, 2012

Are you blindly following everyone around you?

"Go with the crowd" mentality is so typical in any corporate work environment. It is also not uncommon to notice this in our personal lives. You will see people just following what people around them have been doing for many years, sometimes, not even knowing the rationale behind what they are doing and why.

There was a real experiment (scientific study) done involving 5 monkeys (10 altogether, including replacements), a cage, a banana, a ladder and an ice cold water hose. Some of you may have heard about this experiment before, but the fact that this was a real experiment amazes me every time i read this story and relate the same to the real world.

Experiment - Part 1
5 monkeys are locked in a cage, a banana was hung from the ceiling and a ladder was placed right underneath it. As predicted, immediately, one of the monkeys would race towards the ladder, to grab the banana. However, as soon as he would start to climb, the researcher would spray the monkey with ice-cold water. The trick was that in addition to the monkey who raced towards the ladder, the researcher would also spray the other four monkeys who are silently sitting on the side.

When a second monkey tried to climb the ladder, the researcher would, again, spray the monkey with ice-cold water. As done in the previous step, he would spray the other four watching monkeys also.

These steps were repeated multiple times until a point when the monkeys learned their lesson.

Monkey's lesson from Part 1
"Climbing" equals "Scary cold water for EVERYONE". So no one should climb the ladder.

Experiment- Part 2  
Once the 5 monkeys knew the drill, the researcher replaced one of the monkeys with a new inexperienced one. As predicted, the new monkey spots the banana, and goes for the ladder. BUT, the other four monkeys, knowing the drill, jumped on the new monkey and beat him up. 

Monkey's lesson from Part 2: 
The beaten up new monkey thus learns : "No going for the ladder and No banana at all" without even knowing why! and also without ever being sprayed with water!

These actions get repeated 3 more times, with a new monkey each time and ASTONISHINGLY each new monkey- who had never received the cold water spray itself (and didn't even know anything about it), would join the beating up of the new guy.

This is a classic example of mob mentality where in the bystanders and outsiders uninvolved with the fight- join in 'just because' every one else is doing the same.

When the researcher replaced a third monkey, the same thing happened; likewise for the fourth until, eventually, all the monkeys had been replaced and none of the original ones are left in the cage (that had been sprayed by water). 

Experiment- Part 3 
Again, a new monkey was introduced into the cage. It ran toward the ladder only to get beaten up by the others. 
The monkey turns with a curious face asking "Why do you beat me up when I try to get the banana?"
The other four monkeys stopped and looked at each other, puzzled on their action.

None of these monkeys had been sprayed ever with water and so they really had no clue why the new guy can't get the banana. But it didn't matter since it was too late and the rules had been set. 

So, although they didn't know WHY, they beat up the monkey just because "that's the way we do things around here".

Does this experiment sound familiar to you? Think all around your personal and professional life, scan through a typical day at your office or at home and you would realize that you are a part of this "monkey business" everyday in one way or the other. Are you not copying what others in your neighborhood or society are doing, without knowing why? Go for a house on loan, go for a good car, both husband and wife working, go for the latest mobile etc etc. No one knows why we are doing all this, but we all are doing because everyone else is doing that way, and if everyone is doing, then it must be the "correct" way. 

Is your professional life not following a similar career path as almost everyone around you? Can it not be different? Of course, it can be. Can money only be earned by being in a job and leaving yourself with no choice but doing something which makes you hate those beautiful Monday mornings? No, there are many alternatives. But being different means being uncomfortable. It means coming out of your comfort zone, It also means thinking out of the box, and sometimes being looked upon by your so called "mature and senior" colleagues as if you have been left behind the "rat race". 

Think about it. Question yourself. It takes guts to question yourself after you have lead most part of your life as a "monkey life". Let me help you. Why are you here on this planet? What is the mission of your life? What are your dreams and goals? What makes you happy? and if what you are doing on an everyday basis does not add to your mission, goals and strategy of your life, then stop and think. Are you not the same monkey who is just trying to follow what everyone around you is doing? Or have you got the guts to question what everyone else is doing and then change your path accordingly?

Unless you go inside yourself and start searching for these answers, the easiest thing is to continue to be a monkey and keep beating anyone who starts going towards the banana.

Don't be a monkey. Start questioning every action of yours. Have guts to tread a different path if your heart says so. Your future destiny depends on what actions you take today, on an everyday basis.

Wish you luck !!


Manoj Arora

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