• Courtney Kirschaum

How doing the opposite pays off

The following story has been around for ages, and it reveals a lot about how we think and how we are taught to conform and not question things.

Without realizing it, we take for granted that what we're doing is right and right for us.

Eight monkeys are placed in a room.

In the middle of the room is a ladder, leading to a bunch of bananas hanging from a hook on the ceiling.

Each time a monkey tries to climb the ladder, all the monkeys are sprayed with ice water, which they hate.

Soon enough, whenever a monkey attempts to climb the ladder, all of the other monkeys, not wanting to be sprayed, set upon him and beat him up.

Quickly then norm is none of the eight monkeys ever attempts to climb the ladder. 

One of the original monkeys is then removed, and a new monkey is put in the room.

Seeing the bananas and the ladder, he wonders why none of the other monkeys are doing the obvious. Undaunted, he immediately begins to climb the ladder.

All the other monkeys fall upon him and beat him silly. He has no idea why. However, he gives up trying to get the bananas.

A second original monkey is removed and replaced.

The newcomer attempts to climb the ladder, get the bananas, but all the other monkeys beat him up including the first monkey who tried to get the bananas.

Perhaps grateful that he's not on the receiving end this time, they participate in the beating because all the other monkeys are doing it.

Also, this monkey tried and failed to get the bananas, meaning they may even be more invested in keeping the new monkey from getting what they failed to get.

One by one, all the original monkeys are replaced.

Eight new monkeys are now in the room. 

None of them have ever been sprayed by ice water. 

Because of baseless, do what everyone else is doing behavior, none of them attempt to climb the ladder and get what they want:  the bananas.

All of them will enthusiastically beat up any new monkey who tries, without having any idea why.

How many times have you thought, 

“This is stupid, why do we do it this way?” 

“Why do we tolerate this?” 

"Why isn’t this being changed?” 

"This doesn't make sense anymore!"

"Whose idea was this?"

What are you doing without questioning why?

Here are a few things you probably participate in without having every questioned why:

Why do we work a 40-hour work week?  

This happened circa 1937 - slightly outdated, no?

In part, shortening the work day (8 hours) and the work week from 6 to 5 days was Henry Ford's idea.

His assembly line enabled faster production in a shorter time, and because people needed time to drive his cars and go shopping, it benefited him and the economy to give them time to do that. 

Why do Americans have so little vacation? We are the only first world country without mandated vacation.

Thank the Puritans, the same people who brought you Thanksgiving.

They were firm believers that "idle hands are the devil's workshop" and other dark, pithy aphorisms.

These extremely pious people believed that time off from work would just be used for "drinking and fornication."

Why is health insurance provided by employers? 

Because when insurers started selling it, they quickly realized the the people who had money also had jobs, so they killed two birds with one stone and went right to the employers, thus employment and health insurance have since gone hand in hand - not for your benefit but for the insurers to increase the likelihood they'll make a sale.

The late Earl Nightingale said "Just look around at what everyone else is doing and do the exact opposite, and you'll probably never make another mistake as long as you live."

Food for thought.


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