The Monkey Story

This is a story I used to share in several of my presentations.   It makes a point that most cattlemen need to hear.

First, you start with a cage containing five monkeys.   Inside the cage, hang a banana on a string and place a set of stairs under it.   Before long, a monkey will go to the stairs and start to climb towards the banana.   As soon as he touches the stairs, spray all of the monkeys with cold water.

After a while, another monkey makes an attempt with the same result – all the monkeys are sprayed with cold water.   Pretty soon, when another monkey tries to climb the stairs, the other monkeys will try to prevent it.

Now, put the cold water away…

Remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new one.   The new monkey sees the banana and wants to climb the stairs.   To his surprise and horror, all the other monkeys attack him.   After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs he will be assaulted.

Next, remove another of the original five monkeys and replace it with a new one.   The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked – and the previous newcomer takes part in the punishment with enthusiasm!   Likewise, replace a third original monkey, then a fourth, and then the fifth.

Every time the newest monkey takes to the stairs, he is attacked.   All of the monkeys that are beating him have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs or why they are participating in the beating of the newest monkey.

After replacing all of the original monkeys, none of the remaining monkeys have ever been sprayed with cold water.   Nevertheless, no monkey will ever again approach the stairs to try for the banana.   Why not?   Because as far as they know, that’s the way it’s always been done around here.

And that, my dear friends… is how many ranch traditions get started.

6 responses to “The Monkey Story

  1. Hi Kit,
    I taught this to my sixth graders about anything they think of as (just the way we do things around here.) Our take away is simple, ask a question. There are no dumb questions. Except maybe “Why?” if I say get out the building is on fire!
    Thanks for the lesson share.

  2. This is a classic example of conditioning. It works with animals in a circus and other training. It also works with humans, with the exception that humans can decide not to respond if they so choose.

  3. After reading your monkey story, I’m going to take the opposite view! The story made me think of all the literature and magazines I read. What they all have in common is exactly what you are about. You are always implying that your way of production is the only way. Everybody who doesn’t do it your way is going to fail.

    I couldn’t wait to grow up and have my own farm and cattle. It was my dream, and I had my own idea of how I would do it. You’re like everybody else: My way is the only way.

    I agree, don’t follow the crowd or someone else’s idea. It is an insult to individualism and self-government. Didn’t Paul say, we are complete in Him and need no teacher? We’re getting it from all sides, and not one is saying, Do it your way. Be yourself.

    Jerry Plett
    Lincolnville

  4. Jerry,
    With our free will, comes the choice to follow God’s word and guidance, we are also advised to commune with others. A three cord string is not easily broken. I have tried going it alone in many areas of my life and have found that in the long run, my efforts alone fall short each and every time. The Pharo family, and by that I mean all of us connected as like minded individuals in different areas are a great resource. Try to see it not as a limitation of ideas but more of a creation of ideas. A place to be challenged, and a place to learn, two minds are always better than one.

    Jarrod Dilka
    Weatherford, OK

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