Death of the Zoo Tiger

Everything is changing — and so should the way that we learn

Back in the day the recipe for a comfortable, stable life was fairly straight forward: pick something, do that something a lot, get good at that something, get paid to do that something for the next few decades.

And the way that we taught and approached learning reflected that time and that environment.

Show up, fit in, obey the rules, sit at your station, memorize, tick the boxes, repeat.

Our approach to learning aligned with what we were looking for in the workplace.

Efficient, interchangeable parts.

Let’s call this the era of the zoo tiger — where sitting in your cage and doing your job was exchanged for:

comfort (basic needs are met)
safety (no surprises, no mix ups, no danger, no struggle)
constancy (steady paychecks and steady meals — predictability)

This approach worked for decades. But now it doesn’t.

The zoos are gone. Society and the workplace have been turned on their heads — consistency, stability, and specialization are dead.

And in this new world — the well trained and obedient zoo tigers are screwed.

“In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists” — Eric Hoffer

While the learners, the jungle tigers, the ones who have been living in the wild, learning to adapt, to struggle, deal with adversity, to solve problems — are thriving.

Today, as people and organizations, we need to be jungle tigers. To thrive we must be able to adapt, identify and solve problems, connect, and learn on the fly.

The way that we teach and learn must reflect that. Unfortunately, it does not — We’re stuck in the past raising zoo tigers.

We’re developing rule followers, station sitters, and box tickers, then throwing them out into the wild — an environment where NONE of that matters anymore.

The skills that matter now, simply CANNOT be developed in the zoo.

It is impossible to learn to adapt in an environment where there is no change.

It is impossible to grow in and environment absent of struggle.

It is impossible to learn to deal with adversity when there are no failures.

It is impossible to learn how to identify and solve problems when there are none to work through.

The skills that matter now are forged IN THE WILD.

The hungry nights, the dangerous encounters, the struggle, the adversity, the unpredictability are where the growth comes from.

We all have the capacity to become our own version of a jungle tiger — we just need enough time in the proper environment to build our skills.

Identify your cage, your comfort zone — and GTFO.

I promise you’re going to fall on your face — many times — while you’re out in the wild. Which is exactly why you need to go there.

-Train Ugly