The Monkeys

Everything you want is just outside your comfort zone.

Imagine there are 10 monkeys on a tiny, hot island smack-dab in the middle of a very shallow pond.

The pond is sits in the middle of a virtual paradise filled with tropical fruits, other monkeys, toys, trees, and lots of fun.

On the island are several brightly colored rowboats and a bridge that leads across the pond. The pond itself is so shallow that the monkeys could easily wade across it.

And yet, they stay.

  • As soon as one of the monkeys attempts to cross the pond in any way, he and all the other monkeys are hit with a powerful firehose of water that quickly sends them scurrying back onto the island.
  • As each monkey tries to leave the island, the entire group gets blasted by the firehose.
  • Eventually they give up and just sit on their island, dreaming about life on the other side.

Now imagine…

…one of the monkeys is removed and replaced by a brand new monkey who doesn’t know about the firehose.

Naturally, this new monkey sees how amazing it is on the other side of the pond and immediately starts to cross it.

This time, however, he is not blasted by a firehose but is pounced on by all the other monkeys who beat him into submission and make him stay on the island.

They don’t want him stirring up trouble and they certainly don’t want to get blasted with water again.

Over time…

…each of the original monkeys is replaced by a new one.

And each time the new monkey tries to leave, the group mauls him.

Eventually all ten monkeys are brand new and none of them has ever experienced the firehose.

But guess what?

The group continues to hurt any monkey who trys to leave, even though none of them know why.

The group is isolated and the pressure to conform has become complete.

The unhappy monkeys stay on the island, keeping each other trapped, and wishing they were on the other side. Because that’s what they’ve been taught.

What about you?

What have you been taught about your current situation that just isn’t true?

What have you bought into from others, particularly those who complain about their current life but are too scared to do anything about it?

What have you accepted as a rule that is really just a guideline or has no basis in fact?

The bridge is right in front of you and the water is shallow enough to wade across.

So what are you pretending not to know?

Dr. Ann Vertel is a leadership speaker, business psychologist, and 20-year Naval Officer. She helps leaders “un-bully” their workforce and build confident, resilient people using the power of positive leadership. Learn more at

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