Picture this – you’re at your favourite coffee shop with you wife and kids, enjoying a relaxing drink and sweet snacks. Nothing out of the ordinary, care free, everything is good.

The place is familiar, you know the staff by name and you’re sitting in your favourite seat.

Then you notice this short white haired man sitting on his own having coffee. We will call him Mr A.

Now Mr A is an old friend who has a classic sense of humor and isn’t at all shy.

This is the first time I had noticed him at this coffee shop and within 5 minutes he is over at our table introducing himself to my son and his girlfriend.

Then he came out with one of the most profound stories I have heard in a long time.

It went something like this.

Mr A: I decided to have a life change.

Me: That’s great, are you moving house?

Mr A: No, I changed chemists.

Me: Um, Ok, there was a problem with your chemist?

Mr A: No, I just realised that when I moved to this town, I asked around and people told me the best chemist was this one, and the best coffee shop was over there and the best hairdresser was that one and so on…

Me: Right!

Mr A: So I decided to go to all new places and see what else is out there.

Me: Wow, thats cool. I think?

Mr A: It has been the most life changing experience I have had in a long time..

The way Mr A spoke, how excited he was and how happy he sounded to have found all these new places, and met all these new people was extraordinary.

It made me think how when we used to walk into class at school, we would always sit in the same seat. Or when you get on a bus you tend to head for the same comfortable location that you are used to. And how we usually like Holden (or Ford) because our parents did.

There are so many times where we sort of blindly just keep doing the same things, going to the same places and not understand why we do what we do.

This reminds me of an experiment I read about recently.

The 5 monkeys

There was an experiment where 5 monkeys where put in a large cage. At the top of the cage, well beyond the reach of the monkeys, there was a bunch of bananas. Underneath the bananas is a ladder.

The monkeys immediately spotted the bananas and one begins to climb the ladder. As he does, however, the monkey was sprayed with a stream of cold water. Then, the other monkeys were sprayed with cold water.

The monkey on the ladder scrambles off. And all 5 sit for a time on the floor, wet, cold, and bewildered. Soon, though, the temptation of the bananas is too great, and another monkey begins to climb the ladder. Again, the ambitious monkey is sprayed with cold water and all the other monkeys as well. When a third monkey tries to climb the ladder, the other monkeys, wanting to avoid the cold spray, pull him off the ladder and beat him.

Now one monkey is removed and a new monkey is introduced to the cage. Spotting the bananas, he naively begins to climb the ladder. The other monkeys pull him off and beat him.

Here’s where it gets interesting. They then remove a second one of the original monkeys from the cage and replaces him with a new monkey.

Again, the new monkey begins to climb the ladder and, again, the other monkeys pull him off and beat him – including the monkey who had never been sprayed.

By the end of the experiment, none of the original monkeys were left and yet, despite none of them ever experiencing the cold, wet, spray, they had all learned never to try and go for the bananas.

Stephenson, G. R. (1967). Cultural acquisition of a specific learned response among rhesus monkeys. In: Starek, D., Schneider, R., and Kuhn, H. J. (eds.), Progress in Primatology, Stuttgart: Fischer, pp. 279-288.

So often we just follow what we have been told and assume that what everyone else tells us is right. We assume that if someone we trust says that this is the best place to buy fruit and vegetables, then that’s where we go.

Taking a ‘life Change’ like Mr A is like being a rebellious monkey that decides to go against the norm and try something different, try something that he hasn’t done before and see what happens.

We can become conditioned so easily to think a certain way and to react in a particular way, often we don’t even realise why we do what we do. It’s just how things are done.

Now how does this relate to music.

Well there’s all these monkeys running around saying how hard it is to have a full time career in the music industry, saying how the industry is suffering because of illegal downloads. Yet amongst all this there are people making a good living, earning good money doing what they love. Why, because they stopped listening to the other monkeys and went out and made their own path, took responsibility for their own actions and didn’t let other people tell them how they think things should be.

No one said it would be easy, and you will of course have people beat you up and give you a hard time for no reason just because they can’t see beyond what others have told them.

The saying, “If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got”, rings especially true when you are wondering why you are not getting anywhere or wondering why things aren’t changing the way you want them to.

Take a small piece of Mr A’s experiment and change at least one thing and see where it leads you.

You may be pleasantly surprised.

Thank you Mr A…

Chris Richter