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5 Monkeys and Their Ladder

Can monkeys figure out how to use a hotel key? The real question is whether they can figure out which room the key goes to… but I digress.

The real lesson from monkeys (for our monkeys’ blog) is told in an article from in an article titled  What Monkeys Can Teach Us About Human Behavior: From Facts to Fiction.

The article is based on a story that goes like this:

A group of scientists placed five monkeys in a cage, and in the middle, a ladder with bananas on top. Every time a monkey went up the ladder, the scientists soaked the rest of the monkeys with cold water.

After a while, every time a monkey would start up the ladder, the others would pull it down and beat it up. After a time, no monkey would dare try climbing the ladder, no matter how great the temptation.

The scientists then decided to replace one of the monkeys. The first thing this new monkey did was start to climb the ladder. Immediately, the others pulled him down and beat him up.After several beatings, the new monkey learned never to go up the ladder, even though there was no evident reason not to, aside from the beatings.

The second monkey was substituted and the same occurred. The first monkey participated in the beating of the second monkey. A third monkey was changed and the same was repeated. The fourth monkey was changed, resulting in the same, before the fifth was finally replaced as well.

What was left was a group of five monkeys that – without ever having received a cold shower – continued to beat up any monkey who attempted to climb the ladder.

This story has been repeated in many motivational talks through the years, to stand for the premise that if it was possible to ask the monkeys why they beat up on the other monkeys, what would they say? The reason the monkeys continued to beat up any new monkey trying to climb the ladder is because, “I don’t know, it’s just the way we do things around here”.

Now… that’s a wonderful life lesson. However, it just never happened. There was some studies on monkeys, but none that were this specific. I guess they could have told us stories about monkeys who eat swordfish, and we would believe it.

When I read this story… and the fiction of the story, I thought of metaphors involving pharmaceutical companies or politicians. Pharma, because they pitch drugs for headaches that they claim have been tested with, “ask your doctor if this drug is right for you” and then they go on to say that this headache pill causes everything from hives to death.

As to politicians, they tell us stories about poverty or pain that make for good stories… but just aren’t based in fact. Anything to get elected, and we are tired of it.

I said all that to say, let’s let the monkeys enjoy life.  They don’t effect us. Do they really need to teach us a lesson?


And for pic o’ day, here’s another lesson from animals… when there is too much TV watching:

IMG_0945 (2)

Nobel Remembered

Let’s start out the Monday morning blog with something unrelated. When you read that first sentence, does that make you feel like this is Groundhog Day because I regularly have unrelated stuff in my blog?

This weekend I was at Virginia Beach, where the snow was still built up around the roads and down on the sand. When I looked out my window, I saw a snowman down by the water. I took a picture that is very difficult to see but still proof.



I realized that a snowman deserves to go to beach like everyone else. Isn’t that quite the discovery? My snowman discovery segues to the personal discovery of Alfred Nobel.(Wikipedia)

Alfred Nobel was a Swedish chemist/engineer. He had initially devoted his life to the study of explosives and to the safe manufacturing of nitroglycerine. In 1867, after several experiments that even included the death of his brother in a shed explosion, Nobel invented and then patented dynamite as a safer explosive alternative to nitroglycerin.  It was used in mining and had use in war.

In 1888, Nobel unwittingly learned what others thought of him, when his brother passed away. A French newspaper mistakenly thought that it was Alfred Nobel who had died and erroneously published Alfred’s obituary. In the obituary, it described Alfred Nobel as “the merchant of death is dead”. Nobel  was greatly saddened when he “read his obituary” and realized  that dynamite and explosives were going to be exactly how he would be remembered.

When Nobel signed his last will and testament, he set aside the bulk of his wealth and estate to establish Nobel Prizes to be awarded each year. These prizes were to be awarded  in a number of categories that relate to cultural and/or scientific advances, including the Nobel Peace Prize.

Between 1901 and 2013, I count 869 Nobel Prizes being awarded. Each recipient  receives a gold medal, a diploma, and a sum of money that amounts to about 1.2 million dollars in U.S. money.  Now, Nobel has accomplished his wish.  He is no longer remembered for his invention of destruction. Rather, for his long-lasting contribution in honoring those who have accomplished and made great discoveries in their specific fields.

DID YOU KNOW that over 7000 years ago, the ancient Egyptians bowled on alleys similar to our bowling alleys of today.

And for pic o’ day, some would say that shoes are the greatest invention:


A Tree Named Methuselah

     You don’t have to be a Bible scholar to know what Noah did. But do you know the name of his grandfather, and what he is known as? ( I once had this question in Trivia Pursuit) His name is Methuselah and He lived longer than any other human. He died at the age of 969 years. Now that’s a long time from the first sunrise to the last sunset.

     What are secrets to surviving make up the topic of the book “The Survivors Club”. One trainer for the military also gives quick tips on how to survive.

      For instance, Peanut Butter is about the best food that you can carry. Here’s one that doesn’t sound too practical. A rabbit’s eye balls provide a lot of salt for survival. Blue Jeans are dangerous in the cold, because they trap moisture and accelerate hypothermia. (I needed to quickly get that rabbit mention out of your mind).

     When they found the oldest tree in the world. It only seemed natural to name it Methusaleh.   They estimate that it is at least 46 centuries old and that its seedlings go back to when the Egyptian Pyramids were being built. It can be found in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, in California’s Inyo Natural Forest.

     Some Professors of Botany decided to study this oldest living tree to find out why it is still around after 4650 years. Like any other tree, it faces adversity, but has demonstrated “Longevity Under Adversity”, which was the title of one of the studies. The answer behind why this tree still living, provided a lesson to me on success in life and the law profession. 

     The findings behind the survival of the Methuselah tree is that it grows very slowly, adding just one inch to its girth every one hundred years.  If it’s bark breaks off, its needles unleash terpenoids, which are harsh smelling chemicals that scare creatures away from damaging the exposed area. (I threw that one in. Not sure how that really applies to the practice of law though. I can’t stand the thought of bad breath, even)

     Anyway, apart from all that stuff that scares off insects and fungi, is the lesson in the tree’s growth. Recently, the Law Firm hired 2 more attorneys. I have been repeatedly told that most law firms are cutting back in this economy. In fact, we have spent less on advertising in the last 2 years. Yet, in looking back at our continued Firm growth, our referrals from recent and long ago clients have been a steady part.

     You’ve probably heard the old expression, “that’s about as exciting as watching moss grow”. Probably standing next to this tree would be about as visibly exciting. What makes these Botanist commit lifetimes, to just studying this one old tree, is the hope of finding the secret to passing on this longevity.

     Maybe there is something chemical that they will learn from this tree’s pine cones, and turn it into a long life tablet. Maybe the lesson is just a reminder that what worked for business, in the past, still works today.

      There is nothing flashy in just working hard on one client at a time. That seems to be a pretty good lesson in firm longevity. Maybe Methuselah the Tree would repeat Ben Franklin’s words,  for long life, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise”.  Do what has always worked and stay steady at it.

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