Monkey See, Monkey Do

We like to believe that as humans, we are far superior to the baser creatures of the animal kingdom. As such, we seldom consider ourselves as part of the primate family, even though we most definitely are. While some may view this fact as insulting, I believe it is useful in better understanding our own nature.

The phrase "Monkey See, Monkey Do" often carries a negative connotation as well. But as you will read, it is simply an observation of human (primate) learning and behavior that we can use to our advantage, if we choose.

As I look back on my own journey through life, I can distinctly point to "break-through" occurrences that coincide with witnessing someone else accomplishing a particular feat. These events led me to take some massive leaps of faith in my own career pursuits, and are responsible for getting me to where I am today.

My decision to start competing in MMA, for example, came from watching one of my teammates win their amateur fight. Starting this business came on the heels of seeing my friends at Black Rifle Coffee take their then fledgling company to newfound heights. Most recently, founding the League of Savage Gentlemen, was largely through witnessing first hand the powerful effects of the community Ryan Michler created with Order of Man.

Prior to vicariously experiencing these events in real time, such pursuits hadn't even come up on my radar. But by being fortunate enough to have men around me accomplishing great things, I became inspired and confident enough to do them myself.

On a more micro scale, I've been able to see this phenomenon in learning new skills and techniques, most recently in the field of gymnastics. The gym where my 2 children take classes offers one of the only men's gymnastics programs in the area. They have a group of young teenage competitors that graciously allow me to work in with them a few nights a week.

For my own development, watching a 13 year kid effortlessly execute a skill that I can barely perform is quite humbling, but also helpful to watch. Actually seeing how it is done helps me better understand the mechanics and physics involved. While watching them progress through skills that my aging body will probably never allow me to pull-off, I've noticed that their roadblocks rarely involve the physical. For the most part, it seems that the mental components of fear and uncertainty are the biggest things standing in the way.

One of these young men has been working for the past few weeks on a particularly difficult and dangerous technique on the high bar. He's been very close in completing it and seems to have a good understanding of the sequence and positions. But try and try again, he wasn't able to hit it. Until another accomplished male gymnast stopped by the gym and did it. After seeing it done, the younger boy flawlessly executed the skill on his very next turn.

What made that possible? How was watching it in person different from all the videos he had been studying? 

I think much of the answer lies beyond the mechanism of simply being "visual" learners. There seems to be something deeper and more intrinsic at play. Maybe seeing something previously believed impossible (or never even conceived) simply provides the additional courage required to make a whole-hearted attempt.

Perhaps, even on some subconscious level, there is a bit of lingering doubt and hesitation that prevents us from fully committing to something. In my own practice of fighting and business, I know that self-doubt can be paralyzing So for me, I try to manage that in any way I can. Generally, proper guidance and experience do wonders. But sometimes, we need that little extra nudge...

Sometimes, we need to be in the presence of others when they do the undoable. This has truly been one of the most useful aspects of my own personal development.  In doing so, I've been able to follow this basic formula with a fair amount of success:

Whenever we can, we should surround ourselves with those who are doing the things we want to go, going the places we want to go, and being the men we'd like to be. I believe this is something that we should all be seeking out on a regular basis.

There are very few true pioneers in the world who can manifest something completely novel from the ether. It's great that they exist, but most of us will need to walk in another's footsteps at least for part of the journey.  

It's important to remember that we didn't get to where we are today from nothing. There is a process to learning that echoes back to our more primitive roots, and sometimes, it is helpful channel our inner primate.



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