How To Catch A Monkey

Catching a monkey is not difficult, but you need a trap of some kind. A trap is pretty easy to understand at a fundamental level. A trap involves the promise of something for nothing. The bait.

Here is an example of a kind of trap that will catch a monkey. Perhaps other primates, too.

  • Begin with a large bottle with a narrow neck. Perhaps a water bottle.
  • Fill the bottle two thirds full of sand. The bottle will weigh about 30 pounds and that is more than an adult Capuchin monkey weighs.
  • Put a shiny object in the bottle. Maybe a chrome watch.
  • Wait

Eventually a monkey will decide to have the shiny object in the bottle. He will reach in, grab the shiny bauble and try to leave. But while holding the bauble, his hand is too large to withdraw from the bottle and the bottle is too heavy to drag away.

What to do?

It is what the mathematics folks call a binary decision set.

  1. Release the bauble and go away, or
  2. Do not release the bauble and stay.

How like our world.

How attached to things are we? Are we willing to give up too much to keep things? Do we expect the laws of nature to work in our favor rather than to operate objectively? Can we understand what harms us and cease to be trapped by that?

Not always. Probably we are not fully rational when we want something, or maybe it is momentum.  We become set in our ways.

Can we have the wit to let go of things that don’t work or even harm us? Too much or wrong food, too little exercise, smoking, drugs, alcohol, government spending, election promises, overspending with credit cards, and a thousand more.

Here is a way that will work for the monkey. Let go of the bauble. Not having to have so many things is a winning strategy.

Could work for us too.

You might find this useful. Addition by Subtraction

Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international accounting firm and is presently with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.

Follow on Twitter @DonShaughnessy

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