I’m a fan of Dave Ramsey.
I have pretty much always tried to live as debt-free as possible, and so Dave’s line of thinking pretty much lines right up with what I have always believed.
But its hard to live that way….believe me….and I fail at it quite regularly. I am as tempted as anyone else by the lure of material things. And I have been known to make a foolish car decision ONCE in my life….. that darn new car smell….
Reading Dave’s books, as well as others by Mary Hunt, etc., keeps me motivated….keeps my eyes on the prize….keeps me driving an older vehicle with a million miles on it for one more year….that sometimes turns into two or three more years…..
But I digress.
This isn’t a post about finances or debt or anything like that.
I just happened to be reminded recently of a story I read in one of Dave Ramsey’s books.
I don’t remember the exact story, so I hope I don’t totally botch it, but he talks about this study where a bunch of monkeys were put into a room. The only source of food, a bunch of bananas, was placed on top of a pole in the middle of the room. Of course the monkeys would get hungry, try to climb the pole to get to the bananas, and every time, a scientist would knock the monkey off the pole with a blast of water from a fire hose.
Time and time again….hungry monkey….tries to get food….POW from the fire hose.
And so it went until each monkey had had several tries at getting the food, and several blasts from the water hose.
The monkeys soon learned it was hopeless.
Soon, the monkeys, who had had this hopelessness drilled into them, soon began teaching the other monkeys to be hopeless too. If one attempted to climb the pole, the others would lunge at him and yank him right off.
The scientists replaced one monkey with a new one who didn’t know the system. As soon as the new guy spotted the bananas and went for them, the crowd of monkeys would yank him down and teach him a lesson for even *THINKING* of going after the bananas.
One by one, each monkey was replaced by a newbie who didn’t know the system. One by one, each monkey tried to reach the bananas, and each monkey would be taught his lesson, that the bananas were hopelessly out of reach, by the crowd of fellow monkeys.
The interesting thing is, the scene repeated itself each time a new monkey came into the room, until none of the original monkeys were left. NONE of the monkeys in the room had experienced the blast of water…..and yet no monkeys were allowed to try to reach the bananas.
Dave uses this story to try to explain why the people around you will try to discourage you from getting out of debt. As if its impossible to do…..no one succeeds at such a venture.
And I know, first hand, that this is true….misery loves company. Your friends who are up to their eyeballs in debt are uncomfortable around you when you’re not spending money frivolously, too. I used to have coworkers make fun of me for going home to eat a sandwich for lunch instead of going out to lunch with the crowd, to spend $8 plus a tip for a sandwich. I have definitely experienced the monkeys in the area of living debt-free.
I was just pondering this monkey story when it occurred to me……every time you attempt something difficult in life, there will be a crowd of monkeys surrounding you, waiting to knock you off the pole and tell you why it can’t be done.
I know, for the most part, people mean well.
They probably don’t realize how discouraging and defeating their words are. How their words suck the very life out of you.
For any of you mamas who have ever been pregnant, you know what I say is true. There is NO pregnant woman who is ever spared the gory details of horrific labor stories. You can’t go to a baby shower without some jerk piping up to recount to the terrified pregnant girl some story about how her innards were torn apart in such a way that she had to have 12 surgeries just to have it all put back, she lost 6 gallons of blood, and was in so much agonizing pain she wished she would just die already. All to “prepare” the poor pregnant girl “for the worst.” A monkey ready to yank the unsuspecting newbie off the pole.
And then when I bought the Blue House, I can sadly probably only count on
one hand two fingers the number of people who actually encouraged me to go for it. Everone else, literally, had negative words to say. “Have you seen The Money Pit?” “Glad its you and not me…” “Do you know this is going to cost you xx amount of money??” “What ever possessed you to buy THIS junk heap?” “You are going to, seriously, go broke.” And NONE* of the workers who came to help us refrained from airing their negative opinions. And on and on and on…..monkeys everywhere.
Then, in 2006, when a family member was diagnosed with encephalitis, one dear lady brought me a card the first night in Intensive Care with words hand-written inside that said something to the effect of,
“You need to be prepared because he is going to be a vegetable. You will have to sell your house because you will no longer have any income, because he will be unable to work. You won’t be able to get a job because you’ll have to be the caregiver for this invalid vegetable for 24 hours a day til death do you part. Go ahead and locate childcare for your children now. Find a trailer park to live in, and apply for government assistance because you will need it.”
Not in those exact words, of course, and she had a few beautiful scripture verses mixed in to soften the blow; I ripped the original into tiny bits that I tossed into the garbage right before I had a huge, emotional meltdown.
She thought she was being spiritual, but she was just another monkey.
All that to say.
Please forgive me if you have kind words for me that are meant to be encouraging, and I assume you are one more monkey and I overreact before I take the time to realize that there is only kindness and compassion behind your words.
Its not you, its me; I’ve just had several years of conditioning by a room full of monkeys…….