Six monkeys waited anxiously for what was soon to be the most confusing few hours of their lives.
These monkeys, like so many across the history of man, had the unfortunate destiny of participating in an experiment.
Upon entering a cage, the monkeys were greeted with the sight of bananas hanging from the ceiling, and a ladder to get there.
Like any good fruit-loving furballs would, the primates immediately ran for the ladder and climbed toward the snack.
And like any good knowledge-loving scientist would, the men behind the glass sprayed all the monkeys with a blast of ice-cold water, soaking them all to the bone.
Screeching and screaming, the group of chimps hopped around, waving their arms around furiously. They likely paced the cage for a few moments, wiping themselves off and glancing at the dangling yellow treats.
After a while, they went for the ladder again.
And of course, the scientists, no doubt filled with vengeance toward some Super Soaker-armed bully in their childhoods, doused the monkeys once more.
If you are familiar with studies similar to this, it probably will not surprise you to hear our furry friends stopped going for the bananas after this second memorable experience.
What may surprise you is what happens next.
Another monkey was released into the crowd. He saw the bananas. He went for the ladder.
He was immediately mobbed by six other monkeys.
Here’s the thing about primates — they aren't subtle. These six (probably still wet) monkeys beat the new monkey with their fists, screech loudly at him, and then sit on him.
Two wet monkeys are removed from the cage, and another dry one is introduced. He saw the bananas. He went for the ladder.
And all the monkeys, including the dry monkey, pummeled the bewildered new monkey.
The experiment continued until there were six completely dry monkeys in the cage. They had never seen the evil stream of water. They had never been exposed to any hardship within the cage.
Yet they all sat there, letting the bananas hang.
Which brings us to comfort zones.
If you follow me on Snapchat*, you know my mother recently traveled in an airplane for the first time in her life. It took some work (and Benadryl) for her to get there, but she did it.
This is a woman who loved to quote the bible verse “Lo, I will be with you always” as an excuse not to fly.
As a result, we shaved two days’ worth of travel time off our most recent trip to the beach, and she’s got one more experience to draw on and be proud of.
But for 53 years, she didn’t fly. It just wasn’t comfortable for her.
Here’s how it works — it is one of the deepest human desires to be consistent. Even if change is desperately needed, we sit in our mess because it is ours. If people expect us to be broke and we hang around broke people, it takes a tremendous amount of effort to not be broke.
We never expected my mother to fly, and she didn’t want to. So it didn’t happen.
And it happens to so many of us — We are afraid of the dangers we have not experienced but we hear about. We’d rather be safe and bored than unsure.
The environment we’ve been raised in is our cage, and the people around us determine how hard it is for us to get the bananas. And those bananas are so good. I promise you. The fruit on the other side of “that scares me” is so sweet you can’t imagine.
Great stuff happens once you leave your comfort zone.
Don’t be afraid of the water you’ve never seen.
*PS, you should follow me on Snapchat. If you don’t have Snapchat, DOWNLOAD IT ALREADY AND FOLLOW ME. ☺Snap name is “toddbr”