Cam Taylor

Be inspired. Be focused. Be tenacious.

How to Maintain Optimism in a Dream Crushing World

An experiment conducted in 1967 resulted in a fascinating discovery. The experiment placed five monkeys in a cage with a bunch of bananas hanging high out of reach. Up against the wall, however, was a ladder could be used to climb up and reach the bananas.

bananasIt didn’t take long for the monkeys to spot the bananas hanging high over head. Immediately, one of the monkeys began to climb the ladder. As he did, however, the person running the experiment, sprayed him with a stream of cold water. He scurried down the ladder, cold and wet to join the rest of the monkeys.

Pretty soon, a second monkey decided to try his luck with securing some tasty bananas. Again, the experimenter sprayed the courageous monkey with cold water and sent him running to safely below. Finally all five monkey’s attempted to climb the ladder, each met with the same wet fate.

Now the experiment got interesting. One of the original five monkey’s is removed from the cage and replaced with a new monkey. Spotting the bananas, he naively begins to climb the ladder but to his surprise, the other four monkeys jump him and beat him into submission. When a second new monkey is introduced, all the other monkeys jump him, including the monkey who had never been sprayed with cold water.

Eventually, all five of the original monkeys were replaced by five new monkeys who had never been sprayed with cold water but who worked together to keep any banana seeking monkey from ever reaching the fresh bananas.

The Moral of the Story

If when going after a dream you are doused with cold water – stop pursuing it. In addition to that, if you see others going after a dream that you have come to learn (from experience or hearsay) results in pain and adversity, stop them as well (it’s for their own good!).

Five Take-aways for Ladder Climbing (how to counter a monkey brain mindset)

1. Everyone has a dream.

It may be eating fresh bananas, making art, or changing the world. Figure out what your dream is. If you need a new one, find it.

2. Dreams encounter cold water.

Stuff happens to pour cold water on our dreams. That’s normal. Don’t be surprised by cold water.

3. Cold water doesn’t need to define you.

How you respond to cold water makes all the difference. Monkey’s turn into victims – you can choose differently.

4. Question toxic environmental expectations.

The new monkeys didn’t even question why they shouldn’t climb – they just went along with cultural norms. Don’t be afraid to push back on dream crushing behaviors and beliefs.

5. Pick your friends carefully.

The people we hang out with will either pour cold water on our dreams or encourage us to climb higher. Surround yourself with optimistic climbing companions.

What dream of yours has been doused with cold water?
What will you do about it?

Image source: Free image courtesy of

About Cam Taylor

Life and leadership coach, transition & change specialist, husband, dad, leader, writer, life long learner.

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