March 12, 2012

The Trouble with Climbing Higher

I once read this story about these monkeys. (Yes, monkeys…bear with me, this is going somewhere.)

So these monkeys were put in a room with a bunch of bananas tied to the top of a tall pole. And the monkeys did, what monkeys do. What it is in their nature to do. They tried to climb high… and get the bananas. But every time one of them would start to climb too high, the experimenters would spray them with a fire hose to knock them back down again. Over and over, one by one this went on, until every single monkey in the room had learned that there was just no point in trying to climb. To reach for something more, something that was just beyond their grasp. Because every time, they knew without fail that they would just be knocked down again.

At a certain point, the experimenters decided to remove the fire hose from the equation. Every day, they would hang up a brand new ripe, yellow bunch of bananas at the top of the pole. And every day, the monkeys would just sit at the bottom not even trying to reach for them. Even though there was no longer any danger of them being knocked down. But they had already learned that there was just no point in trying.

Occasionally, one of the monkeys would forget what they had all been taught and would start to climb. The fire hose wasn’t there anymore, so just a few steps up and he would have reached them. But now it was the other monkeys, not the fire hose, who were knocking him down. When they saw someone trying to break the rules that they had all learned too well, they would shake the pole, grab him by the feet and drag him back down to where he belonged.

Here’s where the story starts to get really interesting.

One by one, the experimenters started to replace the original monkeys with new members. And every time that new member, never having seen the fire hose or having had the experience of being knocked down, would immediately set out to do what was in his nature to do. To climb higher. To reach for more. And every time without fail, he would be dragged back down. Not by a fire hose mind you, but by the other members in the room. Because they had already learned that there was no point in reaching for anything higher. They had already learned there was a limit to what they could all do. And they just wanted to make sure this new member knew his place as well.

The experiment went on until there were no members from the original trial left. Or from the second group. Or the third. Several generations in still each time a new member was introduced to the group, he was knocked down. Even though no one in the room even knew anymore what the original danger (the fire hose) had been. Or that it had been long since removed. That all that time had been wasted, and at any day they could have been enjoying the prize. Together. If they would have just stopped tearing each other down. All they knew was this: I have been told and I believed it when they said I couldn’t climb any higher.

Therefore, I don’t think anyone else should be able to either.

It’s funny, that sometimes we’re not as different as we might hope we would be.

Last week, my good friend Spring received one of the harshest, ugliest comments I’ve seen in a long time. All because she dared to utter a dream. And if the parallels haven’t been drawn yet, it was signed under the anonymous name everyone. That “everyone” wanted to drag her down for even thinking of climbing higher. It was supposedly done for our benefit, complimentary to Justin & I while cutting her apart. But the thing is, none of us benefits when any one of us is dragged down. So “everyone” if you’re reading this, please don’t ever do that to someone in my name again.

You guys, we have to stop tearing each other down if we ever want to move forward. We have to see other people climbing higher, not as a threat to us but as a road that is being paved. One that will make our way easier. We have to see how much is being wasted while we’re fighting so hard to keep others in their place. We have to stop getting so brave behind our computer screens just because we are hurting in real life.

It’s in our nature to go higher. To try harder. To reach for more. Everyone, I know that you’ve been knocked down a lot lately.

But the time has come to climb.

  1. Jil

    what an important message and a great call to action!

  2. anouschka

    So, so true… Thanks for sharing this..

  3. Alicia White

    This is one of my favorite posts ever. ever ever. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Holly

    wow! what a post today! you had me in tears, you guys… thank you for that. :) we just HAVE to get better at this – encourage. don’t discourage. :D

  5. Joni

    Amen!! Thanks so much for this message!

  6. Abby Grace

    This is so infuriating to hear- I’m guessing it’s in answer to Spring’s announcement of a workshop? I am so EXCITED for her to teach others, and it really bums me out that people can’t break out of their "this is how it’s always been done, this is how it SHOULD always be done" mindset. GO SPRING!

  7. Christy

    I love you. And I love this message. It is SOOO true! AMEN! Let’s do this thing – together! :)

  8. Katie S

    i LOVE You guys. you guys are inspiring, and keep climbing, i know i will.

  9. Mary Anne Morgan

    Thank you. You are a blessing. I loved reading this today after feeling a little discouraged myself.:)

  10. Nancy Mitchell

    This is a wonderful post and I am so sad for SPRING! GO after your dream girl! I am behind ya! Thanks J&M for making this real! We all need to be there for each other and help each other out so WE all can move forward. I hope that EVERYONE begins to climb too! xoxo~nance

  11. Tiffany Vaughan

    This is so true of this industry and it makes me so sad. Spring!!!! All I have to say is DREAM BIG! Don’t let the haters hate or bring you down. Much love from Sunny Florida!

  12. Christa

    I was so sad when Spring posted about the comment, this makes me sad all over again. You’d think that someone sharing a dream would be something to celebrate, always a bad apple :(

  13. Abbey

    Wow!!! Thank you for daring to take a stand to the hateraid!!! Spring, may the winds continue to guide you to newer heights!

  14. Elizabeth Glessner

    Yes!! Thank you so much for sharing this story! I hope and believe that we can be a new generation that encourage and support one another and change this industry for the better!

  15. Kari Jeanne

    More people need to start thinking like you – thank you so much for sharing!!!

  16. Spring

    The biggest, warmest heartfelt hug goes out to all of you in this community that have supported me and made me feel like I can do anything!!!! You all rock my world and J&M thank you for being such great roll models in this industry! Xoxoxo

  17. Sandra Fazzino

    Thank you for sharing this story. I had never heard it before, and although I dislike these kinds of mental experiments, the end result is fascinating. It’s a breakthrough that I’ve had recently myself and appreciate this analogy very much.

  18. LEOLAK

    This is a great message Mary! Thank you for sharing it. Spring…do you lady and go for it…much luck and success to you with your workshop and business!

  19. ashley barnett

    Can I get an amen?!?! Sharing this all over today :)

  20. Heidi

    Great Post thanks for being an inspiration to us all!!

  21. Mia Bjerring

    Everyone should read this and learn from this. At least some people could benefit from these wise words! Thank you so much for sharing and showing us all that we shouldn’t let anyone stop us and always keep climbing higher to reach our dreams and goals. Nobody has the right to judge or put anyone down.

  22. Joe Don Richardson

    Thank you so much for this. So many of us need to hear this.

  23. Julia

    Amen Mary! Amen!

  24. Lisa

    What a truly inspiring post. I’ll admit I actually started at the bottom of the post and read about your friend and wondered what monkeys had to do with it. Although the monkey story is sad, it is a good lesson to learn. Thanks for posting this. :)

  25. Amanda Driver

    Just read this commentary this morning and it goes so well with this: "When we see others succeeding where we haven’t, or receiving the affirmation we crave, it is hard to rejoice with them. Jealousy is our natural reaction. But how tragic it is when our own jealous feelings make us try to stop God’s work. If a work is God’s work, rejoice in it–no matter who is doing it."

  26. Kate

    I can’t stand that people feel the need to be so mean to others. Someone said some really mean things to me awhile back and I still get upset over it. Then I get mad at myself for letting someone like that affect me so much. Thank you for posting this – it is exactly what I needed!

  27. Elizabeth

    wow sorry to about your friend, but people that hate have no time in my life…usually people like that are just jealous. thank you pointing out Springs blog and website…she has a new fan in me!!!

  28. Ashley Scobey

    Really and truly in the deepest part of my heart love this post and love knowing that you LIVE what you say. An industry change starts with us – it is happening and it is wonderful :)

  29. Lauren Wakefield

    Amen sister! I wish more people would see things this way and not knock other people down because they are too afraid themselves. Give Spring a hug for me. :)

  30. Melania

    I’m so tired of hearing about this over and over. We can get a room full of photographers and have them shoot the same scene and every.single.image will be different among them all. I’m from an area in the US where I had to reinvent the wheel. Actually – no. I had to INVENT my own wheel because not one person wrote me back when I asked to PAY for coffee. Not one. I sat behind my laptop and cried. I’m so happy to hear that she’s going to help propel this industry forward. The more of us that are willing to do so – the BETTER this industry will become. Kudos to you, Mary. For supporting your friend – and the rest of us.

  31. Jen Jar

    Mary, you are so amazing with words. I am so lucky to have inspiration like you in my life :)

  32. Laura Gordon

    Amen, Sister!

  33. kat hanafin

    Mary. Thank you. I was completely devastated for Spring last week. I was upset, angry, and so hurt myself, and for her. It’s hard to comprehend how someone could be that incredibly mean. It took me days to process it (many) without an exaggeration. Thank you so much for acknowledging that "everyone" certainly doesn’t feel this way; in fact, quite the contrary. We love Spring, and we would all rally around her… I hope "everyone" got that message as well. can’t wait to see you guys tomorrow night. xoxoxo

  34. Susan Evans

    Amen, Mary! And I’ve met Spring (even though I kept wanting to call her Skye – don’t ask) and I know she’ll be great. Spring – go get it girl!

  35. Jenny Solar

    Thank you for ALWAYS encouraging us to lift ourselves and others up… not just with this one blog post but with EVERYTHING that you and Justin stand for. I’m proud to call you guys my friends!

  36. Chris Walter

    Going after your dreams is hard, its gonna hurt sometimes. Each step is a test. Each test brings you a bit closer.

    I think realizing this is so important. You have to fight for what you love, its never easy.

  37. Erin Oveis Brant

    yes yes YES! Thank you J + M <3

  38. Katie

    Very nice! So applicable in many different scenarios.

  39. trent

    I’m not going to lie, I teared up reading about the monkey experiment, so sad, yet I’ve seen this happen in real life with humans. I couldn’t agree more with you Mary!

    Spring, that person didn’t speak for all of us. I cannot wait to see what you do with your dream. ROCK IT SPRING! Cheering you on from NYC!

  40. Shari Hanson

    found you through Jenny Solar — WOW that was a powerful post. THANK YOU for sharing it! I plan on spreading this through FB if that’s OK with you! xoxo

  41. michelle

    This anecdote is eye opening, Mary! And needed to be said. Thanks for enlightening me :) And Spring, dream, dare, and live, and don’t let anyone tell you differently!

  42. Maria

    Great post…as my Dad always says, do not let negative people or words rent precious space in your head…

  43. Sasha Norgaard

    I’ve been thinking about this same issue for a while now so thank you for addressing it Mary. It is because of people like you that Spring knows where her true supporters and friends are at and it is because of you that the rest of us know the key ingredient to business and life. It’s never hate, just love.

  44. Bethany Ann

    Wow! I needed this today. I appreciate how open you are and how accepting you are. Thank you! And keep on climbing high, you guys! :) We are in this together. :)

  45. Colleen

    here’s the great thing….I checked Spring out…and LOVED her work….and I just know that many others will too. So when it’s all said and done….’everyone’ just gave her an opportunity to be in the light….and it’s shining bright because of her talent…and your kindness in writing this blog.

  46. athena

    people throw stones at things that shine. that’s true. and haters, well, they’re always gonna hate. but bad cliches aside – you’re right. so were the monkeys. and the researches. people stay down – because they’ve been conditioned to. because failure is real. failure happens. getting knocked down, sucks.

    but those of us brave enough to push anyway – to climb anyway- reap the greatest rewards. and that will always ALWAYS be the case. those that choose to sit in fear at the bottom of the banana pole eventually starve.

    Or, at least, I hope they do, because MAN those people suck.

    i went through a horrible and wonderful and scary and traumatic and uplifting point in my business this year when i rebranded. i lept. i designed my new site and i bucked tradition and what others in my market are doing and i made my site about ME. and i got called a copycat. i was accused of stealing. of being inauthentic. and however false the accusation was, it has haunted me the last six weeks and put me in this "bottom of the banana pole" funk that I can’t shake.

    because what if it’s true and I am a thankless hack? because, Justin, Mary, everyone else reading this, it’s just so damn easy to believe that you’re not worthy of trying.

    and that sucks.

    I’m halfway to the point of having enough courage to keep going.

    And I hope I get all the way there…and soon. Because I need it. My soul needs it.

    Thanks for sharing this story. You always help.
    xo

  47. Lisa Mathewson

    Thanks for writing this. I see/hear a lot of this lately so uncool.

  48. Kelly Ewell

    Amen! It’s so terrible what people in this industry to do others. It makes them not want to innovate and be creative, which is part of the reason that so many started being interested in photography in the first place. So sad. But the people who tear others down are the saddest of all.

  49. Danielle Acken

    Spring is definitely lucky to have friends like you around her. You have a beautiful heart.

  50. Shannon Rosan

    So sorry to hear someone attacked Spring :( Your message was beautifully said…much better than what I was thinking, which was ‘Haters gonna Hate.’

  51. Shannon O'Leary

    What a wonderful post! As a close friend of Spring’s, I was very disheartened to hear of the terrible post she received. I was also proud of her not taking the post down, but leaving it up for all to see. I PROUDLY stand with Spring and her decision NOT to let it "hose her down"! GO BANANAS! J&M, thank you too, for being such an inspiration to us all. I can’t wait to spend the evening of July 20th with you and a beautiful couple on French’s Point.

  52. Suzy G

    Oh Mary, this is why you amaze me. What beautiful words and what truth. I pray your friend Spring continues to soar, because in the overcoming is where the most beauty can be found.

  53. GrandmaIna

    Great story–and so true!! We’ve all been knocked down at least once. The trick is to get right up and not let the $#@%’s discourage you. Your columns could be in a self-help book!!

  54. em

    yes. yes. yes. YES. a million times yes.

  55. Jessica

    Preach it Mary! :) The world is not complete unless each one of us tries to help the next person out…regardless of how badly we may be hurting. Love makes the world go round!

  56. Tiffany Bolk

    True that sister!

  57. Meagan Mysliwiec

    I read your posts every now and then. The subject line in your post caught my interest so I headed over to read. This is by far the most incredible, beautiful, and inspiring things I’ve read in a long time. Thank you for posting this. You’ve made a big difference for me, as I’ve been facing some interesting situations lately. This was exactly what I needed to hear to see things differently. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You are a beautiful person.

  58. meg

    so well said Mary- and a great story….I think I might print it and read it at bedtime to my 3 y.o. {well the story, not the stuff about Spring….} xo

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