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The Three Monkeys On A Tree

Small acts, simple gestures can sometimes remind us of powerful lessons. Like it happened with me last month.

We had got back home after a week-long celebration of a wedding in the family. We reached late in the night and as you might expect, we were tired. When we woke up — rather late — next morning, we were delighted to find that a kind old friend had sent us a nice, hot breakfast! The maid wasn’t back at work, the refrigerator was bare, and we weren’t really up to making our own breakfast. So, you can understand our sense of delight and gratitude at this wonderful gesture from a friend. She made our day.

And she set me thinking. How come we miss out on opportunities to create delight for other people in our lives? It was a lovely gesture from a friend. And I wished I had done that more often for others too. I am sure if the friend had called and asked if we needed help (like many of us thoughtfully do), we would have said, “No, thanks”. But she didn’t ask. She just sent it over. And that made all the difference.

I thought of the many times I might have offered to help a friend — and how each time they had politely declined. I thought of how we routinely make an offer to help — but don’t really do anything because very few people actually respond with a specific request for help. As a result, we miss a trick. We ask other people, ‘How can I help?’ when, in fact, we should be asking that question to ourselves — and then, doing something about it. It is ever so rare that we proactively do something to help! Maybe we all should.

The friend’s gesture reminded me of an old quiz question:

There are three little monkeys sitting on a tree, above a pond. One of those monkeys decides to jump into the pond. How many monkeys left on the tree? Come on, take a guess.

Two, did you say? Or was your response ‘zero’ since you figured that if one monkey jumps, the others would follow too? Or did you say three?

If your answer was three, congratulations. You are right. The monkey only decided to jump. It didn’t actually jump. Aren’t we all a bit like that?

We plan. We decide. We think. But we don’t take action. Have you decided to lose weight? Yes? And you are probably wondering why you haven’t lost weight although you decided three months ago. Success in life comes not from deciding to do things — but from doing them. Results are born out of action, not intent.

The Nike guys were right. ‘Just do it’ they said. We could all benefit by building a strong bias for action. Become someone who doesn’t just think about it or talk about it —but does it.

So, the next time you want to help friends who have come back after a long and tiring trip, don’t ask if you can help. If you have been thinking of calling that old aunt you haven’t spoken to in years, stop thinking about it. If you have been meaning to help that friend who is desperately looking for a job, do something about it. Today.

Take that first step. Don’t just think about it. Do it. Now!

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