Let Go of the Banana
Snopes says it's an urban legend.
But just a few days ago, there it was again, the story of how to catch a monkey. In the most recent version (in a great blog entry by international business consultant Aad Boot), the monkey hunters put an apple in a jar that has a narrow neck. The monkey reaches in to get the apple, and can't pull its arm out...unless it releases the apple it has seized.
When I first heard this back in the 1990's, it was a banana. Thus the saying "Let go of the banana." A colleague of mine said to me once, "You gotta let go of the banana, man." I had no idea what he was talking about. So he filled me in. He told me that, when people get mired in an old way of thinking, they are holding onto a banana. Unless they let go, they won't be able to grow or change.
Unless you let go of the banana in your life, you'll be stuck and unable to move on.
Aad Boot makes it very clear that a great deal is at stake: "What does this have to do with leading change? Everything. In my working with leaders and their teams I often witness how successful change, transformation and innovation are hindered by the inability of letting go of what we have or who we are. Not seeing what is possible, what is in front of us, because we are too busy with holding on to what is behind us."
What's your banana? That is, the thing you are holding onto that is keeping your arm imprisoned in a jar?
For quite a few of the people I meet in my work, their banana is the past. The way things were. The "good old days" when we used to get a Christmas bonus and a turkey.
For others, it relates to their sense of identity or status. And in some cases, it has to do with material things, like a chair, or a table, or a ring.
For some, it can be a position they are taking in a conflict with someone else. They are like a clenched fist. As Indira Gandhi once said, "How can i shake hands with a closed fist?"
Unless we let go of these chains, they will keep us fettered. To liberate yourself and others, here are a few thoughts:
F = Find out what is holding you back. Get feedback from people you trust, people who will give you unvarnished input. Look in the mirror of self-awareness and figure out what your banana is exactly.
R = Research, Read, and Roam. The three R's used to be "Reading, 'Riting and 'Rithmetic," but for anyone looking to reinvent in today's economy, they must establish their own "R & D" - Research new ideas and Develop the most promising ones; Read outside their specialty to open their minds; and Roam into unusual and uncharted realms.
E = Engage with people outside your comfort zone. Connect with people you never thought you would have anything to do with.
E = Exercise. Get moving. Stop standing still. Time to get going. Go places you have never been to before. Do things you have never done before.
So many people are stuck. And they have no clue that there is a banana in their grip that is keeping them from scampering into the trees...and a better life.
Posted by Terrence Seamon on Wednesday June 1, 2011, with a new update on October 10, 2017.
Looking for ideas on breakthrough thinking? Terry Seamon is a Learning & Organization Development consultant with Facilitation Solutions, a training and organization effectiveness practice based in New Jersey. He has designed and delivered training for his clients on leadership, conflict resolution, negotiation, coaching, engagement, managing, communication, customer service, stress management, teamwork, and managing change.