Other Stories

Five Monkeys

Start with a cage containing five monkeys.
Inside the cage, hang a banana on a string and place a set of stairs under it. Before long, a monkey will go to the stairs and start to climb towards the banana. As soon as he touches the stairs, spray all of the other monkeys with cold water.
After a while, another monkey makes an attempt with the same result – all the other monkeys are sprayed with cold water. Pretty soon, when another monkey tries to climb the stairs, the other monkeys will try to prevent it.
Now, put away the cold water. Remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new one. The new monkey sees the banana and wants to climb the stairs. To his surprise and horror, all of the other monkeys attack him.
After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs, he will be assaulted.
Next, remove another of the original five monkeys and replace it with a new one. The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous newcomer takes part in the punishment with enthusiasm! Likewise, replace a third original monkey with a new one, then a fourth, then the fifth. Every time the newest monkey takes to the stairs, he is attacked.
Most of the monkeys that are beating him have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs or why they are participating in the beating of the newest monkey.
After replacing all the original monkeys, none of the remaining monkeys have ever been sprayed with cold water. Nevertheless, no monkey ever again approaches the stairs to try for the banana. Why not? Because as far as they know that’s the way it’s always been done round here.

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kingLong long ago, in a country far away from here, the King was sitting at his morning meditation when he received some news that disturbed him greatly and shook him out of his normal calm state. The messenger, who had brought the news from the far edges of the kingdom reported that a dragon had been seen again for the first time in many many years. Could it really be that a dragon would come again?
The King decided to take the time to visit his most-trusted advisor and teacher, the Wizard, who lived in an old house that stood on a cliff between the palace and the dark forest.
Now, one of the reasons that the King liked to visit the Wizard at his house rather than summoning him to the palace was because the Wizard had two beautiful windows in his living room –windows that seemed to face out upon every aspect of the world and bring sights and sounds, messages and deeds – from the world of today, the world of yesterday, and the world of tomorrow.
“They say that there is a dragon coming,” said the King.
“A dragon, indeed? It has been many long years since I have seen a dragon. Do you remember the dragon coming when you were just a boy,” asked the Wizard to the King.
“Oh yes”, said the King, “I remember watching the dragon come. It was so long ago – I was still so young and unwise in the ways of the world. I was immature like those trees that stand outside were just barely planted. Yet now although the trees stand tall, and I stand tall, I am still scared by the return of this dragon.”
“Come, come”, said the Wizard, let us go to my hall and notice what we can learn from the two windows that face out upon the world.”
They stood for a while in the center of the hall, peacefully enjoying the silence and the light of the late afternoon as it cast shadows through the two windows.
Each window was divided into three parts. The top and bottom parts of each window were a rich white colour. But the middle part of the windows were black with a gorgeous blue circle at the center.
amazing-eyes1Then from the center of the hall, the King looked up to his left through the top of the window on the left wall and saw the high mountains in the distance beyond the forest.
“Oh yes, I remember well,” as he continued to look up to his left, “I saw the dragon come and when he got enraged, I watched his breath turn to fire, and I stared at him burn those old houses to the ground. I looked at the flames and prayed that I would never see such a sight again.”
Then the King turned his attention to the center of the window on the left wall and he listened to the sounds of the world, as if he was listening to the past.
“Oh yes, I remember – I can hear the roars of that dragon coming back to me now. As I stand here now, I can listen again to the people screaming in fear at the dragon, but there was a sound, so clear and audible – that came to my ears even more directly than that screaming–it was the young dragon’s strange strange song. For there is nothing in this world that I have heard that is quite like the sound of dragonsong.”
After a few moments of silence, the King looked down left at the bottom of the window, and as he stood there, he seemed pensive and lost in thought. 
“I tell myself now, as I have always told myself, the dragon will come again. ”
After a few moments, the Wizard said, “and what do you see happening when that dragon comes again?”
The King looked up right to the window on the right wall and as he gazed up, his whole face took on a dreamy look as if he were seeing something not visible to other men.
“I see what has not been seen before. I see that future time when the dragon will come again. I watch it flying back into our land, bigger and stronger than it has ever been.”
He looked across at the beautiful center of the window.
“I imagine the sound of the dragon – who is older now. I imagine that I can hear the loud screams and the roars of the dragon. And I can hear that strange strange dragonsong again. For there is nothing in this world quite like the sound of dragonsong. Yet I know that it will sound different, for just like a child and a man, the voice will change over the years. And I imagine listening to that changed dragonsong.”
The King looked down right, and as he did he looked down right scared.
“I feel scared. Yes, deep down right … in my body, I feel tight and cold and hard … I feel scared.”
The Wizard smiled at the King and said, “Yes, I understood. You feel scared. And it is only natural for you to feel scared of what you do not understand and believe that you cannot control. You believe that the dragon will come again and destroy the houses of the people. You believe that you have no choice, but to fight the dragon. Yet there are always choices. Sometimes we just haven’t awoken to those choices yet and are following the paths that we learned to follow when we were children.”
“For the dragon is a magical creature and I know much about magic, how it is structured and used to change. Would you be interested in knowing that you can transform your communication with that dragon?”
The King nodded, a little unsure of what this was all about, but open-minded enough to realize that the Wizard might be able to help.
“Yes, of course,” continued the Wizard, “you are interested in learning to transform your communication with the dragon …with yourself and others … in mind, I mean. And you can … learn how to do that now.”
The Wizard walked to where the King had been standing and looked up left at the top of the window at the left of the hall.
“I remember seeing an older dragon – a beautiful beast – she came in peace. I watched her fly so slowly here – an enormous great red dragon with eyes of green and a wingspan half as wide as your palace.”
He lowered his eyes and looked at the beautiful center of the window and said in a soft voice, “And I heard her beautiful song–Dragonsong–and there is nothing in the world quite like dragonsong. It is a sound that can bring fear or anger or joy or love or hope. All of the emotions of the world can be expressed in the highest way in dragonsong. Yet when I heard the song of that great dragon, it was the sound of healing and love passing out into the world from a magical place.”
The Wizard looked down to the bottom of the window on his left and the King could see that he was whispering to himself. Then the Wizard said aloud, “When I saw her beauty and heard the magnificence of that song, I said to myself ‘this is a wondrous creature indeed and I wish to communicate with this creature. And although all around me, the people of the city panicked and wanted to attack the dragon, I begged them to give me a chance to try to communicate with the dragon.”
“And I did, you know, I really began to communicate with the dragon. For me, it was easiest to really begin to notice the sounds within the beautiful dragon song. The sounds came together in strange harmonies and counterpoints and each note resounded through my very soul.”
“And then I started to feel the dragon song vibrating in the air – and my whole body was vibrant with the energy of that dragon song, and I felt myself begin to move – and to dance to the beauty of that dragonsong.”
“It was only when I really allowed myself to hear the dragon and to feel its presence that I could truly see the dragon as it really is. For the dragon is a magical creature and it does not appear the same to all. When you look upon the dragon with fear or anger, you will see the sharp teeth and the fierce claws. But when you look upon the dragon with love, understanding, and openness, you can begin to see the beautiful eyes of the dragon gazing at you in an attempt to really reach you – and see the dragon’s heart beating in its chest and to see the healing energy that it sends out to all who are ready to accept it. And you can begin to understand that at the highest level, and with the highest possible intention, the dragonsong is a song of love.”
The King asked, “So why do we and the dragon fight and cause each other pain and destruction?”
The Wizard looked a little sad and replied, “sometimes we fail to understand the positive intention of each other’s communication. Sometimes one or other of us is carrying so much anger, fear, and pain inside that we forget how to really communicate.”
“And will the dragon come again?”, asked the king.
“Oh yes, I believe the dragon will come again” as he turned to face the right side of the room and look out the top part of the window on the right wall. “I can almost see it already – a glorious grown dragon with shining green magical eyes.”
He looked at the beautiful center of the window and continued, “I imagine hearing its beautiful dragonsong and nothing in this world sounds as beautiful as that mature dragon’s song.”
He looked out the bottom window on the right and he said “And I feel good – I feel that it is right for this dragon to come.”
He came back to the left side of the room and turned to the King and said, “Look out the top window See yourself again as you were as a small boy – immature. Face the middle window and hear again the screams of the people and realize that they were shouts of anger. When you remember listening to that dragonsong again, notice the sadness in the dragonsong. Now move down to the lower window and say to yourself, “I have grown and the dragon has grown.”
He guided the King over to the right side of the room and said, “now look out that top window and see what you have never seen before–imagine the dragon coming again, older, more mature, bringing peace and love. Look out the middle window and imagine hearing the beauty of a true mature dragonsong.”
“Your transforming communication with yourself and with the dragon changes the dragon and it also changes you. The dragon notices everything, and so do you – sometimes in the past you and the dragon just forgot to notice the good things. Just like you, the dragon is a mirror – it projects what it perceives. If you project fear and anger, the dragon will bring you those things. If you project openness and love, the dragon will bring you those things. Sometimes it will take a little time for us to release and dissolve any pain or anger that was stored up inside, now is the time to begin to release and dissolve, release and dissolve any pain or anger that was there … and begin to truly hear the dragonsong.”
“So look out the bottom of that window right now and feel so so good inside – letting those feelings grow – transforming words – communication throughout your whole life – realizing that you really have so much to learn from the beautiful dragonsong.”
The King walked around the room for a few minutes absorbing the words and message of the wizard. Finally, he turned and asked the Wizard, “
“Will this grown dragon be as you can imagine seeing and hearing – and so bring us fear and anger, or will it be as imagine seeing and hearing it –and so bring us joy, love, and learning?”
The Wizard smiled and said,
“Dragons are magical beasts. The strongest magic in the world is the power of the human mind – and when the human mind can learn to respect and begin to understand the true beauty of dragonsong, then you really can … transform communication.”

Other Stories

The Library

Once upon a time, a long long time ago, there was a teacher, a teacher who loved to teach and who loved to learn and to help people to learn and change. And one day on his day off, he decided to take a walk.
He lived in the north of the city and he decided to take a walk down south, at just the appropriate speed, to walk right through the city and to come to the old city in the south … deep into areas that he had visited years ago, but hadn’t returned to them in a long long time because the north of the city seemed so interesting and it engaged so much of his attention. And as he was slowly walking deeper through the streets in the south, some of which he was walking for the first time, he came to an old old building with classical architecture and he saw the sign, and it said ‘Library of the Ages’, so he decided to … go inside … that’s right, he decided to go inside to learn something, because it’s good to learn, isn’t it? And when you go inside a library, you can start to become curious about what you might learn.
And it was a long long time ago before Google and the Internet and all of that stuff, so if you wanted to learn you had to … go into the library. And even now, with the world of Google, it’s still sometimes good to learn things the old-fashioned way and to keep the knowledge in your own head. Because when you have the knowledge in your own head, that means that you can begin to make connections… begin to make connections between old knowledge and new knowledge that you might not yet even understand, connections that might surprise you, or you mightn’t be surprised immediately, or you might just surprise yourself much later and whatever you choose, that’s ok. Because making connections between old memories and new resources in the library is so important for learning and for change.
And when the teacher went inside the library, he was surprised because the inside of the library was so much bigger than it had looked from the outside. There was so much to learn, so many resources that he hadn’t really known about … inside the library. And he was glad that he had decided to go inside to learn as much as possible. The teacher noticed that the library was quite different … and if you asked him how it was different, he might just reply … you need to go inside yourself to really begin to understand what I mean.
There were so many books inside, and all of those wonderful resources were arranged on shelves in rooms along a long hallway. This long long hall inside the library was fairly dim-lit as libraries tend to be, with that characteristic smell of books, and that musty taste on the air, and on each side of the hall there were rooms.
So he started walking down the hall and he walked into a room on his left and he looked around and all the books were shiny and new. He looked at a few of the titles and he thought that he recognised them. They all seemed quite familiar, so the teacher thought “I know all this”, and he went out of that room because he was looking for something much older … and he walked a little bit deeper into the library, deeper down that hall.
Then he noticed another room that stood out for some reason and he went into that room and saw that all the books were a little bit older, just a little bit more creased and dog-worn, and the smell was just that little bit different because books really do smell differently as they get older, don’t they. And he looked at a few of the books and he recognised some of them, and others he sort of recognised, as if they were things or books that he had once read and known but couldn’t quite remember anymore.
And he went out of that room and started to walk deeper into the library, down that long hall, until he came quite deep, a long way deep into the library, and realised that in each room that he had passed, the books were getting older and older, dustier and dustier, and that smell of old books was getting stronger and stronger. And the teacher thought, “is it strange to have a library that is organised chronologically, organised by time, so as you go deeper into the library, further along the hall, you find yourself seeing older and older books, further back in time.” It seems an interesting way to organise a library, and perhaps it’s the most useful way, and perhaps there are other ways to organise a library, for example by having to decide which books are most important and useful and relevant now and then figuring out how to make the most important books prominent in some way.
But we’re not librarians, and the teacher was in that library, not the library of our imagination, so he is the one who will decide how this story proceeds, and we can just stay in our own stories. And that teacher decided to go into a room that wasn’t quite at the very depth of the hall, but was very deep, so he went inside the room, and he looked around, and at random he pulled one of the books off the shelves. He opened it up and it was a children’s book and when he looked around the room, he noticed that all of the books in that room were children’s books and all quite dusty as if no-one had looked at or enjoyed some of these books in a long long time.
He began to look at the book and it was full of lovely pictures for children, and he read on the first page the sentence, “Once upon a time, there was a teacher”, and he thought to himself, “that’s funny, you’re a teacher, wouldn’t it be funny if this book is all about you?”

So he looked at the book and he was looking at one of the pages, and there was a very small cute picture in the corner of a kids party. It was a small picture in black and white – just a simple sketch but evocative and memorable in some way. There was a little child there and the child was playing with friends and in front of the child was a birthday cake and in the background there was an old record player playing music. The teacher looked at the picture in the book and he smiled because it was funny. It reminded him of something and he wasn’t quite sure what it reminded him of.
Until suddenly there was a voice behind him that said “it’s good to remember the good times, isn’t it?”
He twirled around quickly and saw standing before him an older woman who was obviously a librarian. You know librarians. They have that look about them–they are always watching out, seeing things that other people don’t notice, and they know so much about books and how to learn.
“Yes,” said the teacher. “it does remind me of some good times, actually. It reminds me of a birthday party long long ago when I was just a kid, maybe just 7 years old. I had pretty much forgotten about it until now. It was a lovely party.”
As the teacher began to remember the party, other pictures started coming to mind and he began to remember the sounds of the party – the music playing and the people’s voices.”
The librarian looked at him and said, “Yes, sometimes a picture can really help a person to imagine that you’re right back at that time, seeing that scene out of your own eyes.”
And the teacher began to hear the words that people were saying and he could even smell the food and taste the amazing chocolate birthday cake. It was just wonderful. He could hear the music playing in that old record player.
And as he remembered back, the librarian helped him to remember in even more detail by asking simple questions like, “and is that picture that you see big, and is it vivid?” and “what would happen if you changed that picture into a movie?”
And as he remembered this happy memory, he just felt wonderful, more and more wonderful as he was able to  make that happier memory even better.
When he went home, he kept thinking about it and just felt great. And when he awoke the next day, he decided to go back to the library again. Because it was still his day off – teachers have lots of days off, you know. In fact, this was his summer vacation.
So once again, he walked deep down into the centre of the old city in the south, and once again, he decided to go inside. And he walked down, down down deep inside the library, even deeper until he came to that same room and when he saw the room, he was able to go inside and he went back to the same book, and he went back to the same page in that book and he noticed something really surprising.
Because the book was not what he remembered. The page looked different, quite different. When he had seen it the last time, there was just a small picture in black and white – just a simple sketch – he was almost sure of it. Yet today, it had become a big picture and was in full vivid colour. And the perspective had changed somehow because the child wasn’t in the picture. It was if the whole happy scene was been seen out of the child’s own eyes. And as he looked at it, the whole picture became alive and it was almost as if he was back in that event again. He could hear that music and feel so good.
He was also thinking to himself–this is not possible, is it? How could the pages in the book have changed? He thought, “I’m just imagining this”, and then he heard a noise behind him and there stood the librarian and she looked at him and she said, “You’re only imagining it, are you? Well, libraries are good places for imagining things, you know, and your mind is a powerful thing when you … learn to use it.” And she wandered off.
He was left alone again, wondering what did she mean when she said “your mind is a powerful thing when you learn to use it.” He walked out of the room, still feeling great and starting to become curious about what else might happen in this strange and wonderful place. He walked a long way back up along the long hallway up towards the door of the library. And as he passed one door, he felt a strong impulse to go inside that room. So he did go inside that room and it was full of books, books that looked a little newer than the children’s book that he had seen, yet still quite dusty as if no-one had read them or cleaned them out in a long time.
At random, yet somehow knowing what he was going to find, he chose a book from one of the shelves and again, the picture and the words in the book reminded him very much of something that had happened in his own life. For the pictures were much too bright and big and vivid for his taste … the angry face of a beautiful young woman. And in words too harsh was described a breakup of a teacher from his fiancé. Just like in his own life, when a few short years ago it seemed, yet it was really quite a bit longer than that. He couldn’t ever seem to forget it and he couldn’t seem to move beyond that time.
And he thought to himself, “I just wish I could tear that whole chapter out of the book.” because each time that he thought of his own memory, it brought him such pain and heartache, even though it was a long long time ago.
And he didn’t realise that he had said these words out loud, yet there again, behind him stood the librarian and she said, “you can’t tear out a chapter from a book. That chapter is part of the book. And each book in the library is useful in certain ways.”
He looked around and said, “but this chapter reminds me of something so sad – every time I remember it, it just brings back the horrible words and feelings and I just wish that I could tear it out.”
And the librarian looked at him and said, “well, you can’t tear it out, but your mind is a powerful thing when you .. learn to use it… perhaps you understand already that the only one who can really help you to learn and to change is … you. And you know how to change it … now … don’t you… when you … really begin to use the resources of the library?”
And the teacher began to look at the book and he noticed that the terrible picture of that horrible time was a big and bright picture with vivid colours, and he could see the angry angry face of the woman just before she walked away for the last time … as if he were looking out of his own eyes … and he could hear the words of their quarrel sounding in his head again … and he felt so terrible.”
And the teacher thought to himself, “you changed the other picture somehow, didn’t you? Perhaps somehow you can change this picture, too.”
“Well,” said the librarian. “Perhaps you might like to compare it with the picture on the opposite page.”
The teacher looked at the picture on the opposite page and it reminded him of another incident in his own life around the same time that he had almost forgotten about–a dispute that had seemed important at the time, yet it seemed ok to forget about it quickly. And that picture was very different – it was smaller and in black and white and down in the corner of the page. And what was particularly interesting was that he could see himself in the picture, or at least someone who looked remarkably like him.
“It’s completely different,” he said.
“That’s right,” said the librarian. It is quite a different representation, isn’t it, and maybe that’s the difference that made the difference. So if you like, just go ahead now and close your eyes and imagine that picture that has made you unhappy until now is different. Because when you close your eyes… yes just like that… perhaps you don’t need to look out of your own eyes – instead you can imagine seeing yourself in that picture, and notice how the feelings begin to change … now … and if you change that picture from full colour into black and white, just let the colours melt away … and shrink it right down … so small that it only occupies a small unimportant location in the corner of the page … and let those sounds, those words that were with the picture … make them slower and quieter until they just float away peacefully … make them distant as if they are coming from a long long way away.”
And the teacher did all of that, and he opened his eyes, not daring to look at the book for a long time. And when he did look at the book, he couldn’t even remember what the page had looked like before or whether it really had changed or not, but he realised that his feelings had totally changed. He realised that that event was over, and it was time for him to put it in the past and to just move forward. But he learned something even more important–he learned that some things can not be destroyed or taken away, but they can be changed by learning to perceive them in a different way.
And as he left the library, he asked at the front desk if he could speak to the old librarian who had helped him. The young lady looked at him strangely and said, “I’m sorry, Sir, there is no-one who works here who looks like that.
The teacher said, “but that’s not possible – I saw her just a few minutes ago.”
The young librarian smiled at him and said, “It’s funny, isn’t it? People can get so lost in their thoughts here that some things are possible in the library that you might not have thought were possible … but what I love is that when you go out into the real world, the real world outside may be the same, but when you learn from the resources in the library, you change, and your perception of that outside world will never be the same. It’s as if you can create a new map for the world with the resources of the library. The library is such a wonderful place to learn and change. And I always look at each person as they pass and think, ‘I wonder what you will learn today.'”

Other Stories

The Same Gifts Again

Once upon a time there was a little boy who loved Xmas morning.
That very day he got up early and peaked under the tree. Slowly peeling the scotch tape he was very curious to fined out what was under the wrap. You can imagine his disappointment when he found his previous year gift wrapped.
When the parents got up he asked with a sobbing voice. Why did you do this? Why did you give me last years gifts?
Because you have not used them yet!
Use them, and next year not only you will get new one, but you will get twice as many.

Blog Education NLP

GOAL Textbook for EFL Students

Ben Backwell and I just completed a new textbook aimed at teaching goal-setting skills to university students in Japan. We are very happy with the way the book has turned out. It takes students on a semester-long journey starting with their dreams, changing these into actionable goals, and achieving each step through action plans.  Along the way, students learn great skills like creating good habits, state management, and much more.
The book is due back from the printer next week, so I will be posting more details at that point.