Did you know that you can train fleas? Why you would want to is another question of course, but we’ll stick with the fact that you can for now. I could explain it to you myself, but this retro 1:34 video of Zig Ziglar is much more entertaining…
You train fleas by putting them in a jar with a lid on. Eventually after jumping up and hitting the lid so much they get conditioned to their environment and limit the height of their jumps. At this point you can take the lid off and they’ll stay in the jar.
In Australia this mentality is very familiar. Tall poppy syndrome is like a national badge of self-deprecating honour. But is it serving us well?
Seth Godin talks about this in his book The Icarus Deception. In it he explores the idea that the myth of Icarus was amended during the industrial age to make sure people didn’t set their sights too high. Because the lower the expectations, the easier to get people to do what you want. So exemplify that hubris and ambition are both clearly undesirable traits and hope that enough people accept it without question. He talks about it here in this three minute video.
Godin suggests the bit that’s left out of the Icarus story is that his dad actually gave him two warnings: don’t fly too close to the sun or it will melt the wax holding the wings together, and don’t fly to close to the ocean because it will dampen the wings and ruin the lift. Don’t let your ego get away from you, but don’t set your expectations too low either.
There’s also another part to the flea training story, although I can’t find a retro video of it. It’s that if you introduce an untrained flea back into the jar, the other fleas realise their capabilities and start to escape. They reap the benefits of being around others who are doing what they never realised they could.
Maybe we need to stop looking for tall poppies to cut down and start realising how well they self-seed. By keeping those that thrive the most we have the best opportunity for a long and beautiful harvest.
Image from Visualize Value