Taming Twelve Monkeys

Post Series: Twelve 30 Days Challenges In A Year

This is my first post for 2011. It’s also the post that marks an entire new approach to my blog. And, generally speaking, to my life.

2010 was a very difficult year for me. If you’ve read my (already traditional) end year list about the things I did in 2010, you already know that. I had to face some of the most powerful challenges in my entire life. On all levels: personal relationships (ended my second marriage), financial (had to overcome some of the most profound and unexpected money problems I ever had), and also career (my non-compete agreement after selling my company in 2008 ended last year). But that is already in the past.

Having a lot of free time in the last few days, I reread some of my articles on this blog. I relived some of the situations I’ve been through. And, of course, experienced again the same type of emotions.

At some point, I just felt like I had enough. Like it was too much whining. Yes, it was difficult, but whining is not in my nature. Never was. And never will be. Letting off some steam, even in this highly camouflaged form of some methaphoric blog posts, is acceptable. But remaining in the same space of complaining is not. At least for me.

So, things are going to change around here. Less whining and more action. But even this action will be very different from what you’d expect from a New Year goals post. Just read on.

Twelve Monkeys

I’m not a big fan of New Year goals. I’m a huge fan of goals, but not during this particular time of the year. And that comes from a long experience of failing at New Year goals. Yeap, I epically blundered almost every time I made a list of things I want (or like, or dislike, or intend to change) around this time of the year.

So, as much as “counter hype” this will sound, I decided to ditch them altogether. No more New Year goals for me.

No more measurable improvements in my financial situation.

No more plans for a fulfilling personal relationship.

No more detailed action lists.

No more milestones for my businesses.

Nothing. Nada. Zero.

Instead, all I want from 2011 is to tame twelve monkeys.

What Monkeys?

Yeap, I saw that coming. Good question.

First of all, yes, it’s a metaphor. Of course. I don’t intend to tame real monkeys.

And second, by “monkey” I understand a complete, easily describable, distinct and also, wild (as in an uncontrollable, erratic) situation about my life that will have to change.

We all have “monkeys” inside us. We all have these impulses, these habits or these unexplainable approaches that are making us behave below our true potential. A monkey is an underdeveloped part of myself which seems almost ok from the outside, but which isn’t. A part which mimics some human shapes, gestures or goals, but which never really reaches to them. Like a potential human being, stopped in the very process of evolution. You know, just monkeying around…

I find those monkeys highly uncomfortable. Because, as cute as they may be, they’re still monkeys. They’re still sketches of what I should be. Blueprints with just enough plaster on them to make them look real. Empty carcasses trying to fool everybody around that they’re the real thing. Annoying. Very annoying.

So I decided to tame them. To put them through some really tough times. Teach them to do stuff. Made them obey my own will.

That’s all I want from 2011.

Now you may somehow understand what I want, but you lack a clear image. In other words, you want some examples. Hang on in there, there will be some examples later on this post and they will also be as detailed as possible.

But don’t hold your breath. There won’t be high concepts or deep philosophical debates here. Those monkeys, those loose ends, are merely unfinished businesses. Promises I made to myself, but never lived up to them. And they are also coming from an incredible diverse field. There will be many areas in which those monkeys are going to show up. Business, social relationships, travels, to name a few that I already know.

Why Twelve Monkeys?

Because there are 12 months, of course. By the end of the year I’d like to have no more than 12 monkeys tamed. I think it’s a worthy enough challenge. I’ll consider myself happy if at the end of the year I will be able to put my finger on 12 monkeys from my life and be absolutely certain that I tamed them.

But even if there are exactly 12 monkeys, I don’t expect the taming to take only one month per monkey. Some months may fit in, one monkey per month, some may not. I may as well start on many monkeys at the same time, and follow through to see which one will be tamed first.

What I will share on this blog will be one monkey per month, though. The monkey of the month, so to speak.

I will also share in advance some of the monkeys I intend to tame, just to give you an idea about what this is going to be.

Managing Tamed Monkeys

This is one thing that I learned in my 10+ years of experience in the business world. Every project you launch must be managed afterwords. Getting out there, finishing your idea, being in the market, well, that’s just a fraction of the whole work. Once you’re outside with your new project, you’re going to manage it. Otherwise, it will die. You’ll have to monitor its progress, its behavior, its results to see of you’re on the right track.

The same thing with “monkeys”. I know there will be a lot of work after I’ll finish the taming, just to be sure the monkey won’t slip back to the same state, than it will be with the taming process itself. So, month by month, there will be a lot of managing time adding up, as more “monkeys” will be tamed.

Also, I don’t know from the start which monkey is assigned to what month. Or, to be more precise, I don’t know all the monkeys for all the months. I only know there will be twelve monkeys for the whole year. As a matter of fact, I don’t even know all the monkeys. Right now I have only 3 monkeys defined, but I know I’ll find the remaining 9 in no time.

So I’ll be picking the monkeys one by one, as time will unfold (the first three are already picked). I will announce them on the blog, of course. I will also update regularly on the progress. I am very aware of the fact that I may fail at taming some monkeys. That will be shared too, along with the reasons (as much as I will be able to tell) of the failure.

Wanna Monkey Around With Me?

The reason I’m sharing this in such a detail is because I wan you to join me. From my experience, when you have two or more people sharing and updating progress on some specific goal, things will accelerate tremendously. I still don’t know why, but I do know it just happens like this.

If you feel like you have your own “monkeys” to be tamed, join in and let’s start together. This time is as good as any other time. Don’t think at something complicated or too time consuming. As I said, this isn’t supposed to be philosophical, or spectacular. Just share it in the comments, write about it on your blog, if you have one, or just put it out in your own social media circle. Again, if you have one.

But there’s nothing compulsory about this sharing,  of course. You can start taming your monkeys without telling anyone.

The First Three Monkeys

I already picked the 3 monkeys that I will start working on. Here they are, in the intended order:

January: Get that app on the AppStore. What app? Oh, I forgot you don’t know my monkeys. It’s just this app that I’m playing with it in my mind for a few months now, and somehow, I’m not able to put it out there. It keeps slipping through my fingers, literally. I even have the name for it, but I don’t have anything written. I won’t share the name of it, instead, I will pick a code name. From now on, the app will be known, until it gets approved in the AppStore, as “33 steps”.

February: Put the New Zealand company on the track. It’s already there, functioning and making some money, but it’s not a sustainable process. In February I will be in New Zealand for a couple of weeks, so it’s a perfect time for making this happen. This monkey is one of the most delusive of all. I know I have everything I need to make things happening the way I want to, and still, somehow, this monkey insists on remaining just a monkey and not make the leap to a fully developed human being.

March: Launch this business project that I’ve already worked on for the last two months. It will be a Romanian based project and, since I don’t want to reveal much about it, I will also code name it. This will be known as “The Club”. This monkey has many, many implications on various levels. It’s primarily about my career, but it’s also about commitment and communication. It’s a whole new way to look at work for me, from a completely new position. Also, I’m sure this monkey will need a lot of management in the upcoming months.

As you can see, it’s mostly about loose ends in my work, so far. Nothing fancy. But as simple as it may look, this area is at the moment the most annonying, monkey-like, part of my life. There will be many other monkeys until the end of the year, in various areas, like relationships or health, but for start, I will focus on this work part.

So, from now on, this blog will be about taming monkeys. And although it sounds like a joke, I can assure it’s not. It may be the most important, profound and long personal challenge I ever started publicly. After all, there will be 365 days until I’ll finish this challenge.

Oh, and the most important thing about this “12 monkeys” project is that, during the entire process, I intend to have a life. A real life, with everything you would expect from it: working and having fun, watching my kids growing up and engaging myself in new personal relationships. If there will be anyone exciting enough to have me hooked. Which, to be honest, is highly unlikely at the moment.

And, of course, traveling. 🙂

You in

Dragos Roua

The guy who started all this. Entrepreneur, ultra-marathoner, tanguero, father and risk taker. I'm blogging here, but I also spend a lot of time in this marvelous space.. You're invited, by the way.

This Post Has 48 Comments

  1. At first I could not understand your monkey metaphor. It may be something local. Second, Happy new year. Here is still 2010! And third I am really agree with your point. Having well defined purposes for each month is something we must all entrepreneurs do. I will monkey around your blog to gather from your expertise and experience.

  2. Yup…I’m in. However Dragos, whereas your monkies need taming because they are about loose ends in the hugely successful creations of your year gone by…my monkies are just about ready to be let loose from their cages to run amok in my life and stir up energy that needs rearranging. Looking forward to comparing monkies as 2011 progresses. Happy New Year to you and your loved ones and congrats again on a brilliant 2010!

    1. Hey, Rosemary

      And thanks for joining me. The mere fact that you’re here will stir up some new energies. Or at least I hope it will 🙂 I too I look forward to compare our monkeys in this new year!

  3. It spend some times before I could understand what is that monkeys all about. So if I’m not mistaken in translating into my own words, it’s things or problem we are going to solve and settle, so it will stop blocking our growth/ will helping with our growth things?

    Sorry for my low understanding, :p

    The only thing that unchange about this world is that it keeps changing, we have to adapt, adopt, accommodate with it. Keep growing, keep going, and keep improving.
    and last but not least of course, Happy 2011 New Year to you Dragos.

    1. Hey, don’t worry about a thing, those monkeys are reall delusive and they love playing with our minds. Glad you figured out in the end. And yes I agree: the only constant thing in the Universe is change.

      A great 2011 to you too 🙂

  4. As usual, nice post Dragos. I like the metaphor. As I was reading the post it made me think of a few itches I have to scratch. In a way I suppose the itches are similar to your monkeys.

    For me, I’m tackling my ‘monkeys’ in the form a of list of goals I update regularly. For January I’m focusing and ensuring I cook at least once a week for the family, post something everyday on my blog and read a good book.

    These goals I hope will, go some way towards tackling the bigger issues such as health and bringing the family closer, procrastination and ensuring regular reflection on my life and continuous learning.

    I look forward to reading more of your posts in 2011 and wish you all the best for the new year!

    1. Thanks

      From where I am cooking every week for the family looks like a nice mokey to tame and a feasible one. The daily blog posting may not be such a good idea but you know better. Blogging is more like a long run than a fast sprint. Better post twice a week for a year than only a month every day. M two cents, anyway 🙂

      1. Thanks for the advice. Reminds me of a post I made earlier last month “http://boykie.ath.cx/content/2010/12/02/pace-yourself” which is in line with your analogy.

        Fortunately at the moment it’s just planned for this month, if it doesn’t work out, I can always revert to a more comfortable schedule. I am also comforted in that a blog post doesn’t necessarily have to be more than a sentence long.

        Ultimately, the idea is to force me to think on a daily basis and do some form of reflection at least once a day. We’ll see how it goes 😉

  5. Dragos! What a awesome idea! The difference between goals and taming monkeys is like having fun while doing a homework and doing the homework for the sake of doing it, a total difference!

    Sounds really fun, good luck at taming your monkeys, i will mention some of monkeys that i have to fix, i lack in Korean language skills, while it is my mother language, so it will be one of most important monkeys to fix, making a habit or creating love for reading Korean books will be the way to go.

    Thank you for sharing the wonderful idea.

    1. Hey,

      Welcome on board, and wow, that’s a nice monkey to tame. I am fascinated wi Eastern Asia (Japan and Korea included) and I know a little bit of hiragana, katakana and Kanji myself. All the luck with taming that monkey. Feel free to come back often and share your progress, now I’m curious 🙂

      1. Oh, i am glad you find the monkey nice, i mean, u invented this :). Thats fabulous, something is better than nothing, i dont know any of Japanese :(. Thank you, basically i already made the habit to read korean books, but it ain’t the same like reading books on english language where i understand easier and can read what i want to, but there comes the taming part, i must make it something i love, i mean, i is my mother language, it will be weird if i dont love it and i dont wanna be weird, ok enough ^^.

        Take care!

  6. Hi Dragos.

    I checked with the county commissioner and he informed me that taming monkeys may also represent a New Year’s resolution system under a different name.

    I think it is great that you detail here the specific items you want to work on during each month. Now you and we both know what you are focusing on, and we get a better image of who Dragos is.

    Another cool item is that you have turned the whole year into a goal-time so that is a large undertaking. 12 big items in 12 months is large as most people don’t do 2 big items in 12 months.

    I read Dragos Roua because it is brilliantly better for 2011“

    1. The county commissioneer looks like a berry smart arse, pardon my French 🙂

      Yes, you can definitely look at this taming things like a long term goal. But from experience I know that if you make it very obvious, it will take out some of the energy an motivation, making it much more difficult to obtain. So I think I do cheat a little with this new approach, “taming monkeys”. Just a little 🙂

      1. I hear you there. Sometimes I like to do similar in creating a layer or two of separation between me and the item I am working on. I do this for fun mostly, and it can help.

        Cool stuff yo

  7. Hi Dragos,

    I like the Monkey metaphor. I usually think of getting monkeys off your back – essentially doing away with those things that have been bugging you and that you need to remove to get on with your life. It sounds like you have some awesome plans for 2011 in store. You deserve some great times, considering some of the challenges you went through in 2010. But, lessons learned and it’s the start of a new year. Anthing can happen. Isn’t that a wonderful possibility? 🙂

    All the best to you and your family in 2011,

    1. Yeap, Karen

      Once again we’re on the sma vibe here: lessons learned and move forward, this is exactly how I feel. I also know that there may be other lessons out there and the fact that I learned something today may not be of any real use tomorrow. But I’m still attracted by the challenge and pumped up with enthusiasm.

      Thanks for the nice words and all the sbest to you and to your family too. Do check back often and share your progress about those monkeys, I’m curious. You know I am 😉

  8. I’m in. Monkey number one: building content on my new blog.

    Love the monkey metaphor! There are shadows and half-built houses. I like the idea of bringing them to the front and either completing them or letting them go.

    1. Welcome! Let me know how this work, because building content for your blog in a consistent way can be really difficult. But equally rewarding of course.

  9. I’m in 🙂

    Best of luck with your 12 monkeys Drago; it’s best to do it as you say, one a month. Man who chases two rabbits catches neither 😉

  10. Just discovered your post and blog via The Assistant Edge Daily. We’re fellow contributors (I’m Aday VA). It’s very nice to meet you virtually!

    Good luck and many well wishes on your 12 month endeavor. I really identify with “had enough” and have started my own month-by-month project for the year, working on only one habit at a time, and blogging about it for accountability and hopefully to encourage others.

    Happy New Year!

  11. Awesome idea with the monkeys! Made me think actually…because I have the same problem like you with achieving New Year goals so at the end of last year i said: que sera, sera – which is wrong somehow. But with the monkey metaphor it’s a totally different thing! So I might join the taming team.

  12. I’m surprised it took someone (Karen, in this case) so long to point out the relevance of the saying “getting a monkey off my back”. In many ways I suspect (unless I completely misunderstand) it’s a very relevant analogy to what you are trying to address when you talk about “Taming your Monkeys”.
    There’s a song by a very fine musician (Martin Page) called “Monkey in My Dreams” on his “In the House of Stone and Light” album – check it out!

  13. I found this post very easy to understand as I read it AFTER the follow up post on what is a monkey. Totally resonates.

    Will I have 12 or 52 or 3 monkeys? Today, I don’t know. I will find my monkeys as I wander down the side streets of my mind. Some things I would like to do is to set up a blog, downsize and get rid of some of my consumeristic crap, move to a cabin in the mountains.

    These have been with me for some time and seems like as good a time as any to work on them. I won’t however be setting schedules or time frames to tame these monkeys as they will become part of who and what I am. So as I grow the monkeys will become tamer – my fear is that they become so tame that they are unappreciated and do not seem all that special.


    John B

  14. […] pe la inceputul anului citeam un post despre imblanzirea a 12 maimute…pentru mine revenirea la a scrie pe blog este una dintre ele. Am 30 de drafturi de […]

  15. […] other post that got stuck in my mind was one about taming the monkeys in your life. Well…this comeback for me is one monkey to […]

  16. […] in Personal Development, Productivity & Effectiveness TweetAs you may already know, I’m, on a special kind of challenge this year. I ditched my new years resolution and replaced them with monthly challenges in which I intend to “tame an inner monkey”. Basically, an inner monkey it’s an underdeveloped part of myself, or a promise I never lived up to. You can read the introductory post here. […]

  17. […] As you may already know, I’m, on a special kind of challenge this year. I ditched my new years resolution and replaced them with monthly challenges in which I intend to “tame an inner monkey”. Basically, an inner monkey it’s an underdeveloped part of myself, or a promise I never lived up to. You can read the introductory post here. […]

  18. […] came here by accident and you don’t really know what I’m talking about, go ahead and read the introductory post. In brief, I decided to ditch all my new year resolutions in 2011 and instead pick an “inner […]

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