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Rollmops, the Instant Gratification Monkey and Branding Your Cattle

I love a stinky bit of raw fish. 


I blame my uncle, really. Born and raised in Austria, he spent most of his life in South Africa married to my aunt – and he introduced the extended family to a number of wonderfully exotic foods, including the fable pickled herring, or as we like to call it, the rollmop. 


I like fish, but I don’t love it. I eat it when the mood strikes. And, for some reason, the mood strikes me to have a rollmop at the oddest of times. Like last Friday. Driving home from work, minding my own business, somewhat hungry, I decided to pop into the Spar for some supplies. And then an overwhelming urge struck me to buy the rollmops.  


I even remember the moment of panic I had when I couldn’t find it on the shelf – the adrenaline spike, the sour taste that popped onto my tongue in anticipation of some raw goodness… it derailed my normal ninja-like shopping precision. But then it was there – and I bought it. While I was at it, I sommer bought the overpriced important supersalty mini-anchovies too. Because hey, I’m worth it. 


And I am happy to report they were worth every moment of energy and obsessive commitment. Like angels cavorting on my tongue, really. 


There’s a point to the story. And it is: urges. It’s the voice that pops out and shouts at you to stop what you’re doing and do something else. Something infinitely more fun, something demonstrably more satisfying, something decidedly naughty. Because, you know. You should be doing the thing you’re doing. 


Like balancing the books. Doing the admin. Making the tough call. Having the hard conversation. Booking the grudge travel ticket.  


Tim Urban, master blogger, has a great Ted Talk on Procrastination. And the visual that sticks is the Instant Gratification Monkey. The little sh*t inside of your head that is constantly derailing your focus with more immediate pleasures. 

And I think that’s why KNOW THYSELF is so important. I use the Enneagram for self-awareness and self-development work, and as a 7 (oh, such a distractable Enthusiast) I have learned to put in place the right amount of structure, guardrails and accountability for myself so that I can put the monkey in his place. I can never quite ignore him, particularly when he starts shouting about food… but mostly, I have him under control. 


My dad had a postcard on his desk that said it best: “Trust everyone, but brand your cattle.” I think that even moreso applies to yourself – don’t just trust yourself to do the right thing, curate your environment, the people around you, the timing… set yourself, and your team, up for success by being hectic on enough structure to support not encumber.  


Atomic Habits is another great book to delve into around curating your environment. And that’s what I always suggest for business leaders too – create enough structure, procedures and psychological safety for your team so that they can go out there and take risks, do great things… and have the tools to ignore the monkey when they need to.  


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