Ever heard of the Infinite Monkey Theorem? It posits that a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a particular text, such as Hamlet or even the complete works of Shakespeare. However, the probability of that happening is so tiny that the chance of it occurring during a period of time is an order of magnitude longer than the age of the universe and is extremely low…but technically not zero. The theorem may thus be generalized to state that any sequence of events which has a non-zero probably of happening will almost certainly eventually occur…given enough time.
In 2002, utilizing a grant from the Art Council, students from the University of Plymouth tested the theory. They left a computer keyboard in the zoo enclosure for monkeys in Devon, England. The monkeys ended up producing a total of 5 pages before they lost interest in the object. The pages mostly consisted of the letter “S” and eventually the lead male began pounding on it with a stone. The researchers declared they “had learned an awful lot” about the experiment. Though I’m not exactly sure what that was.
If given enough time…
Ever felt like there was simply not enough time in the day? Projects due. Kids needing to go hither and yon. Health needing taken care of. Relationships needing work. Must have this conversation with that person by this time. That phone call can’t wait. That Zoom call waiting for the host to begin meeting…the host is you. Paper jam. Tank on empty. Oil needs changed. You ran out of milk. Hungry, nothing in the fridge…family waiting. Client mad. Spouse not happy. You said something wrong. You didn’t mean to. But you did.
So much to do.
So little time.
If there were just more hours in the day, you could get it all done. If you just didn’t have to sleep, everything would be fine. If you just didn’t have to ______, you could leave the pills in the cupboard. We feel irredeemably defective. We feel unquenchably exhausted.
But the alarm goes off, and it all starts over again. Some call it Groundhog Day. I call it Life.
Life happens. So, what’s one to do? How can we handle all the…stuff? How can we navigate what’s next? How can we muster enough strength to put one foot in front of the other when all we want to do is pull up the covers. How do we prevent ourselves from banging the letter “S” on the keyboard…with a rock?
Well, I happen to like math. Simple math, to be clear. I have an accounting degree, not a calculus degree. Add, subtract, multiply, divide…I’m good. Homework my kids bring home and ask me about? Polynomials? Coefficients vectors? Nah. But I can multiply. There are 4 quarters in a calendar year. Each of those quarters consisting of around 90 days. And, I like nice round numbers…say 100. Do you know what 100 quarters equals? Twenty-five years.
What if we took a longer-term perspective on ‘all the things.’ All the things being the stressors of life that bog us down. What if, instead of giving ourselves until tomorrow…we gave ourselves a longer timeframe? What if we stretched our self-imposed deadlines out a bit, thereby lessening the load and freeing up time? What if we embraced the mindset of a Twenty-Five Year framework and turned this into a marathon instead of a sprint?
Backing into the approach, we can easily identify what needs done in the next 90 days and what can wait. We can alleviate the anxiety simply by stretching out the deadlines. And if we consistently apply the methodology for 100 quarters, we’ll have navigated a successful and calmer 25 years.
Bottom line, life is hard. But we often make it harder on ourselves than it needs to be. Step back. Breathe. You can get a lot done in 25 years, or 100 quarters, or the next 90 days. Make peace with the marathon. Given enough time, it will all get done. You just need to give yourself permission to run slower, but endure longer.
A monkey can do it, and so can you!
[Author’s Note: The 25 Year Framework is a concept taught by Dan Sullivan of Strategic Coach. I had the opportunity to be in the Strategic Coach program a number of years ago where I first learned of this concept.]