Welcome to the jungle gym


It was time for recess, and my two favorite playground structures had primal names – the monkey bars and the jungle gym.  Monkey bars were made of cold, grey steel.  There was a straight up ladder on each side, connected by a horizontal ladder in the middle.  You traversed one bar at a time, gripping with your hands while your body swang underneath.  To get started, you stepped up on the ladder, waited your turn, and then tried to make it across without falling. 


By contrast, the jungle gym was a free for all – a complex maze of interconnected steel bars that formed a giant rectangular structure or dome.  No waiting in line.  Pick any direction you want.  If someone’s blocking you, just go around.  Setting aside the occasional concussion or broken wrist, it was a heck of a lot of fun.


This comparison reminds me of the new collaborative org structure developing in companies today.  There’s no clearly defined corporate ladder with a gold watch waiting at the end.  Like the jungle gym, there are an infinite number of ways to progress, which I admit can sometimes freeze you into inaction.  Which path do you take?


But the bright side of the jungle gym is that there’s no one above you on the ladder, forcing you to wait to achieve your next level.  I spent some time early in my career waiting for others to quit or get fired before I could take their spot.  Then I realized that up was not the only way up.  Most of the big leaps for me have been lateral moves around the jungle gym – moving sideways before I could advance.


If you are not where you want to be in your career, maybe you’re stuck on a self-imposed corporate ladder.  Are you waiting in line for the monkey bars with someone’s butt in your face? The ladder may be easier to predict, but it offers limited choices, slows you down, and makes it easier to make excuses.  I suggest you jump onto the jungle gym… try a new direction and just keep moving. 


Sideways is the new “up.”


Explore posts in the same categories: Motivation

9 Comments on “Welcome to the jungle gym”

  1. Tom Rosten Says:

    Dave-Your article reminded me of the days when I worked in a federal bureaucracy. It was my experience that the higher one moved on the jungle gym,the more large butts you found in your face. Each butt was waiting to be kissed by those bleow before anyone was allowed to travel upward, even if they intended to do do so by moving laterally, then climbing higher.The desire to be kissed was always second to the desire to never make a decision-because this might expose one’s butt to the wrong type of kiss, which usually was a goodby kiss

    Another feature of the Bureaucratic jungle gym was the fact that work prepared those low on the jungle gym rarely ever worked its way to the top until it was pruned, dissected and sterileized to the point that it was guaranteed not to make any of those at the top of the gym uncomfortable. Good ideas were usuallly treated with disdain as they might upset the status quo.

    The moral to this tale is one must avoid going laterally and end up in the bureaucratic jungle gym. For instance, how could someone who seeked to perform “good” ever work their way through the Jungle Gyn known as the Congrss of the United States, where everyone is unethical and only the worst realize success!

    Success to a vteran Congressperson is to take actions that deprive members of the public of their god given rights or to raise their taxes to support some wild haired scheme-such as giving public money to someone who Congress believes needs the money more than its owner needs it. Second moral-some jungle gyms are flat dangerous to one’s health and wealth! Enter with caution!!!

  2. Larry Humes Says:

    A wonderful metaphor, David, for the corporate hierarchy. And so true! Thanks for sharing. – Larry

  3. Anna Gardner Says:

    Your blogs are so simple, insightful and funny. Thanks for your thoughts on things. The “butt in your face” remark “cracks” me up!


  4. davidgoad Says:

    Thanks for your honesty and observations Tom. Looks like you may have gotten beat up on your career playground a few times. Good thing you’re over it now 🙂

  5. Sue Welty Says:

    David, interesting observations from our childhood playground! I can picture the very monkey bars and jungle gym you are talking about! I wonder if they are still there… Sue

  6. Jeff G Says:

    Is that neighbor “Sue” from Macomb? If so, salutations. A visit to “Mayberry” last year confirmed that those same MacArthur Elementary Monkey bars are still there, challenging another generation of thinkers!

  7. duane v Says:

    Dave, I enjoy reading your little pieces of wisdom. They give me something to ponder and to smile.

  8. Hi, Dave!

    Yes, I especially liked Tom’s virtual reality version of the vertical climb. Quite picturesque. :o)

    Luckily for me, the last realm of climbing corporate ladders was behind and under YOU, Dave, and you never treated me in the ways other hierarchical predators were inclined to. The whole “fear-factor, no you can’t take my job from me” attitude kinda turned me forever from the corporate environment payroll concept. I must admit I am glad your butt was NOT in MY face! Nothing personal, you understand, regarding yourself…

    I am not a good climber of mogul mountains, and the bears and bobcats one finds in the trek are usually the entities we are supposed to know and be working with – our co-workers and supervisors and associates. It’s amazing that in a climate that preaches teamwork and congeniality there are so many people bent on getting ahead regardless of methodology or the trail of personal debris left in the wake. It’s all based on fear, lack of self-confidence, and fragmented self-image, leading to people trying to protect themselves from others.

    Hence, I have been working as sole proprietor for years now… and that has allowed me to be happy.

    I agree with you totally regarding the side-step and go. It really has so much to do with how we look at things.

    I have come to believe that there are only challenges and opportunities in life. If we continue to do what we always did (sit in the ranks of the corporate funnel), we’ll always get the same results (squeeze play suffering).

    I believe that it is all about awareness and consciousness. My new direction is to believe that anything is possible. If ever I was “outside the box,”it is now. Henceforth, I get to be creative with what I want my life to be, surprised at how I get there, and ecstatic when my dreams come true. because if no one tells me I cannot make it (upper management), and no one is there limiting my image of what is possible (soothsayers of practicality, doom, and authority), then I keep on believing that I CAN MAKE IT! If I keep this up, I will get somewhere…. and that new perspective will be worth it, leading me to new goals that I cannot yet imagine from where I stand.

    “A body in motion tends to stay in motion.” “You can’t steer a parked car.” “Try a new direction, and just keep on moving!” I like it, Dave. It has been added to my addages!


  9. davidgoad Says:

    Roland…wow, what a great little manifesto you’ve got there. I always appreciated your positive attitude and its good to see you’ve still got it. Believe it or not, it is also as possible to find fulfillment in a company of 65,000 employees as it is in a company of 1. Like you said, it’s all in your perspective. I’ll write more about this in a future post. thanks for contributing! And my your words encourage someone who needs it right now.

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