How a Chimpanzee Inspired Me To Quit My Job and Start Brothers in Beat (True Story)

chimp drummerA few years ago I read Desmond Morris’ book called “The Biology of Art”. It describes his experimentations with chimpanzees, teaching them how to paint.

The chimps dearly loved to paint and energetically painted. They made seemingly skilled use of colours and different brush strokes (in today’s ‘anything-is-art’ world, is it really a surprise that ‘skill’ was sensed in their work?).

At one point in the experiment, Morris decided to reward the chimps for their paintings. When a chimp completed a painting he received a peanut. However, and to the great surprise of the experimenter, very soon the chimps’ once-seemingly-endless source of inspiration ran out; the quality of the work deteriorated and the chimps did just the bare minimum needed to get their reward.

The joy and pleasure in painting was gone; the chimps nonchalantly slapped paint on their canvasses and ran to fetch their peanuts. Does this remind you of any employees you know? Maybe someone you know quite well?

This book, “The Biology of Art”, was published in the early 1960’s and yet the lessons are now only beginning to trickle through.

I grew up as the personal computer grew up, in the 80’s, and when I was 10 years old my uncle, Lourens Scheepers, taught me how to program them. This shaped my life profoundly and even at the age of 11 I regularly spent 12 eager hours programming, pausing only to pee.

Going to bed at 6am was a regular occurrence. It was effortless and felt wonderful. It was a taste of utter passion.

One fine day, many years later, I was offered a job to do, yes you guessed it, computer programming. You would think I would love it, and I did at first, but it was the job that was to drive me so far up the walls in frustration that it lead me to starting this interactive drumming company called Brothers In Beat. “Brothers in Beat” because drummers, I feel, more than the players of any other type of instrument, have a special bond and you sense it when two drummers meet for the first time.

Brothers in Beat puts me and my band of brothers, those who play shows with us, in a position where we are paid to live the life of our dreams and have more time to share with the people who matter to us.

But why did I hate doing programming, which before I could do from 8am through to 5am the next morning, even at the age of 11?

Some left brained people can do analytical, logical work all day, like accountants and programmers. Some right brained people can paint all day, or write music all day. Some people can do those things all day and every day.

But there is a forgotten number, people like me, who have very balanced brain hemisphere dominance, i.e. we use almost equal amounts of left and right brain in our thinking. There are tests to determine this stuff; I scored 48/52 right/left balance. I’m excruciatingly logical, yet still very creative and abstract.

ChimpanzeeIt is for this reason (and my intense hate of authority figures) that I am unemployable. It’s the reason I was expelled from school, something I’m EXCEPTIONALLY proud of by the way.

Anyway, almost all jobs you’ll do for an employer will see you doing something with a particular job description, either left brained work, or right brained work… usually left brained stuff though. Left or right brained people do well at job description type jobs. Those who have that balance, don’t.

There is good news for those of us in no-man’s-land though. We make great entrepreneurs.

Having that balance in brain dominance allows us to be a jack of many trades, which is important for an entrepreneur. We are often able to balance creative work like marketing, web design and so on, with highly logical work like accounting, systems programming and so on.

One of the biggest factors determining your fulfilment in life is knowing your strengths, talents and interests, and having developed those, finding a way to apply them to the benefit of yourself and others in a way that suits you and doesn’t rob you of the spice of life.

After I quit my job I started to love my life and started computer programming again, because it was now on my own terms. I didn’t have to do it all day unless I wanted to. I had variety.

I’ve used it to create powerful systems that run Brothers in Beat’s admin and bookings that saves me around 530 hours every year and gives me detailed statistics on our growth. I’ve used it to create a tailored client management system so we know where exactly we’re at with the hundreds of clients we deal with on a monthly basis. It prevents screw ups and so builds our reputation.

And that’s the story of WHY I started Brothers in Beat and what I learned. As for the HOW? That’s an interesting story for another day. I might make it a video.

Have yourself an excellent day!

Reg Scheepers