As any young pioneer would, I have been thinking about the question of what to do after this chapter of my life for a while. As long as it was far away, I was incredibly sure that once the moment comes, I would do an internship at some NPO or save the Great Barrier Reef by counting corals in the morning and sitting at the beach with my surfing colleagues having cold beers at the camp fire at night. It might shock you but I can’t see that happen in the next months.
As a wannabe pioneer, I don’t want to start working at Ernst & Young as a trainee. I want to live up to my potential! There is a pretty annoying tradeoff between “doing something different” and “do what’s right”. I never know if it is contradicting or not. Sometimes, doing what’s right is perfectly in place with doing what everyone else does. And humans – evolutionarily – tend to do so. As social creatures, a great deal of our behavior is directly copied from our social peers. Apes do it, zebras do it and we do it all the time. We all know that sometimes, going against the grain is really not the best idea in the world. Back in the African savanna where our ancestors spent their days doing cool outdoorsy stuff, walking away from your group was not as much fun as it might be now. You were likely to get killed by a beast or starve to death because hunting on your own was a lot less efficient. So, being a follower granted you significantly higher chances of survival.
Even in economics, following has always been known to be a good strategy. Stock markets basically function that way, and game theory suggests that when living in a small group, most coordinative problems are solved by a strong commitment to the group, not to individualistic goals.
The fact is, we don’t live in a world where lions are a constant reminder of what might happen if we face natural selection on our own. We live in a world where individualism seems to be the best strategy to pass on our genes, because our inner peer competition is far more dangerous than any wild animal on the planet. So we live in the constant need to change things. To not chose a perfectly safe career path but to do something for the environment while educating others in a foreign, exotic land. I would love to do this, I swear. But I need to remind us all for one second that we have something else in us. The oldest parts of our brains are still afraid of getting eaten by a lion the moment we turn around and go into the opposite direction.
So, let us all be cozy for a moment and celebrate our fear-driven archaic need for human company. Cause that need to find people you like and trust is the reason I want to cross oceans for anyways.
Always be nice to lions,