Cooking a frog

The story about the frog that will be cooked to death by being placed in cold water that is slowly heated is often used as a metaphorical example of the inability or unwillingness of people to react to or be aware of threats that occur gradually. *1 *2

Some scientists say that this story is true and other dispute this experiment. On the other hand, as a metaphor, it is very applicable to many types of human behaviors. Examples such as smoking, overeating, global warming, pollution and overpopulation are very good evidence of this metaphor.

We know that this effect already exists, and also that sometimes it is used as a tool in order to limit personal freedom, and gradually push you into an Orwellian dictatorship type of government.

But can we do better than that?

If this can be used in a negative way, we can probably harness it for positive things as well. There are already many examples of this: green energy, social co-housing, crowd funding, open governments, food growing and many more.

As part of their nature, people resist to a certain degree any change, good or bad. People may resist changes or adopting new things for many reasons but the most common are fear of the unknown, mistrust, loss of control, bad timing and an individual’s predisposition toward change. *4

But, by applying the boiling frog “principle”, change can happen. Slowly, over time, a stream of water can erode entire mountains and the hardest of rocks. Take the Grand Canyon *3, for example: if you give it enough time, it will do wonders. And the softer the rock is, the more significant the change will be.

This does not say that you should act passively. No, you have to be active. You have to roll those small pebbles on the river bed. Every single day you have to scratch that granite a little bit. And it will crack eventually. Every single day you have to do it, no exception, and no rest; with constant and persistent pressure, regardless of how small it is. And, change will happen.

Rarely can any habit be changed overnight and hardly any skill can be learned to perfection instantly. Before you learn to run you have to learn how to stand, how to move your limbs, to walk, and then by improving, you will manage to run. And if you continue, you will run as fast as you body’s limitations allows you. In the same way, rookie drivers cannot handle the fast cars well.

The same goes for businesses. Without certain knowledge, people do not know how to handle large amount of money. An excellent example of this, are people who won the lottery; rarely does anyone of them succeed to maintain any significant amount after just one year. Frequently, they end up even more broke than before.

The same thing also goes for the systems that are rooted for a very long time in our minds and society. Change requires willingness, persistence and time, and if something is good it will stick. Political change must happen gradually. History has shown that revolutions do not always fulfill a promise of expected change.

In order to make change, we need to know what it is that we are trying to do, and where it is that we are trying to go. When we know these, we just need to move slowly toward it, one step at the time, allowing everyone to adjust to new things.

So, the recipe to cook a frog goes like this:

First, try to identify and understand what it is that you want to cook and what frog you are going to pick from the lot. Learn as much about the frog but also about the specific ingredients you will include. Find out more about who will consume your meal, and how that can impact them (maybe they are allergic to “frog legs”). Eventually, you must find out why they might refuse your cooking, as maybe it is not the meal they do not like, but rather the way how it is being served. *4

Notes & References:

1. Boiling frog

2. Boiling Frog Experiment (no animals were hurt in the making of that video)

3. Grand Canyon

4. Overcome The 5 Main Reasons People Resist Change