Dealing with, managing, leading, and succeeding with your people. By Tron Jordheim.
No matter what your venture, your goal or your mission, you will have to involve people. They work with you or work for you; they support you or oppose you.
It doesn’t matter what your role at home or at work is. You have people to deal with.
If you are trying to get your kids educated in school, you have to be able to deal with the teachers, staff and administrators, so your kids will get a fair shake. You have to be able to deal with the other parents to make sure that your kids’ social development is moving along correctly.
If you have a job, you depend on people to keep your employer solvent and your work flow moving.
If you volunteer, you have to deal with lots of different people with different motivations to try and get your project moving in the right direction.
If you are trying to manage your family’s finances, you have to deal with your family and your creditors to keep trying to get ahead.
If you are involved in any sort of business as an owner, executive or manager, every transaction depends on the people in your company and in the company of your vendors, suppliers, partners and buyers.
If you are in a position of leadership, you have not only the people to deal with, but the responsibilities and expectations that go with your leadership position.
You may not always be managing people from the position of a supervisor, boss or committee head or community leader, but if you want to get anything done at all at any level, you will either have people in your way, or helping you on your way.
Maybe the whole issue of dealing with people really comes down to a simple choice. Is the person you are dealing with going to get out of your way or help you on your way.
In a simple world, you could ask everyone you deal with if they would care to
a) get out of your way; or
b) help you on your way.
They would make their choice and act accordingly. Wouldn’t that be nice?
If the person is going to get out of your way, how can you help that decision happen? People don’t just get out of other people’s way to be nice. Sometimes we even get in other people’s way for sport or for spite. Most of the time, we don’t even realize we are in someone’s way. And even if we are in someone’s way, why should we go out of our way to do anything about it.
Like it or not, people act in their own self interest when it comes to most things. But if someone will get out of your way, at least their self interest will not hinder your project.
If the person you are dealing with is going to help you on your way, how can you help that person make the biggest contribution he or she is capable of making without pushing the project in a wrong direction?
You have all heard the saying about herding cats. Getting people, whether they are motivated or not, to all pull in the same direction may be harder than herding cats. Everyone has their own opinions or own interpretations of things and you could just as easily have chaos as you could have progress when you involve a group of people.
More often than not, you end up with people doing the least amount of work possible, taking the fewest risks possible and devoting most of their time to protecting their position and deflecting any influences that might disrupt their level of comfort.
It is also said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Sometimes the people with the best intentions make the biggest mess of a situation because they take a course of action they think is good while they lack sufficient direction or the appropriate knowledge. Often times ambition, hardheadedness and a devotion to dogma combine with good intentions to create huge disasters that take generations to undo.
Once people begin a course of action or develop a way of doing things, it can be very, very difficult to get things moving in a different direction. Just think a minute about what would happen if tomorrow everyone at your job had to take lunch at a different time from their customary lunch time. You could easily get the whole bunch to walk off the job in defense of the timing of the growling of their stomachs. Simply circulating a memo that everyone is to eat lunch 17 minutes later than normal will not accomplish anything but getting everyone in a complete dither.
Try this exercise just for fun. Circulate a memo in your office reading, “All lunch breaks will commence 17 minutes later than normal starting next Wednesday” and see what happens. A few people will tell right away that you are playing a prank to see how many bells you can ring. Most will expend every bit of energy they have dithering hither and non.
This is a good example of why many of us never want to be put in a position of leadership or of authority. Many of us never want to have to manage people. We see the kinds of things that go on when there are attempts at management happening. It is not always pretty. Sometimes it is downright ugly. Yet we are constantly being put in positions where we depend on other people.
Whether you think you are a “people person” or not, you will have to deal with, manage and attempt to lead people. If you are able to make your project or mission work, it will have worked because of the people involved. You succeed or fail with the people you involve.
No matter how great your idea, your technology or your plan, you will be limited only by two factors: your access to and your management of capital: the financial side… and your ability to handle the people side. The study of the financial side in some ways is far easier than the people side. Numbers don’t have emotions, a personal agenda or their own motivations. However the people behind the numbers do.
You can learn formulas, benchmarks and ratios that you can manipulate and control. Many things can be made certain and the numbers are what they are. The people who are creating and interpreting the numbers are another subject all together.
One thing is certain on the money side. If there is plenty of cash left over after expenses, all is well and everyone can celebrate.
On the people side, nothing is certain and everything is up for grabs. It is a wonder sometimes that anything has ever gotten done at all in the whole history of human existence. I am still surprised every day that we have been able to do all the amazing things we have been able to do, when it often seems that getting people to do anything is an impossible task.
If you have ever tried to get a group of friends to agree on a restaurant to meet at and a time to meet, you know what I mean.
If you have ever tried to deal with the customer service department of any company you do business with, you know you have to be able to manage people to get anything done. If you do not manage your contact correctly, you will never get a resolution you can live with.
So it is in every interaction. If you blunder on the people side, you will not meet with success.
Since man first appeared we’ve had to get things done. Whether it was gathering berries to have for dinner or chasing the little children who ran off into the bush to get them back before the bears hate them, or building steel and glass skyscrapers, we’ve had to get things done. Many people would suggest that you just need a good system to get things done, a structure people can work with. Others suggest that you just need the right people and they will make it happen. Let’s first talk about the systems that help make things happen. There have been many systems employed in our long history to try to get things done. In many respects all of these systems are still functioning today.
People are the creation of the sum of human experience. We all carry the effects of all the processes and events of human history. Even if some influences are distant and remote, they continue to be felt at some level.
Some of these echoes of prior times ring in our subconscious or are expressed in very modern ways. If you do not carefully consider them, you might not notice them and you might not be able to appeal to them nor be able to mitigate their influence..
Let’s look at the history of managing people and see what we can learn from it.
Some people say that the first profession was prostitution. I think this is a very cynical view of early human life and probably not very realistic. It is more likely that people had sex often with whoever they felt like having sex with. There was probably little stopping mutually attracted people from disappearing over the hill for a while if that is what they felt like doing. And it is likely that in the days of hunters and gatherers, the women were tough enough to sock anyone in the nose who made an unwelcome advance. There were probably enough fathers, uncles and brothers around to help any girl who might need some help punching out some louse who would not take “No” for an answer.
Although kidnapping women and raping them has been a way to get sex for much of recent history, when humans lived in small family groups, this sort of behavior would not have been tolerated, because the women’s role in survival and in the care of the group was too important. The group could not afford to have any members become despondent or disinterested in active participation in all the survival skills needed to make it to the next day. People would have been much too interested in making sure the entire group was fully engaged in survival to risk someone becoming unable or unwilling to participate. Early humans would have had to spend much of their day searching for edible plants or identifying places they could search in the next couple of days. There was certainly time for recreation, but there would have been no room for abuse. I suspect the first man who traumatized a woman by raping her got a thorough ass whipping from the rest of the group.
Women also would have held a higher place of honor in the family group as the ones who possessed the magic to birth babies, nurture them and raise them. Before people had an understanding of biological processes or had belief systems in place, the wonder of pregnancy, birth and the growing stages of children must certainly have seemed magical and worthy of worship and respect.
I don’t believe that kidnapping and rape became popular until larger tribal groups made war on each other and used terror and slavery as means for domination and as means of controlling territory. That came much later.
I do not believe prostitution was the first profession. Before moral and belief systems developed there was likely all the supply and demand one needed in the sex department. In order to create a business there needs to be an imbalance in the supply/demand ratio or there must be a function that no one else is willing to do, or the emergence of an innovation that catches on. Sex fits into none of these categories for early humans. Therefore I am convinced the first professions had nothing to do with sex, but had to do with survival.
The earliest family groups probably acted much like a dog pack. Social ranking order depended on who was born stronger, who had the most endurance and who was the toughest fighter. If something needed to get done, the pack leader would growl and snarl. If that didn’t work, he or she could scratch, kick, punch and bite until an underling submitted and the task got done.
Dog packs also exhibit tenderness and caring. A pack cannot work together based on intimidation and threats of physical force alone. There is nothing stopping a pack member from leaving the pack. Driving off pack members for no good reason would have diminished the strength of the pack and everyone’s chances of survival. So you would not want anyone to leave the pack unless as a last resort. Physical force only works when the conflict is brief and causes only injury to one’s pride. Threat of physical force in and of itself no longer becomes a factor if a pack member strikes back at the pack leaders. Even underlings could give a pack leader a life threatening injury. Pack intimidation only works when no serious physical conflict develops. The underling has to be willing to cry “Uncle”. The pack leader has to push hard enough to intimidate, but not so hard as to cause a physical confrontation. In order for this delicate balance to take place, pack members have to know each other very well and pack leaders need to be assertive and persuasive while holding back violent behavior as a last resort.
A pack leader develops persuasive power by showing proficiency at little things and by being a leader on big things. When a pack leader is respected for being capable and for standing up and making tough and good choices in a pinch, then a growl is enough pressure to get things done. This can only happen when the pack spends a lot of time together.
Bonding then becomes the most important aspect of pack society. Bonding as much comes from mutual affection as it does from anything else. So it was also likely that compassion and tenderness were very early human traits. Helping each other deal with the grief of the deaths of pack members and helping heal the wounds of the injured and the caring for of babies and old folks would have helped form the bonds necessary to keep the pack together. Down-time would have been spent socializing and having close contact. You often see the top dog lovingly grooming the underlings.
The fact that a human baby needs two things to survive tells the whole story. A baby cannot survive only on breast milk. It needs love, too. And not just for a short period of time as it is for an animal that does not live in a pack, say a badger cub for instance. Human offspring need a constant diet of love every day for their whole lives. This is evidence that the glue that held the early human packs together was affection and bonding.
The day to day struggle to survive the predators that had an appetite for humans would have taken up a lot of time and energy. The day to day search for food would have also taken up a great deal of energy. Early humans probably just ate whatever grew on trees and shrubbery and would surely have needed to spend a lot of time eating to get the calories required. This would have left little time for study and innovation. Pack society would have, however, demanded that time be spent bonding.
So it is today. When people are left to their own devices, they tend to gather together with friends and loved ones and eat, play and interact. This is a throw-back to the earliest days of pack life, when every opportunity was taken to bond.
Some might say that human development was held back by too much bonding and affection and too little time spent on developing solutions and innovations. Where humans lived in areas with abundant food sources and a decent climate, there was little need for innovation. A Garden Of Eden-like existence would have held little motivation to struggle for solutions.
It is clear, too, that people have always been problem solvers. One of the first things babies do is to look at their hands and figure out what those hands are and what one can do with them. People love to diddle, explore and play. They love to find neat and fun ways of doing things. Early humans would have developed some perceptive and efficient ways of getting shelter, food and time to play with pack members.
In some respects, not much has changed. We still spend much of our time socializing and bonding. We still opt to separate ourselves from situations where we do not feel a part of a group. We will also accept a harsh correction from someone we know cares about us.
We are still big fans of leisure. Some might say we spend too much time on leisure. Some would say we need more leisure time. Others would just say leisure is a good business.
We still hold the basic values of small family groups or packs near to our hearts. This is reflected in all kinds of organizational charts in all kinds of businesses and institutions.
I am sure you do not want your organization to be considered a pack of wild dogs, but maybe it should be. Who would the top dog be? Does the top dog know how to groom and growl? Do the other members know their hierarchy in the pack and how to behave accordingly? Is there enough love going around? Office politics would be much easier to understand on many levels if you use my pack analogy. I am not sure though, that you should get a desk plaque that declares you are the top dog unless you are willing to take a lot of ribbing and do a lot of grooming.
My thought is that you must consider pack behavior and pack structure when dealing with people. You must find out how the pack is organized and which pack roles people fulfill. Then your initiative needs to appeal to those influences. You also have to consider your perceived role in the pack and frame your initiative in those terms. Doing so speaks to the oldest human behaviors and can be very powerful.
Let me get back to my earlier point about the first profession. I think in a pack structure, the pack leaders could not afford to have such a serious breach of pack bonding principals as forced sex. On the other hand, there is probably not much of a better way to bond then to have consensual sex. With plenty of bonding going on, there would have been no market for sex as a trade. As a leisure and bonding activity, it was surely successful.
So if prostitution was not the first profession, what was? Management consulting.
This is not a joke and the punch line is not, “They are the same thing, since management consultants lay down for money and say, “Sure honey, whatever you want”.
The point is that knowledge and experience have always been in fashion. The knowledge age did not start in 1981. It started when the first human became aware that it could reason a better way of doing something. The idea of wearing grape leaves for covering one’s anatomy as opposed to trying poison ivy leaves or rose leaves may have been the first “a-ha” moment.
In the original family groups, the old pack leaders were needed to help the up and coming pack leaders learn to use their power and influence to lead the group to safer places with better food sources. Their experiences with the cycles of nature and the changes of the seasons would have been essential for long term group survival.
The oldest and wisest of the pack would have at some point gotten to the time in life where they could no longer gather food for themselves effectively or protect themselves from predators. I guarantee you that early saber toothed tigers looked at older, slower and weaker humans as an easy snack. If you were an older, slower, weaker human with a flair for conducting seminars, a great way of framing your lessons and a few good fans in the crowd, chances are the pack would share their food with you and help protect you from the animals until you got so old you stopped making sense.
If you did not have much to offer the middle pack managers who were lining up to take over, they would have less motivation to share with you or protect you. I am sure that love and devotion, which are ancient and deep seated human feelings helped make sure that old people were looked after. However, being creatures with strong survival instincts, early pack leaders would have figured out that their longevity had a direct correlation to the perceived value they created as consultants to the younger generations. No one wanted to be the old one that the family left behind when he or she could no longer fend independently. Everyone wanted to be the old one who got carried to the next place if he or she could no longer walk. Since family resources were likely limited at many times, there were times the family had to choose to carry someone and choose to leave someone else behind.
The older family members even coined a catchy term for their role: Elder. Then they formed a trade association to promote and protect their business interests: The Council.
The older family members got together and talked about how they used to handle things and how the new leaders could be handling things and what the new leaders should be handling. This made for entertaining council gatherings. Since listening to great stories is a super way to bond, the elders got good at telling stories to illustrate their management concepts. Then as the young leaders started turning into old leaders, they too learned to tell the good stories for the next generations.
So a long and enduring tradition was born and the first profession was handed down from generation to generation many thousands of times.
You might make the logical assumption that the next profession must have had to do with servicing the needs of the elders. Caterers who gathered food for the elders could have kept busy. Transportation specialists who were good at carrying would have had plenty to do and shelter builders could have built new shelter for the elders every place the family stopped to camp. However you would be wrong. The elders had no currency. They had been offering their wisdom for so many generations it was taken for granted that they would offer it. So they had no way of giving or getting special compensation. Families were also used to caring for babies and so caring for elders was just a natural extension of the caring process. This also fit into the cycle of life. You are cared for as a baby. You care for your parents and your children. Your children care for you and their children. And so on and so forth. There was no economy created over elders. There was however substantial respect created by the elders and their trade association, the council, which brought the wiser and more charming elders a long life lived in comparative prosperity.
“Respect” could be seen as the first commodity. When created, earned or given, it changed the course of behaviors. How is Respect created, earned and given in your family, business and social/religious circles?
Have you built enough respect in your various pack roles that your pack would chose to carry you to the next camp if you could no longer fend for yourself? Who are the people who have earned your respect? How did they earn it?
What could be a better job for an old person than to tell great stories and give good advice while having food and shelter provided? This would have been especially good when there were a lot of children around to play with. Not having to worry about basic survival while playing with children would have created excellent conditions for prolonged longevity. This prolonged longevity would have also benefited the family group with more great stories and insights.
Things have not changed much in this area either. The best management gurus and keynote speakers continue to be in demand and continue to get admirable compensation well into their golden years. The next time you see a keynote speaker talk or see a new business book on the shelf at your favorite bookstore, remember the long tradition that is being upheld. Bow your head for a moment to honor the age old profession.
Actually I am just kidding. I don’t really think that Elder was the first profession. I think elders were just being responsible parents trying to make sure their kids and grand kids had every advantage possible for their world. I don’t think that the pack or the family cared for elders just to wring knowledge from them. I think the early family groups loved each other and cared for each other for two reasons. One, because it was the best way to insure survival. Two, because it was the most enjoyable way to live. Early humans had no bosses or co-workers to impress, no jobs to get fired from or upwardly mobile neighbors to compete with. If something did not contribute to survival or to joy, there was absolutely no benefit.
Families loved and cared for their young and old with equal affection. Young people needed the experience of the elders. Elders needed the exuberance of the young. Old people weren’t left behind because they no longer fulfilled any purpose. They were left behind when it was time for them to pass away. How early people determined this had more to do with their early awareness of their connection to the circle of life and to their own sense of life and death issues than to a perceived sense of the value of their contributions to society.
The stories and guidance of the elders were given with no thought of return. They were accepted without thought of payment. Early people did not look at things in terms of investment and return. They looked at things in terms of sharing, connectivity and affection. Just because the ideas of sharing, caring and connecting are as old as the hills does not make them obsolete. It may be because these ideas are so old, that their value is so great that you could not put a value on them. That’s a pretty good use of irony, isn’t it? The value of not putting a value on human interactions is so valuable that you can’t put a value on it.
Early human packs also started the practice of Grandparents raising Grandchildren. The oldest stayed behind at the camp to watch, play with and teach the youngest while the youths and the middle generation did the gathering and the work. The idea of a two parent family, where the dad worked and the mom raised the kids did not come about until the industrial age, when fathers and grandfathers worked long hours in the factories while the mothers tried to raise the youngsters until they were old enough to take a spot on the line. Grandmothers worked at odd jobs trying to keep ahead of the bills and did not have time to play the traditional role of teacher and support person.
The fantasy of the two parent, mom and dad family with their happy little brood is a recent invention. In original family groups, the dads were busy working on survival skills, the moms were busy creating things of beauty and function like pottery, and the grandparents dealt with the kids. People became parents at a young age in those days of prehistory and since raising children requires some patience and perspective, it was the grand parents and great grand parents who were best suited for the job.
Traces of this behavior still shine through. It is obvious to anyone who has ever seen a 5 year old and a 70 year old within a ten yard radius of each other. Little kids adore old people and have an instinctual need to be around them. Old people love nothing better than the company of children and the conversation and activities that result.
You can see attempts to revive the old family groups in the tradition of having the whole family gather together for food and fun at Grandma’s on Sundays and holidays. This practice has fallen by the wayside in our current culture for the most part, but it was an attempt to bring back the days of bonding and leisure with Grandma and Grandpa leading the bunch.
The idea of the older generation retiring and living an active and engaged life, doing all the things they ever wanted to do without the distractions and burdens of children and grand children is a very new concept.
Way back in the day, elders may have taken trips on their own, hiking off to a beautiful spot for a while or may have spent private time away from the group, but they would have returned to the group often for safety, socializing and story telling.
It has also been the case since the dawn of time that grandparents have raised grandchildren because the parent or parents disappeared or passed away. In earliest times a parent may have decided to leave the group and that was that. A parent may have been ostracized and banished for some offense or another. And in the days before antibiotics and police protection, people who took ill or were injured or attacked were as likely to die from their predicament as they were to survive it.
The Elders and their Trade Association, The Council did not pass on their knowledge and consult the up and coming generation for profit. They did it for the joy of seeing the younger generation develop into wise people and for the pleasure of seeing the young succeed. The Council was the first selfless civic organization pre-dating the Optimists and the Lions by many, many moons.
In a family or pack unit the value is in the sharing of the caring. This is a key lesson to learn that applies to dealing with people. You must care about them for them to care at all about whatever else you care about. I am not saying you need to hug and kiss everyone you deal with and bring them flowers and chocolate every week. But they must know that you care about them, their emotional state, their status in their organizations and the consequences they will experience by helping you on your way or by getting out of your way.
The idea of presenting win-win situations speaks to this drive to be cared about. This is something you cannot fake. If you do not care about people because you don’t naturally like people, then you must learn to care about people as a practical activity. People who don’t care about people may get their way and may become successful in some or even many aspects of their existence. But it is not worth it. Their efforts would have been so much more successful and much more solid and long lasting by sharing a little caring.
The nature of work is also different in a family or pack structure. People in the earliest societies performed to the best of their abilities within their range of abilities and everyone worked together. You may think this is a naïve and starry eyed view of people. It is not. Look at any moment in history when any group of people large or small has been successful building something or accomplishing something. They were successful in two cases: in the first case because a forced labor system was so ruthlessly enforced as to leave no other outcome open except the accomplishment of a goal or because they acted in a pack-like family-like structure where everyone pulled together. In fact, sometimes these two situations overlapped and created even more momentum. You might disagree with me, but I would love for you to give me an example that is contrary to my theory. You may have examples of times that you think do not fall into these two buckets. I bet I could prove you wrong.
In our discussion of managing people, I hope you are not thinking that the forced labor or slave system might be a good option to consider for managing and succeeding with your people. I did not mean to distract you from the discussion of the earliest family packs with this bet. For the moment, let’s table the slave system. It has some important lessons we can dwell on later.
In the twentieth century an attempt to revive the family unit/pack structure condition was called “working in teams”. However teams are not family or pack units. In a family or pack unit, everyone does what they can do to the level they can do it and everyone shares in the success.
The pack order works itself out and the social structure develops with the situation. It is an organic process. In a team, there are team leaders and players in different positions with different sets of responsibilities and duties. There are often different levels of contribution from team members and different levels of success or compensation for team members depending on their positions. Teams are created for a purpose and are managed.
Family units may have a purpose, but they were not created for a purpose. They were there before the purpose was. And although there is managing going on in a family group, there are no official managers and coaches.
If in your business unit pack, you allow people to gravitate towards the things they do best and are most interested in, you will be mimicking the family unit. You will create a much more dynamic, nimble and successful operation.
You can also appeal to the family drives by making sure to hire people of all different ages. The older people will take the younger under their wings. The younger will see the older as parent and grand parent figures. These interactions will help the dynamics and move your project forward.
Be aware of how you might fit into a family structure with whoever you have to deal with. If you find a family fit with people, it will be easier to deal with them.
The team concept works very differently than the family group concept. Although, when teams can act like family groups they do their best work. More on teams later.
A good example of how endearing we still find the family and pack structure lies in the popularity of reality TV shows like “Survivor”. These shows combine the early pack structure with some ruthless modern competitiveness and became huge hits.
So if prostitution was not the first profession, and council elder was not the first profession, what was? I believe the water warrior was the first profession.
Everyone in the family would have had to be good at all aspects of finding food and shelter. It is however likely that people developed specialties very early on. If as a child you proved particularly good at climbing trees to get to the best coconuts, then you might have focused on climbing for coconuts. Where I, on the other had, might have shown a knack for picking the sweetest berries and might have been the go-to guy on berry picking tips.
But what to do about the cleanest and best places to get water? Even early humans knew you had to drink a lot of water every day. And even primitive people would not have wanted deer or bear or any other creatures pooping or peepeeing in, at or near a really good fresh water hole. So someone would need to stay and guard the water hole and chase off the animals that might foul it up.
There was probably no need to guard other sources of sustenance. There were likely plenty of edible fruits growing in the places where people first thrived. There was enough to share with the birds and other animals. It wouldn’t matter if an animal pooped at the base of an olive tree. It didn’t hurt anything and didn’t spoil the olives. So I can imagine that each species took its turn at the fruit trees and berry bushes. This may have been quite routine. In the morning the humans came through the bushes and ate. In the afternoon the birds passed through. In the evening came the bears and at night, the deer. This may have been the schedule for eons.
But the water hole was a different story. There would have been a time when early people came to the realization that it was best to keep a water hole clean and free of other animals. I can imagine the animals that had come to these water holes for generations upon generations did not appreciate a denial of access and needed some consistent convincing. Someone would have had to have been at the water hole at all times, day and night, defending the water.
You might wonder why humans didn’t just set up camp by the water hole and keep the animals away by the presence of large numbers of people. The answer to that is this: people have always been slobs and have always been very short sighted in their approach to natural resources. Camping in a group by the water hole would have meant that the very people who needed the pure source would have fouled it up. So people had to protect the water sources from their own stupid behavior by camping far from the good sources and leaving someone to protect those sources.
You might be able to get someone to stay and watch the water hole out of a sense of duty to the group. But I can imagine that there was a lot of fun and joking around and visiting going on during the times when the family group was gathering food or sitting around camp. Now you may have had some loners who were happy to be by themselves at the water hole. But most people would not have wanted to miss out on all the socializing. Peer to peer networks have always been very popular and without text messaging, people in these times actually had to be in the same place at the same time to network, interface and get connected.
At some point the water warrior would have said, “Hey. I don’t want to do this anymore.” So there was probably some rotation of duty, so no one had to watch the water hole too many days in a row. That would have given everyone a chance to be with the group and enjoy each other’s company. But I bet that everyone dreaded their water hole duty. It was probably dangerous at times, too. There may have been many creatures who were not easily scarred off or who even ate a water warrior or two when a good opportunity arose. Perhaps some people refused to do water warrior duty out of the fear of becoming lunch for a tiger. Perhaps some family members did not want the people they were closest to, to be put in such danger. So they might have agreed that they would only have the young men without children be water warriors. This was probably a good way to get the obnoxious teenage boys to go away for a while. But probably some of them complained or refused duty, too.
In the family group system, you can refuse duty. You can do whatever you dare to do and no one is going to stop you unless they are willing to deal with the consequences of trying to stop you. You will, in turn, have to deal with the consequences of asserting your independence, but the original family groups were true democracies. You did what you wanted to and had all the personal freedoms you were prepared to take for yourself. The group did what the group was willing to do. The elders made their recommendations and used their powers of persuasion the best they could. But they would not have been able to order people to guard the water hole unless the people being ordered were willing to take the order.
This system of true democracy which was still being practiced in many parts of America by the native peoples when the European colonizers arrived was perfect in its simplicity. Despotic dictators could not arise, because once it was clear that a leader was an idiot, everyone would have stopped following the leader. So the idiot leader would have found himself all alone, talking to himself, while the rest of the group ignored him and went about their day. The leaders who made good choices that benefited the vast majority and the leaders who had the best people skills earned the most influence and could get things done. Leaders could not force an action that the group did not support. But this did make it difficult to accomplish things that were beyond normal practice and required everyone to think on a different level.
At some point there would be too few volunteers to adequately guard the water hole. Some other approach was needed.
So I can imagine that a few guys who liked the thrill of the danger or who weren’t particularly frightened of animals and who might not have enjoyed picking berries or digging roots stepped forward and said, “If you will provide for us the food and shelter we need, we will be glad to do all the water warrioring so you won’t have to.” And presto, the first profession was created by identifying an essential need others were unwilling or unable to meet.
Not everyone was well suited to being a water warrior. You had to be able to spend long periods of time alone with nature. You would have had to be very creative in keeping animals away and in preventing direct conflicts with any animal big enough or tough enough to put up a respectable fight. There would have been many animals determined to get to the water hole, especially if other water holes that were left for the animals to use turned dry.
Other members of the family group who did not have the wisdom to value the water hole would have come down to the water hole to play. So the water warrior would have also had to be good at chasing off family members and convincing others to use the water hole only for getting drinking water and not for other activities.
Much of the day would have been spent learning effective warrior warrioring. There were surely those who did not make the grade. They fell asleep on duty and let animals soil the water hole. They were foolish about confronting animals and ended up getting mauled. They couldn’t take the isolation and quit to go back to the group.
Water warriors would have had to learn a lot more about animals. It is likely people knew enough about the animals they saw every day. They may have known a lot about the most dangerous ones. But if human nature was similar in the early days to what it is now, many people would have been more interested in avoiding what they feared, rather than learning about it. The water warrior could not have afforded such an indulgence. He would have had to learn everything about the behavior of the animals that came near the water hole. He had to know which ones posed a threat to the purity of the water and which ones posed a threat to him personally. He would have developed many ways to interpret behavior and many ways to “teach” the animals to stay away. He would learn to scare some, to talk to some, to challenge some. He would learn how to set perimeters to limit his contact with risky animals and how to use the animals’ competition with each other to help keep the water hole clear.
It is at the water hole where the domestication of dogs and cats would have taken on a new level. People were probably raiding the nests of the most social of animals like wolves and wild cats to capture puppies and kittens to play with from the moment humans realized it was nice to pet a soft and fuzzy kitten or when they first took joy in tussling with a pup.
Big cat kittens were risky to keep around camp too long, but dwarf tiger kittens and dwarf bob-cat kittens were easier to handle as they grew older they tended to maintain their bonds with the humans to get protection from predators. So cats became a domestic breed very early on. It would have been quite handy for the water warrior to have a few cats with him. Their company would have helped pass the time and they would have been very helpful keeping little critters from the water hole. Since cats tend to have good personal hygiene and sanitation habits, they would not have been a risk to the cleanliness of the water hole.
Dogs would have been great working companions of the water warrior, too. Dogs had been bred down from wolves very, very early on in human existence. They would have helped protect the family from predators and helped bring joy to the young and old alike.
At the water hole, they would have helped chase off animals, they would have sounded the alarm when danger was near and they would have helped keep the most dangerous predators away. Dogs too, prefer to relieve themselves far from where they eat and sleep. They are easy to train. If the water warrior threw a rock at his dog the first time the dog tried to poop near the water hole, the dog would not try a second time.
The isolation of the water hole would have changed the relationship between the dogs and their people. Dogs had been buddies that required some manners and a little training from their earliest association with humans. But spending time with the water warrior as a working dog would have required a much tighter working relationship and a much bigger repertoire of trained behaviors and commands.
By investing his time, which was the water warrrior’s excess capacity, he developed a working relationship with dogs that still thrives today. As an example, the water warrior would have had to have some shelter at the water hole. If he was building shelter himself from branches and fallen trees, his work would have been much easier if his dog helped trim the twigs from the branches. If you have ever seen the joy dogs take in tearing smaller branches from fallen limbs, then you can see how much labor a dog could save someone who built primarily with limbs and branches.
This working relationship with dogs is a big part of how people became successful when they migrated to new lands. Dogs learned to carry loads on their backs and pull sleds to help the group move its belongings. Dogs learned to help track, flush and capture game when people developed into hunters. And as people moved into colder climates, dogs were the first blankets. On a cold evening a family sleeping in a twig hut could stay pretty comfortable if the dogs piled in with them. As people later discovered tools that helped them fell trees to build log structures, their dogs did the trimming and de-barking work. Try this experiment if you have one of the German working breeds. The Germanic tribes were and still are great dog breeders and handlers. Find a log along the path you walk with your dog, Go over and kick the log to put a little life into it. If your dog still has good instinctual drive, it will attack the log and trim off its branches and tear at the bark.
With a good axe and several good dogs, building log homes would have been a very doable task that changed the way in which people lived for ever.
As people began to keep breed and use sheep and goats, it was dogs that made the whole enterprise possible, serving as the herding and protecting agents. Without dogs, it would have been very difficult to increase the size of herds and people would not have gotten to a situation of excess wool and cheese capacity. A herding culture/enterprise could not have developed.
All of this had its start at the water hole, where the water warrior spent countless hours teaching his dog different tricks, tasks and behaviors and learning what dogs liked to do and how to communicate with them.
Some water warriors probably did as little as they needed to, thinking that they had a lazy man’s job where they needed to do little in order to be well provided for. But there were some who used their excess time well and who thrived and were successful. They started the whole tradition of the “professional”. The professional has a great deal of knowledge and experience in a particular field of knowledge and manages their equivalent of a water hole well and meets their challenges with a creative flair for re-framing the problem or finding interesting solutions..
Good water warriors would have been well respected for their discipline and knowledge and for the service they did for the group. The mediocre ones were there, too I am sure.
How did the water warrior’s development change or create the economy of the time?
There was probably no economy developed to serve the water warriors. People would have collected their excess harvest and taken turns bringing food to the water hole. Water warriors would have been able to do some foraging of their own as well. Friends would have gone out to the water hole to visit to help keep the water warriors from getting too lonely. And there were probably enough water warriors to allow each of them to take some leaves of absence to reconnect with their family and friends.
The water warrior did however change the nature of art and music for ever. Before the water warrior attempted to entertain himself in his isolation, the group would involve itself with the art and music it had adopted as its own. Groups would have had their own styles and subjects for rock carvings, sand paintings and stick art. These would have been passed from parents and grand parents to children as their cultural traditions. You see evidence of this in ancient petroglyphs. The styles and subject matter seemed to have stayed constant for a long time.
Music would have been fairly primitive with singing styles and stick and rock rhythms dominating. Again, songs would have been passed to the next generations and taught for their significance and in order to share.
Art and music likely developed and changed in minor ways as the new generations became the practitioners and the teachers.
But as the water warrior sat by himself, he had no one to correct him when he began to invent his own styles. He copied more of the things he found in nature as nature was his constant companion. He developed new weaving styles, new ways of using clay, new subject matter for drawing and new ways to draw. He made up his own songs or sang with the birds and the crickets and the wolves.
Sometimes when he shared his new artistic visions with the group they found it interesting and adopted some of the new styles. Sometimes the group just thought him weird and went back to doing things how they had always done things.
This is where the term “out there” was coined. If someone thought you were getting odd or acting weird, they compared you to the water warrior who lived “out there” in the wild by the water hole. If you were really “out there’, they might thing you were “far out”.