The Personal MBA

Master the Art of Business

A world-class business education in a single volume. Learn the universal principles behind every successful business, then use these ideas to make more money, get more done, and have more fun in your life and work.

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What Is 'Caveman Syndrome'?

Human biology is optimized for the world that existed 100,000 years ago, not for the world today. Caveman Syndrome is a way of recognizing that your brain and body simply aren't optimized for today's world.

Part of the challenge is facing 16 hours work days, instead of the physical survival of the past.

Don't be too hard on yourself. Nobody was built for the world as it is today.

Josh Kaufman Explains 'Caveman Syndrome'

Imagine for a moment what it would be like to live 100,000 years ago.

Your senses are on full alert as you walk along the banks of a river, scanning for food: fish swimming in the stream, edible plants, or animals to catch. The sun is nearing its apex, and you've already walked 6 miles today-your calloused feet will take you 6 miles more before the day is done.

In a few hours, you'll stop for some water and find shade: the mid-afternoon sun is blazingly hot, and rest will help you Conserve Energy.

As you walk, your eyes settle on a small bush about 20 feet away. Your heart leaps-you recognize the pattern of the leaves, and you know that both the leaves and roots are good to eat.

You start to dig at the earth around the base of the plant to expose the roots, intending to place the entire shrub into the simple woven basket you have strapped to your back.

Suddenly, you notice a movement out of the corner of your eye. Four feet away, a massive cobra has drawn itself up to strike, displaying its distinctive patterned hood and sharp fangs.

There's no time to think-adrenaline surges, your pulse races, and you quickly jump out of the way and run away as fast as you're able, leaving the food behind.

You run until it's clear that the threat is gone, and then you spend a few minutes recovering, trembling from the exertion and the stress as the adrenaline wears off. You're disappointed about losing the food, but it wasn't worth risking your life.

Once you recover, you resume your search for food and shelter from the midday sun.

Tonight, you'll return to your tribe to share what food you've found. You know everyone well, since there are only forty or so people in the tight-knit group.

You've banded together primarily for protection from wild animals and other tribes, who periodically attempt to seize the tribe's resources via raids. Together, you make spears and nets to catch fish, turn flint into knives and axes for hunting and defense, and create baskets and clay pots to store food.

On the fire, an antelope is roasting-a group of hunters in your tribe literally chased it to death, a technique called persistence hunting.

In the evening, you'll sit around the fire the group has built to cook food and keep predators away, and you'll discuss the day and tell stories until you drift off to sleep.

Tomorrow, you'll do it all over again.

Human biology is optimized for conditions that existed 100,000 years ago, not for the world in which we actually live today.

Food is everywhere; predators are not. You no longer have to be in constant motion; instead, you probably spend most of your time occupied by sedentary activities, like sitting behind a desk at a computer. As a result, we face many new threats to our brains and bodies, like obesity, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and chronically low energy.

Your brain and body simply aren't optimized for the modern world.

Part of the challenge of working in the modern world is that our brains and bodies are tuned for physical and social survival, not sixteen-hour work days. Business hasn't been around long enough for our biology to adapt to the new demands we're placing upon ourselves.

Don't be too hard on yourself-you simply weren't built for the type of work you're currently responsible for. No one is-we're all running demanding new software on ancient hardware.

Questions About 'Caveman Syndrome'


"Every man is a quotation from all his ancestors."

Ralph Waldo Emerson


From Chapter 6:

The Human Mind


https://personalmba.com/caveman-syndrome/



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The Personal MBA

Master the Art of Business

A world-class business education in a single volume. Learn the universal principles behind every successful business, then use these ideas to make more money, get more done, and have more fun in your life and work.

Buy the book:


About Josh Kaufman

Josh Kaufman is an acclaimed business, learning, and skill acquisition expert. He is the author of two international bestsellers: The Personal MBA and The First 20 Hours. Josh's research and writing have helped millions of people worldwide learn the fundamentals of modern business.

More about Josh Kaufman →