Wanna be a Lemming?

Written by Martin Lucas

If I told you to jump off a bridge would you do it?

It’s an age old phrase with lots of different versions. We use it to teach the youth a better way to think in the future after they have been caught doing something naughty.

So, why don’t they listen? How do we even know better in the first place?

Let me tackle those questions in reverse order. Wisdom is the key to how we know better. It’s the circle of life, the only reason we know is because we either did the same or saw the same behaviours when we were young and didn’t know any better. I describe wisdom as the experience of messing stuff up and helping others not do the same. That’s the truth to it, we mess stuff up enough times and know what better behaviours are and find quicker routes to better ways of doing things.

As per my circle of life reference, the same thing happened from your parents to you also and round and round we go generations upon generations. It’s a repeating cycle of people not listening. The reason we don’t listen enough to our elders is simply because we don’t think they get ‘us’, they don’t know what it’s like to have my music, my life, my friends. It’s ‘you are just old and don’t know’ type thinking.

The Lemming analogy is perfect to describe why this pattern occurs generation upon generation. Lemmings follow each other off cliffs, don’t you recall the epic Amiga game?


A bunch of crazies following each other and barely avoiding endless doom (and cliffs), just like being a young adult really. When we think back to silly stuff we did as kids, we can’t quite believe the situations we got ourselves into (and out of). It beggars belief to our more mature selves. The causation of this is how your brain forms.

The math to adulthood

Stage 1: 0-7 years old

When we learn our unconscious habits; how to dress, eat and the rules of our home.

Stage 2: 7-14 years old

When we learn our conscious behaviours; relationships, engagement and the rules of the world.

Stage 3: 14-21 years old

When we learn subconscious feelings; when our brain explodes with hormones and we start to question and begin to understand ourselves.

Take a moment to recall how messed up it was being 15 year old you, 18 year old you AND 21 year old you. Adulthood begins in earnest at 21 and you had much to learn and experience. As you developed more skills and experienced more, you found this thing called fear and it taught you how to be a little bit more cautious and then a little bit more and on and on. Over time, as you mature, you stop doing the silly stuff. Whilst you should never stop being a kid at heart, experience helps us become the best versions of ourselves.

The reason we are lemmings during stage 3 is because we are frightened of ourselves. We can’t control our emotions and we literally feel that the only people who understand us are our friends, as we can relate to them and we feel safe.

We repeat this cycle with every generation because we want to help one another. Sometimes we need to pause and remind ourselves that the emotions of a Lemming matter and our voice is not heard no matter how loud we make it.

Game On

Let me end with a game. Which decade do you think this was said in?

The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.

You have an answer?

The most common answers I’ve heard are 1950’s and 1920’s...

It was Socrates who said this, roughly 439-469 B.C.

It has been a generational pattern for a long time!