Taken for Granted: Jane Goodall on Leadership Lessons from Primates (Transcript)
Tuesday, March 2, 2021
Adam Grant (00:00):
Hey WorkLifers, it's Adam. We're getting close to the premiere of season four of our show, but today I've got another conversation for you from our Taken for Granted series of unscripted interviews about re-thinking assumptions.
Adam Grant (00:12):
This year and last, many of us have been forced to communicate with our closest colleagues and friends from a distance. And that skill is not uniquely human.
Jane Goodall (00:20):
This is the distance greeting, and that simply means, "This is me, this is Jane."
Adam Grant (00:32):
Yep. This is Jane Goodall, legendary ethologist, an expert on primate behavior. Jane greeted us from her home in the UK over Zoom. It's an unnatural habitat for a person who usually spends most of her time outdoors.
Adam Grant (00:47):
More than 60 years ago, Jane started her career studying chimpanzees in Tanzania, along with anthropologist Louis Leakey. She famously immersed herself with wild chimps, and made groundbreaking discoveries about how primates behave and communicate. It turns out that we have a lot more in common with apes than we realize, and by observing their actions and interactions, I think we can learn a lot about leadership, status, and culture among humans.
(01:15):I'm Adam Grant, and this is Taken for Granted, my podcast with the TED Audio Collective. I'm an organizational psychologist. My job is to think again about how we work, lead, and live.
(01:27): So I guess the- the place the start is, can you tell me a little bit about where you are right now, and what it's like to be working from home instead of in the wild?
Jane Goodall (01:36):
Well, first of all, I was very lucky to be caught and grounded in my home. Um, this is the house where I grew up, although this is the longest I've been here in one place since the age of, well, 18 I think.
Adam Grant (01:53):
Jane Goodall (01:54):
You know, here I have all my work, all my books behind me, if you could see, there's the books I read as a child outside the window, and the trees that I climbed when I was a child. And you asked about, uh, how I was coping and what it was like working from home. Well, to be honest, I've never worked so hard in my life as in the last four months. I mean, it's just been non-stop, video messaging.
Adam Grant (02:20):
Do you do virtual calls with chimps as well?
Jane Goodall (02:23):
I don't speak to the chimps, no (laughs).
Adam Grant (02:25):
(laughs) I wasn't sure, so ... Uh, it's, it's really interesting that you've- you've never worked this hard before. Does that mean you're- you're adapting well to remote work, and- and being sort of in one place, in an office?
Jane Goodall (02:39):
Well, it's not an office, it's up in my room. It's a little [airy 00:02:43], and it's very small, and so my- my little studio, it's sitting on a very hard stool. But you know, I'm happy. What- what I miss, I mean, I was traveling 300 days a year around the world. And you would think that was harder work, and it truly was, sometimes I got exhausted. But in between, there was, you know, meeting really, really good friends and relaxing with them, and laughing and telling stories. And then giving lectures to rooms filled with up to 15,000 people, you get a buzz from it. So even if you start off feeling totally exhausted, the ... some energy that comes, and uh, whereas now I'm having to give talks gazing at a little tiny green light on the top of my laptop, (laughs) it's- it's a big effort to do it well, but I won't, won't do it unless I do do it well, so.
Adam Grant (03:43):
Well, you- you do it beautifully, and Jane, I can very much relate to that experience. I've done more virtual talks in the last four months than I think in the rest of my life combined. I wanna ask you more questions about your work life, but I also wanna make sure we- we get a bunch of commentary and- and insight on primates.
(03:59):So I've been interested in what primates can teach us about leadership and how we all work together. And so I guess the place I'd love to start on that is, if you could just describe some of your key insights and observations around when you see primates collaborate. Uh, what does that teach you about how humans work?
Jane Goodall (04:18):
Well, you know, the reason, um, Dr. Leakey sent me off to study chimpanzees in the first place, is because, uh, he spent his life searching for the fossilized remains of Stone Age humans. And y- you can tell an awful lot from a fossil, but behavior doesn't fossilize. So Leakey was actually ahead of his time in thinking that way back when, there was a common answers to ape-like, human-like, and, uh, maybe that behavior has been brought with us to our separate evolutionary pathways. So it gave him a better feeling for how early humans might have behaved. That's why he sent me.
(05:03): Anyhow, eventually I began to realize how like us they are in so many ways, their non-verbal communication, kissing, embracing, holding hands, patting one another on the back. Uh, we find that the males, and this was obvious pretty early on to me, they have this very rigid dominance hierarchy. But it's always changing as young ones start moving up the hierarchy, starting at the bottom when they're in late adolescence.
(05:34): And the interesting thing is, they have different methods of climbing the ladder. And when you consider those who've made it to the top, the alpha males, you know, there are some that just use physical strength, and they're aggressive and slightly brutal and do a lot of attacking. They don't last as long as those that use their intelligence. And they use that intelligence in different ways, so one was Mike. And he was very low-ranking in a, in a group of 11 adult males. He was right down near the bottom. But he just had this motivation to climb the ladder, and some- some males do and some males don't. There's a big difference there.
(06:21): Anyhow, my ... a- at that time, you know, it was feeding the bananas, it was the very early days, 1964, and we lit the camp at night with a little paraffin lamps, kerosene lamps, you'd call them, I think. Well, Mike took this chance experience with a cam, and he developed it. So in the end, he learned to keep three cams ahead of him, and would charge towards males who were his superiors at the time, and it was a s- ... a scary thing to have three cams hurtling towards you, making this awful noise.
Adam Grant (06:57):
Jane Goodall (06:57):
So they got out of the way. And then, you know, he would sit, exhausted, and sit with his hair bristling, and they'd come and groom him. And as far as we know, there wasn't one single, serious fight, because when they fight, they tend to pull each other's hair out, and there are wounds. But Mike had neither patches of hair nor wounds. And he reigned six years.
(07:23): And then you ask about leadership. Well, Mike became alpha male. But being an alpha doesn't make you a leader, it makes you the boss. And others will be submissive to you and greet you with submissive gestures. But then other males are leaders. They're leaders because they're much more gentle, and other chimps like to follow them, and choose to follow them.
Adam Grant (07:54):
Oh, this is so fascinating. I- I have so many questions for you. I'm not even sure where to start. (laughs) I guess I'll, I'll start at the question of- of who becomes a leader versus who's an effective leader. So one of the things we find over and again in my world of organizational psychology is that the individuals we elevate to leadership roles are often the most narcissistic, selfish takers, because they show dominance and strength. But that ultimately, (laughs) when we look at who leads well and- and both inspires people and guides a group towards achieving a common goal most productively, um, it tends much more to be the humble other oriented generous givers, uh, who are willing to put the team or the organization above themselves. And it- it seems like you see a similar dynamic with chimps.
Jane Goodall (08:37):
Yes, and of course chimps don't have leadership in quite the way of what you are studying in humans, because I guess that you're studying leaders in politics or business or both?
Adam Grant (08:51):
Jane Goodall (08:52):
Yes. And for chimpanzees, you know, it's the strive force of other males. It's the alpha position. They want to dominate the others. And of course, that's what we see in some politicians, right? We ... In fact, when I see two chimpanzee males bristling, swaggering upright, a furious scowl on their face, u- using intimidation tactics because it's a waste of time to fight, you might get hurt. So mostly it's intimidation. And it reminds me just exactly of some human male politicians. They do the same.
Adam Grant (09:27):
(laughs) That's so true. Why do you say human male politicians?
Jane Goodall (09:32):
Well, I don't think human female politicians use the same tactics, at least I haven't seen them. I mean, I'm thinking of the last election, and I'm thinking of when Hilary Clinton was talking, and Donald Trump was kind of looming. Do you remember how he used to loom behind her?
Adam Grant (09:51):
Jane Goodall (09:51):
Threatening, swaggering way, that was so chimpanzee-like.
Adam Grant (09:56):
It's so interesting to think about this. I guess, you know what? One of the things that- that I've long been curious about are when we see those kind of differences, how much are they driven by social roles versus, you know, a more evolutionary and biologically rooted forces? Where do you come down on that?
Jane Goodall (10:11):
Well, I think it's mostly ... I- I don't know, I mean we do know now this chimpanzee culture, different chimpanzee communities have slightly different ways of doing things, but that's mostly we see it in things like tool using and sometimes using a gesture that's common to both, but in a slightly different context, um, how it compares precisely with what you're talking about, it- it- it doesn't really, it doesn't quite gel somehow. What do you, what do you think? I mean, okay, you have a male and he's motivated to climb the social ladder, why? He wants to get to the top. He wants ... sometimes you feel honestly it's because he really enjoys the submissive behavior of others. And that I think we can compare with some human leadership. Would you agree with that?
Adam Grant (11:09):
Oh, it's hard to disagree with that one. I ... yes, I would. I would agree. Especially when we start to see those differences vary from one culture to another, uh, I start to believe that there's, there's a lot to be learned from studying the way that cultures are created.
Jane Goodall (11:21):
(11:22): Uh, which- which I'd be very curious to hear your take on. 'Cause you mentioned that chimpanzees have cultures. Um, they lack a lot of the tools that we normally use to build cultures, right? They can't, they can't tell stories the same way that humans do. Um, certainly language capabilities are more limited. H- how do chimpanzees build cultures?
Jane Goodall (11:42):
Through, uh, observation, imitation and practice. And that is one definition of human culture behavior passed from one generation to the next through observation. And that it's demonstrated so clearly. You- you watch the development of an infant. For example, you see the young ones watching and at first they don't even try. Then they use an inappropriate tool. Then they use ... I mean, one- one little infant, quite determined that she was going to really try and do what her mum was doing. Having watched her mum. And she- she caught this thick little stick, which was much too thick when she pushed and pushed and it went down into the hole all right. But she couldn't get it out. And it was just, you know, so funny.
(12:33): Um, but gradually by the time they're about four, especially the females, they've got it down to a, to a fine art. The males, they have a different role in that society. They are the ones who patrol the territory. They're the ones who got to be alert for individuals from another community invading their territory. So there's quite a big difference in male and female characteristics. And that's the same with humans. And this is what bothers me, um, as we, you know, move into the era of feminism, is that the females who first succeeded in breaking into male business and politics, for example, it's so ... by trying to become more male than the males. We use the same tactics. Whereas what we need in our society is the two different, the male and the female who- who do have different ways of doing things. We need both.
Adam Grant (13:36):
Yeah. I- I think so too. And you know, the, some of the research on queen bees has suggested that that's much more of a response to inequality than a cause of inequality. Um, so that, you know, it's, it's not that that women leaders necessarily want to operate this way, um, but they feel like they have to do it in order to get and then maintain their position. Um, I wondered if there's a, there is a parallel in chimp society there as well.
Jane Goodall (14:02):
I don't think so. I mean, they, you know, they, don't sort of ... as far as I can understand, they don't think things through like that. They just do what their nature tells them to do. And a female behaves like a bi- ... like a female. We had one female who was sterile. She never produced an infant and she behaved much more like a male. And yet at the same time she had female characteristics and she adopted a whole lot of motherless orphans. So they- they seem to behave more in tune with ... When, like you say, they can't talk, they don't speak, they don't discuss. So they just behave the way they feel, which is why I always say, you know, only humans can be really evil. Chimps can be brutal and aggressive and kill and have a kind of war, but they are not capable of sitting down in cold blood and planning to torture an individual who's not even present.
Adam Grant (15:12):
Jane Goodall (15:14):
That's what I consider evil.
Adam Grant (15:17):
That's such a powerful statement. This touches on a- a theme that you mentioned earlier, and it's another thread that I wanted to pull, which is about this distinction between dominance and respect or prestige. So you- you mentioned that a lot of chimps are- are able to gain an alpha status and essentially elicit submissiveness. Uh, but they're, they're not necessarily admired or- or (laughs) willingly followed. Does that mean that the dominant alpha males actually lose their status faster? Whereas the- the ones that either use their intelligence or other strategies are more likely to sustain the respect of a, of a group?
Jane Goodall (15:56):
The, uh, aggressive ones last less long usually. I wouldn't say always, but- but I mean the most aggressive one we've ever had Humphrey, he only lasted one and a half years.
Adam Grant (16:09):
I'm, I'm really interested in hearing your take on the- the mechanisms behind this pattern. Uh, so if the, if the really aggressive chimps don't last as long, how do you explain that? What do you think is driving it?
Jane Goodall (16:20):
I don't know, I mean, it's just that, you know, they all have different personalities and I suppose the aggressive ones don't necessarily use their brains. And maybe if you use your intelligence to get to the top, you can use your intelligence to stay up there.
Adam Grant (16:38):
That tracks is one of the mechanisms that I was thinking about, uh, which is that, you know, when studying humans, I've seen pretty consistently that the- the dominance path to the top is- is often the shortest, but also the shortest lived, uh, because if- if that's the strategy, that's, uh, that's going to get people there then you only last until there's another more dominant individual (laughs) who's going to overpower you.
Jane Goodall (17:01):
Adam Grant (17:02):
Uh, and it- it-
Jane Goodall (17:03):
Yeah. Clever- clever coalition. I mean, coalitions play a very major part in chimp society, really important part.
Adam Grant (17:12):
Well, that- that ... I think that's another piece of the puzzle that I was wondering about is it seems that if- if dominance is the strategy to gain power status, then, uh, you're, you're essentially creating a culture in which everybody's position is- is determined by strength. And so the moment that a- a few individuals would get together and- and outsmart the strongest one, uh, they have a coalition that's, that's able to overpower. How does that happen? How do they ... how did chimps coordinate that kind of coalition building?
Jane Goodall (17:43):
Well, there's two kinds of coalition. There's one that might be between, um, interestingly between brothers and they can be supporting each other for a very long time. Or between a male who was dominant and the one who's taken over his dominance. And that's what I found absolutely fascinating. So, okay. One male takes over the dominant role through aggression he fights and having taken over, and it's very clear he's now the top. And the previous alpha is very submissive. Every time he sees him, he gives a su- submissive pant grunt and reaches out to touch, but the new alpha continues to beat him up. And he beats him up really savagely. Um, even though the other one is giving all the right submissive responses.
(18:38): And when he's behaved that way for about, let's say a month or so then suddenly this, of course the previous alpha is now very, very, very nervous and submissive. And then the alpha changes completely. He's always grooming him. He's really nice to him. He never attacks him. He rushes in to protect him if another male challenges him. And because of that, these two then become so strong an alliance that nothing breaks it. And I found this absolutely fascinating.
Adam Grant (19:19):
Jane Goodall (19:20):
Yeah. And then, and then the other kind of alliance is a temporary one. So two males are wanting perhaps, I don't know to take bananas from a high ranking one and neither of them on their own could do it. And so they gang up and that's a temporary alliance.
Adam Grant (19:39):
And I guess I'm trying to visualize how this happens. Uh, you know, when chimps get together and form an alliance, whether it's, it's temporary or more lasting, is there a, this is going to be a strange question, but it'll give you a sense of how I- I think, uh, is there, is there a workplace analog? So, you know, do- do chimps coordinate, like they're working on an assembly line, does it look more like a firm? Do you see them in an office with cubicles or am I stretching (laughs) stretching this parallel too far?
Jane Goodall (20:05):
Stretching it way too far.
Adam Grant (20:06):
Jane Goodall (20:07):
It's a thing of the moment we want to attack that guy over there. You can't defeat him on your own. You look around, you see another male who normally you don't have much time with and you run over to him and you touch him and you look at the- the higher ranking one and the other male thinks, "Oh, this is an opportunity to get the better of him." And so the two of them, uh, charge or attack together.
Adam Grant (20:30):
So I think that speaks to some really interesting questions about communication and- and coordination. Um, it's, you know, certainly since Darwin wrote about facial expressions, uh, we've been curious about the universality versus specificity of- of different kinds of facial signals of emotion. Um, this is ... this has been an incredibly heated debate in psychology over the last few years, which facial expressions of emotion do you think are most universal from your studies of chimps and which ones seem to be idiosyncratic to either individuals or to groups or cultures?
Jane Goodall (21:03):
Well, you know, the facial expression that goes with, um, begging, pouting the lips, the facial expression that goes with fear, drawing the lips right back and having them out as wide open, the facial expression that shows laughter and play. I think we find them in chimps of- of all different groups that have been studied in captive chimps as well, for the most part.
Adam Grant (21:33):
And then what about, uh, what about body language? What do we learn about the way that- that chimps communicate through the- the gestures they make? I'm curious about other human analogs and parallels there?
Jane Goodall (21:44):
[inaudible]. I mean, if you watch chimpanzees communicating non-verbally you more or less know exactly what they're doing because we do the same. I mean, we- we really do. We shake fists. We, uh, if you don't like something you make that flapping- flapping movement, you reach out and beg, you threatened with your fist raised, you spiked out from foot to foot if you want to impress.
Adam Grant (22:10):
One thing that I was really interested in is when you talk about how the alpha males often lose their position, or they- they don't live as long in some cases, um, I've seen versions of that in business and in political life. And I feel like the- the myth of the alpha male is very per- pervasive and persistent in societies around the world. Uh, there are a lot of people who don't necessarily wanna operate that way. Intimidation or dominance is not their default. Uh, it's not perfectly aligned with their value system, but they look up the hierarchy and they see very influential, very visible role models doing it, and they think they have to follow suit.
(22:49): And I guess you've ... you spent so many years interacting with world leaders. Um, I'm interested in what you think it's going to take to break the myth of the alpha.
Jane Goodall (22:58):
Probably more women coming in and more women using their feminine qualities rather than trying to ape the male qualities of the existing system.
Adam Grant (23:10):
And which "feminine qualities" do you think are most important in leadership then?
Jane Goodall (23:15):
It's very important to be understanding, to be intuitive, uh, to be patient and to be compassionate.
Adam Grant (23:26):
And is your hope that we continue seeing those as feminine qualities or that we dismantle these stereotypes at the, at the ground level and say, actually, these are leadership qualities?
Jane Goodall (23:40):
I don't know. I've never thought about that. So I couldn't, I couldn't possibly answer it, but what I love is, um, he was one of the [chips 00:23:46] of a Latin American indigenous tribe, and I forget which country, but, um, he said to me, he said, you know, Jane, we consider our tribe as like an eagle. And on this eagle, one wing is male and the other wing is female. And only when the two wings are equal, we'll all try and fly through.
Adam Grant (24:10):
Jane Goodall (24:11):
Adam Grant (24:12):
It does make me wonder about something you just mentioned, which is patience. Uh, you- you mentioned that something, we need more in leadership. Uh, you also mentioned that it's something that- that your work has required over the years. And there are these legendary stories about you being five years old, waiting, just waiting around for chickens to lay eggs. And then ... is that real?
Jane Goodall (24:34):
Stuffy henhouse for four and a half hours?
Adam Grant (24:35):
And you just sat there.
Jane Goodall (24:38):
Yeah. First I followed a hen 'cause I wanted to know where the hole was, where the egg came on and nobody told me. So I remember seeing this brown hen going into one of these hen houses and crawling off to her, which was a big mistake and sco- ... 'cause I presume fair. She flew out past me. I can still feel her wing on my face. It was a bit scary. Um, and I must've thought in that little four and a half year old mind, well, no hen will lay an egg here. This is a scary place. So I went into an empty hen house and waited and saw the egg come out.
Adam Grant (25:12):
Jane Goodall (25:13):
And you see, I had this enormous benefit when I was a child of my mother. She was so supportive. So instead of getting angry at me, "How dare you go off without telling us? Don't you do it again."
Adam Grant (25:26):
Jane Goodall (25:26):
'Cause they'd called the police by then. Um, she starts [telling 00:25:30] me the wonderful story of how a hand laid an egg. And when I announced age 10, that I was going to go to Africa and live with wild animals and write books about them, uh, everybody laughed at me 'cause I was a girl and war was raging. And- and Africa was far away when we had basically no money. But mom said, if you really want to do something like this, you kind of to work awfully hard, take advantage of every opportunity. And then maybe if you don't give up, you'll find a way. That's what I've told young people all around the world. And so many have come up to me or written to me and said, "Jane, I want to thank you because you had taught me that because you did it. I can do it too."
Adam Grant (26:11):
That's, uh, that's ... it's so moving to here and it's clear, you're not only found doing I right. You cleared the path for so many others to follow in your footsteps. Do you have techniques or strategies to maintain your patience and delay gratifications?
Jane Goodall (26:26):
No. I never thought of it. I mean, I was just born that way. You know, it was obviously born patient, wasn't I? And I could sit for hours until the birds got used to me and then I could watch laying her eggs and watch the parents feed the babies and watch the babies fly away, and that took hours of just sitting. I think that to be a good mother, which is woman's role throughout evolution, really, uh, going way back, um, you'll have to be patient. You can't be a good mother if you're not patient. I don't think.
Adam Grant (26:59):
This- this quality we've been talking about being patient and obstinate and resilience, I imagine that came in handy early in your career. When people are telling you- you can't do this work without a doctorate, uh, and a woman can't do this work anyway. Could you talk to me a little bit about how you dealt with the criticism from close-minded men?
Jane Goodall (27:16):
You know, honestly, people always say that, but I didn't have that kind of criticism anymore I think than if I'd been a male. I was criticized for giving the chimpanzees names, but I guess that criticism would have come even if I'd been a- a male student, I guess. And Leakey wanted me because I was a female, and because I had an unbiased mind. And that the ... um, when I got to Tanzania it was just becoming independent. So there was resentment towards the white males who dominated the country for so long, but a white female oh, they wanted to help me.
(27:57):So I didn't have this. Um, and you know, when- when the were these male scientists, when I discovered tool using saying, well, why should we believe her? She's just a girl. She doesn't have a degree. She's only got money from the geographic 'cause she's got nice legs. Um, all I cared about was getting back and learning about the chimps. I didn't even want to be a scientist. It was Leakey who made me do the degree and I'm really glad he did, by the way, I loved learning how to think. And, you know, in- in a scientific, logical way, I've enjoyed that so much. It's helped me in- in everything actually.
Adam Grant (29:05):
Hi, and welcome back to my conversation with Jane Goodall. There, there's a Max Planck saying that ... uh, it gets paraphrased as saying that, science progresses one funeral at a time. Um, and I think you've, you've known many more scientists than I have, who just were unwilling to let go of their pet theories. Uh, and this is clearly not a problem for you. It almost seems like you're immune to confirmation bias and, you know, to go and discover not only the chimps use tools, but even make their own, um, I'm interested in how you, I guess, kept such an open mind to discover things that flew in the face of what everyone thought was true.
Jane Goodall (29:43):
Because I hadn't been in college, nobody told me.
Adam Grant (29:45):
Jane Goodall (29:47):
I mean, that's ... Leakey told me later, he said I wanted somebody with an unbiased mind. He said, I don't like the way the reductions thinking of, uh, scientists today. So he ... and he also felt that, uh, a woman might be more patient and-
Adam Grant (30:03):
Jane Goodall (30:04):
... in the field. So I was really lucky in those ways, you know?
Adam Grant (30:10):
I think so too, although it- it poses challenges, then over time as you get a PhD and you become more steeped in the assumptions of the field, there's, um, there's a term in my world called cognitive entrenchment, uh, where experts start to take for granted assumptions that need to be questioned. How have you prevented yourself from getting entrenched over the years?
Jane Goodall (30:30):
I suppose it's my personality, (laughs) I don't know. Well, so remember I never got into the academic, but, you know, I was ... I never had a ... an academic position in university. I just got that PhD as quickly as I could and went back and learned from the chimps. And when you are there learning from the chimps, you can't get entrenched 'cause you're continually getting surprises and, uh, you know, and the other animals too that I've watched, which it's ... you can't get entrenched when you're really absolutely keen on understanding another species.
Adam Grant (31:07):
So I guess going out into the wild then forces you to (laughs) to juxtapose what you think, you know, against what is.
Jane Goodall (31:14):
Yes. And then a way of traveling around the world, in all these different countries and meeting all these different cultures, it's kind of the same. You can't get entrenched in one culture when you meet people, behaving in a completely different way, maybe from the same motives, or ... You know, your- your mind is continually, uh, wants to expand and grow. And I've been really lucky in that way.
(31:38): And then, you know, you also going back to this chimp human thing, and you touched upon it already, but, um, what ... be- because we're so like them, more like them than any other living creature, it helps you understand how we're different. And I think the main difference is the fact that at some point in our evolution, we develop this way of speaking with words so that we can teach children about things that aren't present. Uh, we can gather together and discuss something, people from different views. And that is what I believe led to this explosive development of our intellect, which is what really does make us different. So animals are way, way, way more intelligent than many people used to think. And some people still wouldn't believe it. But, you know, if you think of a species that designs a rocket, that goes two miles from which a little robot creeps to take photographs.
Adam Grant (32:41):
Jane Goodall (32:41):
People who think about ... discover stars that are billions of light miles away. I mean, my goodness and think Galileo back then in those days think what ... and think of Linnaeus. I mean, the human intellect has been extraordinary.
Adam Grant (32:57):
Yeah, yeah, no. I mean, it's, it's, it's hard to, it's hard to disagree with- (laughs) with those- those observations. Uh, so a few things that I wanna, I wanna make sure we cover, um, I wanted to do a slightly shorter lightning round, uh, where we- we build a little color around maybe the sides of- of you that- that most people don't get to see. Uh, so the- the first question I had for you on that is if you weren't a primatologist, what other jobs might you have wanted?
Jane Goodall (33:25):
Well, anything to be out in nature. Before that really crystallized, I wanted to be poet Laureate. I used to read so much poetry and write books.
Adam Grant (33:39):
What is the worst career advice you've ever received?
Jane Goodall (33:44):
Um, well, I suppose it was what the professors told me when I went to Cambridge that I'd done everything wrong.
Adam Grant (33:52):
And it turns out they were the ones who had done everything wrong. Didn't it?
Jane Goodall (33:55):
Adam Grant (33:57):
Uh, oh, that's poetic justice to your, to your poetry.
Jane Goodall (34:01):
Adam Grant (34:02):
Your poetry fashion. And then I was talking with my sister the other day and she said that if she could have dinner with anyone on earth, you'd be at her table, which of course made me wonder who would be at your table. Uh, are there people you would most like to sit down with and learn from that you've never met or that you've only had limited interaction with?
Jane Goodall (34:21):
Hmm, people that are alive today? Yes. Uh, I would really like to sit down privately and have dinner with the Pope.
Adam Grant (34:32):
What would you talk about?
Jane Goodall (34:34):
Well, it would depend, I mean, I don't really talk to people about anything until I suss them out as it were and found a piece of common ground and something that you can share and then let the conversation run, but he's been so outspoken and amazing about the environment. And, you know, he actually has said just because we can breed like rabbits doesn't mean we should, uh, which for a Pope is quite extraordinary to see something like that. And I think he's done a lot to persuade Catholics, to take more concern for the environment.
Adam Grant (35:12):
Uh, it's, it's, it's funny to hear you say that because I think you paved the way for the kind of entrepreneurial activism, uh, that- that he's done in his work. That goes to something else I wanted to ask you about, which is as you moved into activism, uh, both, you know, to protect animals and now the environment and our planet. Um, I think you've seen as I have a lot of ineffective strategies (laughs) for trying to get people to care, uh, about non-humans. And I'm curious about what you've learned from all this activism. Um, what is it that gets people to care about animals? What is it that gets them to step up and- and take care of the planet?
Jane Goodall (35:50):
When I first realized that chimpanzees were disappearing, and the forest were- were being, um, destroyed in 1986, I held that I had to learn more about it, so I went out and got a bit of money and got to, I think it was six different rain states. So learn about what was happening to the chimps. And at the same time, I was learning about the plight faced by so many African people living in and around chimp habitat, you know, the crippling poverty, the lack of health and education, that degradation of land, growing human populations and flying over Gumby that had been part of this equatorial forest belt.
(36:33): When I began by 1990, it was just a tiny Island of forest surrounded by completely bare Hills. And that's when it hit me. If we don't help the people to find ways of making a living without destroying the environment, we can't even try to save the chimps. And so, because we began this program TACARE or TACARE which is very holistic. Uh, the- the people trust us now, and they've come to understand that protecting the environment is for their own future. They need the forest for clean air and clean water to prevent soil erosion and- and control rainfall and the climate.
(37:12): And so they've become our partners and they help us conserve the environment. And we teach about the animals in our youth program. And they're all helping to protect the animals and tell people about the animals. And again, you can't ... it's not a blanket answer I could give you about how do you persuade people to step up, uh, and care about animals, but I do it by telling stories and different stories, depending on who you're talking to.
Adam Grant (37:45):
Yeah. It- it reminds me of a campaign, the Environmental Defense Fund ran years ago, which I think was their most successful campaign ever, which was just a picture of a- a polar bear on a melting ice cap.
Jane Goodall (37:57):
Yeah, that's right.
Adam Grant (37:58):
We've got a whole audience of listeners who are trying to figure out how to get through the next year or so of the pandemic. And given- given all of the difficult conditions you've endured throughout your- your life and your career, I'm wondering what advice do you have for- for anybody who's just trying to figure out how to stay, how to stay on track, how to avoid burning out, (laughs) how to deal with all the uncertainty we're facing. What- what guidance do you have?
Jane Goodall (38:22):
Well, you know, there again, how can you give us a blanket, gu- guidance because the people are so different. I mean, some of them are ones who've lost their jobs. Some of them like in Africa and India, you know, they live by selling things and what they get selling their little bits and pieces it's how they eat in the evening and provide food for their children. So advice that you were giving to them would be totally different from somebody who's sitting in Silicone Valley, uh, you know, with his pots of money and ability to communicate with people around the world and think of new ways of making more money or making more inventions depending on the person. Or what do you say?
I mean, you have to hope that people have hope. I mean, without hope you give up, don't you? And if you hope for a better future, so maybe for whatever jobs being lost, you can sort of talk to that person and say, well, you know, like if we can create a new green economy, um, there'll be hundreds and thousands of jobs to do with, you know, solar and wind and all these other technologies that could be developed to provide jobs for people.
Adam Grant (39:38):
Yes. Jane, have there ever been times when you've lost hope and- and if so, where have you turned to, to rediscover it?
Jane Goodall (39:47):
I never totally lost it. And you can't look around the world today, um, really look around and see what's happening and really read about what's happening to the environment and to society and not feel depressed. You- you can't defy anybody with any kind of intelligence not to feel depressed, but when- when- when I get those feelings, something pops up in me and I'm not going to be browbeaten by this. I just won't. I suppose I was a born fighter. Maybe it's my genes. I had an amazing grandmother, an incredible mother.
Adam Grant (40:25):
I- I think that's such a heartening message to say, I will not be browbeaten by this.
Jane Goodall (40:30):
Yeah. I mean, I wouldn't let the Trumps and Bolsonaros, brow beat me into saying, well, they've done so much damage there's nothing I can do, so I'm not going to do anything. That's the danger. People do nothing because they feel powerless and helpless and hopeless. And that's why I started the youth program Roots & Shoots because of so many young people telling me that they felt, uh, depressed or angry or mostly apathetic because we've compromised their future, and there's nothing they can do about it.
Jane Goodall (41:02):
And so, yes, we have compromised their future. We've been stealing it. We're still stealing it today, actually. But I believe firmly that we have a window of time. And if we get together and put our brains together, that we can, um, at least heal some of the harm that we've inflicted and slow down climate change, but we've got to do it now. And that's why I was traveling all over the place. And that's why I'm trying to create this virtual Jane who actually far more people.
Adam Grant (41:35):
Well, I- I like virtual Jane, (laughs) it certainly seems ... it seems more efficient and convenient for you. Uh, but I do, I do hope you can get back out in nature in the near future. Jane, it's, it's been such an honor to speak with you. Um, you've, you've done so much for humanity, for animals, for the planet. Um, you ... just really grateful that you were willing to take the time to do this. So thank you so much.
Jane Goodall (41:58):
Well, thank you too. And I think everybody listening should remember that every single day we live, each one of us makes an impact on the planet. And we have a choice as to what kind of impact we make. That's a really important thing to remember.
Adam Grant (42:18):
Scientists, conservationists activist. Jane Goodall now has a new title to add to her collection. Podcaster. Her new show is called the Jane Goodall Hopecast. It's currently available in English, but I'm hoping for a chimpanzee version soon.
(42:38): Taken for Granted is a member of the TED Audio Collective. The show is hosted by me, Adam Grant, and produced by TED with Transmitter Media. Our team includes Colin Helms, Gretta Cohn, Dan O'Donnell, Jessica Glazer, Joanne DeLuna, Grace Rubenstein, Michelle Quint, Banban Cheng and Anna Phelan. This episode was produced by Constanza Gallardo. Our show is mixed by Rick Kwan. Original music by Hahnsdale Hsu and Allison Layton Brown. And huge gratitude to Melly Shifter for introducing me to Jane.