Are You a Herder or a Hunter?

After I resigned from analytics to travel and learn to program, I began teaching business English to earn a little money and protect my savings. It’s been an amazing opportunity to meet people from different cultures and encounter new questions and ideas. Yesterday, I realized I didn’t have the right words to help my student describe his two cofounders, one who works hard consistently and one who works intensely for short bursts.

During the lesson, we settled for the terms “sprinter” versus “marathon runner” as a suitable analogy. I suggested words like committed, devoted, and consistent but they fell short. After the lesson, I posted to an online forum for help in finding the right words. The answer I got fascinated me.

Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 1.07.57 PM

Not the answer I expected. Not necessarily even helpful for my student, because it’s not an analogy that his listener will likely be familiar with… but wow.

I generally try to understand and explain myself first as a human, then as an individual, so this type of reasoning appeals to my nature. In other words, I see myself as 90% the product of millions of years of human evolution and 1% as 27 years of recent personal experience. Yet, I never looked at my old coworkers, classmates, or friends and equated them to hunters and herdsmen.

Interestingly, this idea falls in line with some of my longstanding views. One idea is that Attebtion Deficit Disorder (ADD) is a misleading label for a real problem. ADD frames the problem with a focus on the viewer.  I think it isn’t really a lack of attention, but a lack of stimuli. It’s asking a hunter to watch the herd.

I could imagine using this framework to think about differences in adrenaline seeking, sports, and even testosterone levels. Are the genes of athletes descended from hunters?  Are men who are more interested in sex that way because of personal choice and environmental influence or is there hereditary temperament descended from herdsmen and farmers?

Obviously we’ve been living in agricultural societies for thousands of years and studying these kind of connections would be difficult. Still, it would be interesting to see if the science supports the idea.

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