Book Review: Shut Your Monkey

Shut your Monkey High Res Cover

Everyone can be a real-life superhero.

It’s a crucial tenet of our credo here at SuperheroYou. No matter where you start from in life, everyone has the power to change the world. It’s such an important idea – but it’s also a scary one. And we all have that little voice in our heads that tells us: You? You can’t be a superhero – who do you think you are?

If that voice is crippling you, you should pick up Shut Your Monkey: How to Control Your Inner Critic and Get More Done by Danny Gregory. It’s geared toward creatives, which Gregory points out we all are in some way, and is especially relevant for any (aspiring) real-life superhero:

Creative people have the power to save the world. The human race faces so many challenges these days, but we also have so many new tools to solve them. The idea that some stupid, nattering voice in our heads might stop us from creating solutions is scary. So let’s silence that voice and get to work!

In Shut Your Monkey, Gregory first defines the critical voice inside our heads as a “monkey” and sets about the process of demystifying it, explaining what exactly it is and what it wants. He then explains why the inner monkey is so prevalent to creative people and suggests ways to deal with your real-life monkeys, like your credit card agency or your clients. Finally, Gregory shows you how to tame the monkey…because it might never go away, but it certainly shouldn’t control your life. We want to embrace our inner lions instead.

All in all, I really enjoyed Shut Your Monkey. I was worried the book would seem overdone; after all, the struggle to control one’s inner critic isn’t exactly new. But Shut Your Monkey was surprisingly refreshing – probably due to the style of the book rather than its wealth of new information. Gregory writes in a no-nonsense, straightforward tone that set it welcomely apart from books that coddle you through the truth. He didn’t quote classic self-help tomes and kept his references up-to-date, including Picasso but also Buzzfeed and Harry Potter.

Plus, Gregory is an accomplished illustrator whose drawings peppered Shut Your Monkey‘s  pages and added a dynamic quality that made the book quite easy to read. I particularly enjoyed how he incorporated “Monkey Tales,” short stories of how other people dealt with their monkeys. In most books, I wouldn’t know when to read these separated sections. But Gregory interspersed them in a way that made them educational and never distracting.

This visual style also helped Gregory pack an exhaustive amount of information into Shut Your Monkey. I also enjoyed his list of “Monkey Subspecies,” where he listed the kinds of monkeys you might encounter – like the Cheap Chimp, which says, “You will soon be broke. And homeless.” His insistence that we name our monkeys and give them voices and colors also helps to turn your inner critic from a scary beast into something a lot more manageable. Of course, given the nature of the book, a lot of the information wasn’t exactly new – but there were still several strategies and ideas I’d never encountered before along with ones I had. For example, Gregory states that the monkey is actually afraid of taking risks, so we need to keep that momentum of risk-taking in all areas of our lives. And I loved that Gregory included several tips for responding to both imagined and real criticism – especially the oft-forgotten reminder that “good” is a subjective ideal and not an objective one.

Of course, Shut Your Monkey has its issues. As much as I enjoyed the way the book was designed, I wish he had pointed out he had small worksheets in the back of the book to use so I didn’t use so much paper of my own in, for example, defining what my monkey looks like. Also, the book may alienate you if you do not like bluntness. There is no coddling here. You will be forced to face several truths you already know but don’t like to hear out loud because it’s painful – like the fact that your monkey might be symptomatic of an actual issue you’re ignoring, or that every great has only succeeded by fighting their monkey, or the idea that the only way to defeat the monkey is to define your purpose so you have an objective way to assess risk. That last one is big. Most of us are scared to do the tough soul-searching required to define our purpose in life. But you will only get out of Shut Your Monkey what you put into it – and it’s easy to be inspired by a book like this and then procrastinate. You have to actually want to defeat your monkey.

But if you’re willing to put in the work, then Shut Your Monkey can change your life – and not just in its creative aspects. The book is also sprinkled with gems of life advice throughout. I especially liked Gregory’s advice on fear: we can’t let the fear of what could be prevent us from acting on what we want to. We will all learn to live with the worst when it happens. But until it does, our imaginations can be put to far better use.

The best part? Shut Your Monkey can be read straight through – but it’s also structured in such a way that you can open up to practically any page and get some advice to remind you that you can deal with your monkey. So keep a copy wherever you do your most creative work. It’ll be there when you need it.

Liked this? Buy the book here!

Written by Sasha Graffagna

Everyone can be a real-life superhero.

It’s a crucial tenet of our credo here at SuperheroYou. No matter where you start from in life, everyone has the power to change the world. It’s such an important idea – but it’s also a scary one. And we all have that little voice in our heads that tells us: You? You can’t be a superhero – who do you think you are?

If that voice is crippling you, you should pick up Shut Your Monkey: How to Control Your Inner Critic and Get More Done by Danny Gregory. It’s geared toward creatives, which Gregory points out we all are in some way, and is especially relevant for any (aspiring) real-life superhero:

Creative people have the power to save the world. The human race faces so many challenges these days, but we also have so many new tools to solve them. The idea that some stupid, nattering voice in our heads might stop us from creating solutions is scary. So let’s silence that voice and get to work!

In Shut Your Monkey, Gregory first defines the critical voice inside our heads as a “monkey” and sets about the process of demystifying it, explaining what exactly it is and what it wants. He then explains why the inner monkey is so prevalent to creative people and suggests ways to deal with your real-life monkeys, like your credit card agency or your clients. Finally, Gregory shows you how to tame the monkey…because it might never go away, but it certainly shouldn’t control your life. We want to embrace our inner lions instead.

All in all, I really enjoyed Shut Your Monkey. I was worried the book would seem overdone; after all, the struggle to control one’s inner critic isn’t exactly new. But Shut Your Monkey was surprisingly refreshing – probably due to the style of the book rather than its wealth of new information. Gregory writes in a no-nonsense, straightforward tone that set it welcomely apart from books that coddle you through the truth. He didn’t quote classic self-help tomes and kept his references up-to-date, including Picasso but also Buzzfeed and Harry Potter.

Plus, Gregory is an accomplished illustrator whose drawings peppered Shut Your Monkey‘s  pages and added a dynamic quality that made the book quite easy to read. I particularly enjoyed how he incorporated “Monkey Tales,” short stories of how other people dealt with their monkeys. In most books, I wouldn’t know when to read these separated sections. But Gregory interspersed them in a way that made them educational and never distracting.

This visual style also helped Gregory pack an exhaustive amount of information into Shut Your Monkey. I also enjoyed his list of “Monkey Subspecies,” where he listed the kinds of monkeys you might encounter – like the Cheap Chimp, which says, “You will soon be broke. And homeless.” His insistence that we name our monkeys and give them voices and colors also helps to turn your inner critic from a scary beast into something a lot more manageable. Of course, given the nature of the book, a lot of the information wasn’t exactly new – but there were still several strategies and ideas I’d never encountered before along with ones I had. For example, Gregory states that the monkey is actually afraid of taking risks, so we need to keep that momentum of risk-taking in all areas of our lives. And I loved that Gregory included several tips for responding to both imagined and real criticism – especially the oft-forgotten reminder that “good” is a subjective ideal and not an objective one.

Of course, Shut Your Monkey has its issues. As much as I enjoyed the way the book was designed, I wish he had pointed out he had small worksheets in the back of the book to use so I didn’t use so much paper of my own in, for example, defining what my monkey looks like. Also, the book may alienate you if you do not like bluntness. There is no coddling here. You will be forced to face several truths you already know but don’t like to hear out loud because it’s painful – like the fact that your monkey might be symptomatic of an actual issue you’re ignoring, or that every great has only succeeded by fighting their monkey, or the idea that the only way to defeat the monkey is to define your purpose so you have an objective way to assess risk. That last one is big. Most of us are scared to do the tough soul-searching required to define our purpose in life. But you will only get out of Shut Your Monkey what you put into it – and it’s easy to be inspired by a book like this and then procrastinate. You have to actually want to defeat your monkey.

But if you’re willing to put in the work, then Shut Your Monkey can change your life – and not just in its creative aspects. The book is also sprinkled with gems of life advice throughout. I especially liked Gregory’s advice on fear: we can’t let the fear of what could be prevent us from acting on what we want to. We will all learn to live with the worst when it happens. But until it does, our imaginations can be put to far better use.

The best part? Shut Your Monkey can be read straight through – but it’s also structured in such a way that you can open up to practically any page and get some advice to remind you that you can deal with your monkey. So keep a copy wherever you do your most creative work. It’ll be there when you need it.

Liked this? Buy the book here!

Written by Sasha Graffagna

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