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The Butterfly Metaphor For Change

When we think of change we often picture the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly.

My little boys love the story of The Hungry Caterpillar, so even they know that after a period of ravenous consumption, a caterpillar finds a perch and forms a chrysalis.

Let some time pass and out pops a butterfly, right?

I learned recently is that there is actually NO structural similarity at all between a caterpillar and a butterfly. They are completely different creatures.

“Inside the chrysalis, the caterpillar—unable to move—dissolves into organic goop.

Cells, which had been dormant in the caterpillar and which biologists have the poetic genius to call “Imaginal cells,” begin a process of creating a new form and structure.

At first these Imaginal cells—the seeds of future potential, which contain the blueprint of a flying creature—operate independently as single-cell organisms. They are regarded as threats and are attacked by the caterpillar’s immune system.

But they persist, multiply, and connect with each other. The Imaginal cells form clusters and clumps, begin resonating at the same frequency and passing information back and forth until they hit a tipping point.

They begin acting not as discrete individual cells but as a multi-cell organism—and a butterfly is born.”

– Rob Evans & Carolyn Buck Luce

And this makes the butterfly metaphor for change even more powerful.

You see, leadership is lonely. And it doesn’t need to be that way.

Part of your mission is to seek out change-makers like yourself.

As Margaret Mead says:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Love. Rich

P.S. When Jackie Knechtel and Flora Douville challenged me to put on these butterfly wings at our Intensive last weekend, I was immediately a Hell No. After all, I’m committed to looking good—and that would look ridiculous!

And then it hit me. If leadership is about leaning into your edge and doing what’s uncomfortable AND that’s what I am teaching—it was time for me to walk my talk. Even if I didn’t want to.

ESPECIALLY if I didn’t want to!

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