Life, as we have known it, has come to a screeching halt because of an invisible threat. We can’t see it! But we surely can see the effects of what it’s done. Thousands of people have been infected and thousands have lost their battle against it. As if they haven’t already been involved enough in what we do, our state and local authorities have said that we must change the way we live and interact with others. As human beings who thrive on socializing with families, friends, neighbors, church members, and co-workers, they’ve asked us to listen and follow their guidelines. Businesses, churches, schools, and events have been closed or cancelled.
As I walk my dog, the usual, steady stream of cars once heard on the road is quite minimal and almost eerie at night. There’s danger and opportunity happening at the same time. No doubt, like you, I’m wondering if things will ever get back to normal. As I watched a family of three walk past my house, I saw it. A beautiful butterfly flew past the window, and I was reminded of the tragic story of one butterfly.
The butterfly is a powerful symbol of change. More importantly, for self-transformation, the butterfly begins as a meager caterpillar, pushing the front half of its body forward while the back end follows. The caterpillar embarks on an incredible journey, where through the process of metamorphosis, it transforms into a butterfly.
Seeing that butterfly reminded me of a story I’ve told many times at different conventions across this great land. It’s a story about a young boy who finds a caterpillar in his backyard. Excited about his find, he asks his mom if he can keep it, and she says yes, if he takes care of it. She gives him a jar, which he promptly fills with a branch and lots of leaves. One day, the caterpillar climbs the branch and starts spinning a cocoon.
The boy checks on the cocoon a couple time a day, watching it carefully for any sign of change. Then one day, he sees a tiny crack through this small opening, he can see the caterpillar struggling to get out. This young boy watches, anxious to see the butterfly emerge, but became impatient and found a pair of scissors. He cut the hole bigger, helping the butterfly to come out easier. The problem is that the butterfly doesn’t look exactly like a butterfly. Its body is swollen, and its wings are shriveled. The boy waits, thinking it will transform, but it stays the same. Now crying, the boy takes the jar to his mom, not really understanding why it did not transform into the butterfly like he thought it would.
His mother then explained that the butterfly needed to push through the cocoon on its own. Physiologically, the struggle forces the fluid out of the body, into the wings, nourishing them to make the wings stronger. By cutting the hole in the cocoon, the young boy took away the important struggle the butterfly needed to emerge correctly.
Right now, all of us are in a metaphorical cocoon, safe and secure in our homes or apartments. Within our cocoon, we face our own struggles, whether loss of income, stress, depression, or sickness. Through struggle comes strength, and with challenges comes change. That line came from my daughter just last night.
My wife told me that living with me in this big house is like being in a cocoon, and I need to stop feeding my fear of the future, doubts, or regrets. She also told me to think about the opportunities that lie ahead because the thinking that got us here is not the same thinking that is going to get us where we need to go.
Even though I started saying this quote years ago to companies that I trained, it still applies today. “You can’t do today’s business with yesterday’s thinking and hope to be ahead tomorrow.” Americans probably won’t do business again like we used to because the marketplace has changed, and we need to change with it. This pandemic is forcing us to change our lives like we’ve never done before. Let’s be like the butterfly, making changes as they come so we can take off. Our attitude and activity will make all the difference in the world as to how we emerge from this threat.
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D. J. Harrington is an author, journalist, seminar leader, international trainer, and marketing consultant. He works primarily with customer service personnel, and his clients include such world-class companies as General Motors, DuPont, Caterpillar, and Damon Corporation. He may be reached at 800-352-5252. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 52 weeks a year, we are as close as your telephone.