Graceful, swift and beautiful, the butterfly flutters effortlessly through the garden. It seemingly has few worries as it inspects one flower before taking off to its next landing pad. As we watch it float majestically, we see freedom, we see it’s beauty and we see grace. Rarely do we look at the butterfly and think about how hard it’s worked to become the beautiful specimen it is today. Why is that? It first had to survive as an egg before becoming a larva then finally making it’s a way through the pupa/chrysalis stage to emerge as the butterfly.
We aren’t all that captivated by the caterpillar. It crawls around and eats holes in all of the leaves. In fact, I could go so far as to say that many of us don’t like caterpillars at all. But without the caterpillar, we wouldn’t have the butterfly we find so damn beautiful. We want the butterfly but not the caterpillar. This is the butterfly paradox.
This week I wanted to talk about something I’ve experienced and have watched others around me struggle with. It’s the idea that many of us are flawed in our desire to have the freedom and the beauty of the butterfly but are unwilling to be the caterpillar. You see we always reach for the end goal without committing to the dirty work. We always compare our beginning with someone else’s middle. We want the glory but aren’t motivated for the hard yards. We want wings of freedom but are unwilling to spend 20 days trapped inside of our pupa going through a metamorphosis. We aren’t ready to spend 66 days creating a habit. We all see a butterfly and want wings. Now.
Every day I receive an e-mail or a message with people asking ‘How can I have your life?’ It would be the same as me sending a professional basketballer a letter asking him how to get his jump shot. The jump shot is the butterfly. The minimum 20,000 hours of training Lebron James has put into his jumper is one of the ugliest and meanest looking caterpillars you’ll find in the garden.
Whenever I’ve been asked to give young kids or others advice I’ve always shared the same thing. I don’t focus on telling them to follow their dream or trust their heart. I’ve personally found it hard to know what my path is. I usually share the following idea.
When you have a motivation for a new goal you need to create a new habit in order to reach that goal. If you want the jump shot you start training every day on the jump shot. You need to create a habit and on average it takes 66 days to create a habit. In addition to that 66 days of creating a habit, you will have doubts, emotional insecurities, and distractions. My advice is to stick with anything for a minimum of six months and then come and see me. If you put your heart and soul into something for six months and you didn’t see results that inspire you to continue or you didn’t reach your short-term goal, something is wrong. That’s okay. Not everyone is going to be good at basketball. But if you float from one motivation to the next never being that damn caterpillar day-in and day-out you are never gonna fly like a butterfly. I’m asking you to give the next 6 months of your life to what you are telling me is your dream. Go prove it caterpillar.
The examples can keep flowing all day. Whether it be fitness, career or finances, we overlook the journey, which is always the most important part of the story. Humans want the end product without the work and within many aspects of our lives, we have to a degree, managing to achieve a high level of instant gratification. We can order food instantly, our ice machine in the refrigerator spits out ice cubes, our heating instantly warms the house. Our desires are being met without any work, we are slowly but surely eliminating the caterpillar.
When we look at communications, our needs are met at an ever more rapid-fire rate. Within a couple of taps on our phone, we can contact anyone in the world via an app. It’s possible to be stuck on a question and in .0127 seconds, according to Google, the answer is delivered on a screen before us. A photographer or an artist can publish a piece of work and very shortly thereafter receive feedback on their work and be notified about how many people like their latest creation.
Some might say, ‘Keep up with the times Jackson.’
I will reply, ‘Never underestimate the importance of an ugly-as-all-hell caterpillar’.
You see our greatest achievements are always when our relentless effort takes us to a place we knew we were capable of but had to put in the work to get there. We feel most proud, most fulfilled and most alive when our years of hard work amounts to something and it makes us who we are. How we got there MAKES US WHO WE ARE. The caterpillar makes us the butterfly. Without the caterpillar, you can’t fly.
Embrace the moments, the weeks and the years where you are the ugliest, furriest caterpillar in the garden. Make sure not a single leaf goes untouched, bite a hole in them all. Be the best damn caterpillar you can. Because if you can’t thrive as a caterpillar you will never spread your wings like a butterfly. Evolution doesn’t happen overnight. It is a process. Embrace it and be the best damn caterpillar in the garden.
This week I’m in Adelaide. Why? I’m having double hip surgery on a recurring running injury. I’ve been filling the cold days with a barrage of blog posts and catching up with friends and family. You can see lots of Philippines blogs being added especially from Bohol, Coron, and El Nido as I didn’t quite get time to add them all on the fly when I was traveling this year. It’s the 150th weekly and I’m trying to challenge myself by writing by concepts I think about often. I’m not a perfect writer but I’m in my caterpillar phase and I’m okay with that. Writing a weekly with a bit more of a purpose helps me think with more clarity and maybe it will help you or at least give a small insight into my mind.
I’d love you to leave a comment below and I’ll be replying to them all before the next ‘Weekly’. I hope you had a great week and enter full caterpillar mode from here on out.