What Can Butterflies Teach Us About Professional Development?

What Can Butterflies Teach Us About Professional Development?

December, 2016On a recent visit to the American Museum of Natural History's Butterfly Conservatory, my wife Kirsty and I watched in anticipation as a butterfly hatched from its chrysalis.

What can these beautiful and delicate creatures teach us about professional development? Let's explore.

Monarch Butterfly Eggs

1. Foster abounding ideas

The monarch butterfly can deposit 400 or more eggs in a single day, laying one at a time. Less than 10% of these tiny eggs (roughly the size of a pinhead) become adult butterflies.

Full of ideas? Keep them in a journal. Ideas are merely thoughts until they are written down. Thinking on paper stimulates creativity and increases your ability to solve problems. Not all of your ideas will manifest, but write them anyway—you never know which of them will develop into a beautiful butterfly in your life!

Monarch Caterpillar

2. Take in as much as you can

Butterfly eggs mature into caterpillars (larvae). For about two weeks, caterpillars continually eat—and grow by shedding their skin.

Read books, blogs, and articles. Make it a routine. Scheduled reading time (even ten minutes before bed) pays dividends. As an added bonus to learning, reading can reduce stress up to 68 percent, according to a 2009 study from the University of Sussex.

Take courses and watch videos. Most online courses are relatively inexpensive and can be taken at your convenience. Thought leaders in almost every industry host a wealth of information on YouTube. If you're looking to grow philosophically, TEDTalks are invaluable.

Sit down with an industry leader or mentor in person, by phone, or video conference. Respect their time, keep it short, and know what you want to ask. Don't worry about being a nuisance—effective leaders often find joy in helping others succeed.

Monarch Butterfly Chrysalis (Pupa)

3. Become flexible and adapt to change

Once inside the chrysalis (pupa), the caterpillar releases enzymes that dissolve its tissues, transforming into an adult butterfly (metamorphosis).

Change is natural. It's also inevitable. Why are we often reluctant to accept change? A positive mindset, in my opinion, is the key to not only accepting change, but inviting it into our lives. Unlike the situations that occur around us, a positive mindset is a choice. It's something we can control (with practice).

Looking back on my own career, I recall several occasions where I was able to turn seemingly negative situations into positive gains. For instance, when I lived in Nebraska, I was once let go (along with six others) due to an agency downsizing. I remember feeling relieved and excited! I soon found work in Manhattan and moved to New York.

When I realized that job wasn't for me either, I was discouraged, but eventually founded Avidano Digital—something I couldn't have imagined those early years in Nebraska.

Monarch Butterflies

4. Prepare others for success

The adult butterfly's primary purpose is to reproduce—and lay the eggs that will become the next generation.

Sharing your expertise with others builds your reputation and makes you more valuable in your field. If someone reaches out for help, make yourself available.

Unlike our butterfly friends, we never reach our full potential. Still, as long as we put in the work, we can continue to grow and transform.