When butterflies emerge, they must wage a battle to be born. They struggle to emerge from their chrysalis, the small sack that holds them. They push and pull inside until the sack finally breaks; when they are finally free, their wings are folded and damp; once they dry, they can fly away: their miraculous transformation from a caterpillar is complete.
Once, someone watching a butterfly during this painful birth felt sorry for the poor creature and carefully slit the sack imprisoning it; the butterfly emerged without a struggle. But sadly, its wings never dried and the little butterfly perished. It is in the struggle to free itself, the person telling me this story said, that the butterfly gains the strength it needs to complete its journey.
I like to remind myself of this little parable on tough days when working on a writing project is a struggle — or when ideas to share with you here don’t come easily and I have to fight to find them. And more often than not, the ideas that I struggle to come up with and the thoughts that I have to fight to capture with my pen prove to be the most meaningful. Why, I don’t really know.
Maybe it has something to do with what Randy Pausch, the wonderful Carnegie Mellon professor, said in The Last Lecture: “The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.” I do know that whenever I manage to break through and fly free, it’s a great feeling and worth every ounce of energy I’ve invested in the struggle.
As my friend and mentor Rob Gilbert* says, there’s nothing more satisfying than grappling with something very challenging that you really care about. Sometime today, you’re going to face something tough — something you have to struggle with. And when you do, just remember the butterfly and its wings. Write on!
* Be sure to check out Dr. Gilbert’s Success Hotline: 973.743.4690.
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