8 Lessons from the Monarch Butterfly: Leaving the Cocoon

28 03 2009

I was outdoors after a meeting a few days ago, and a butterfly crossed my path. A few seconds later, I noticed another…then another. It was so subtle, I would have missed it, but more butterflies continued to pass by, one by one, flying north into a headwind. Yet I wasn’t in the middle of a field — I was on the street of an industrial area lined with parking lots and office buildings!

Driving down busy El Camino Real, I noticed them at a rate of one every few seconds. I went from being mildly curious to becoming intrigued. Just what was happening?

monarch1I’ve never seen this before, but I finally realized that we are in the path of the Monarch* butterfly migration. Pacific Grove, a few hours south, is famous for their groves of trees covered with thousands of butterflies. This must have happened every year, but this year, I was privileged to see it in action. Over the past two days, I’ve seen hundreds of Monarchs…now that I was finally noticing them.

So what’s my point?

There is a message for all of us who are worried about the economy and for those who’ve lost jobs.

These butterflies are small and seemingly fragile. But I was surprised how fast they were flying against a brisk headwind (they can travel at 30 miles an hour). It’s also amazing that their migration covers hundreds of miles from the Canadian Rockies to Mexico.

So here are just a few thoughts on the “Lessons from the Monarch:”

1. Let’s not fear change — but embrace it instead!

Through the wonder of metamorphosis, they change from caterpillars and emerge from the cocoon as completely different creatures that are free to fly. A tough situation at work, home, a job loss, or dissatisfaction with your career, is an opportunity to change through your own metamorphosis into something even better than before.

2. Use the time “in the cocoon” to rest, grow, energize and get ready for the next adventure.

After a layoff, you may need to regroup, reflect and figure out what you really want. Use this time to recreate (that includes recreation too!), do research, take career tests, and open yourself to other career possibilities or life paths. But remember that you’ve got to get out of the cocoon before you can fly.

3. Realize that while you have to do the work yourself, you are not alone.

Each Monarch has to grow, develop and fly, but it has the company of thousands as they protect each other from predators and cold weather by clustering closely together on trees. Meet with friends, other job seekers, and old colleagues for coffee. Share your ideas and experience, and use your talents and networks to help each other. I get so much energy…and great advice…when I get out and meet with people.

monarch-tree4. Don’t be daunted by the number of job seekers out there.

There are millions of Monarchs in the migration. Instead, tell your job seeking friends what you’re looking for and they actually become more eyes and ears on the lookout for you as they do their own searches. Consider each person you know as an extension of your marketing efforts and you’ll all uncover opportunities for each other — far more than you’d discover by yourself!

5. The Monarch migration takes several generations.

Those that start don’t complete it, but their progeny do. We, too, can take a longer term, big picture view for not just ourselves, but for the next generation. As the Great Depression became the impetus for growth, rebuilding and prosperity in the decades following, we can do the same. In fact, it was during the Depression that the most new millionaires got their start. You may have an idea that can become the next “big thing,” or at least become a viable business. Why not get started now?

6. The force of life is strong.

This migration, and other miracles of nature, have gone on for thousands of years, despite weather, war, and bad economies. We will endure, and with nature bursting to life again around us, it’s a reminder that there is abundance, growth and new possibilities after the cold winter. With the cycle of the seasons, there is a cycle with economies. Things WILL get better and we should get into position to be ready for it when it comes…or become a part of creating the upturn!

7. Sometimes big things are easy to overlook.

If I hadn’t been standing outside for a while, I wouldn’t have noticed the first few butterflies, and certainly not realized that they were part of a huge migration. Now I notice them everywhere. Keep your eyes open! There may be other small things (ideas, trends, etc.) that can turn into big ones that may be easily overlooked. Something important may be right under your nose.

8. We are resilient.

These little guys are deceptively fragile — but they are actually quite resilient. We are resilient, too, and we get stronger through adversity. The monarchs stay on course despite the long journey. Let’s stay on course, know that we’re not alone, and help each other along this journey — we’ll be stronger and happier as a result.

I’m seeing fewer monarchs today as they move on to new territory, but the lessons that I got from these small creatures will stay with me.

Hey! Did you see that one just fly by?

* Note: Thank you to those who let me know that this migration is most likely the Painted Lady butterfly. They look like Monarchs, as do Viceroy and Queen butterflies, but their message is still the same!