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!




14 responses

8 04 2009
Susan Monroe

‘When I’m “doing the work myself” — sometimes kicking and screaming — I’ll take the time to remember that I’m not alone and that people have always proven more generous and open than I ever could have believed.


1 04 2009
Josiane Feigon

Great uplifting and inspiring blog post- You have made an excellent contribution to your community with your KITlist ,



1 04 2009
Peggy Ruse

Sue and all,

So enjoyed this all and here on the coast I’ve also seen some of the Painted Ladies. Spring is here and it is a balm to all the knicks, scrapes, wounds and challenges! Here is a proverb that may be helpful – it’s right in front of me in my home-office: “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly” 🙂 Thanks and Best, Peggy


31 03 2009
Jill Conrad

This was a gift! My family has been enraptured by the sheer volume of butterflies everywhere (we are in Concord, incidentally, so not sure how others here are missing them!). It has been a delight. Your post is a great reminder to the value of perseverance and the importance of taking in the moment.


30 03 2009
Susan Walls

Thanks for your inspirational article. Your thoughts are encouraging and they reinforce my thoughts and practices. I feel left out though – I have not seen ANY butterfiles in Concord. The hummingbirds are out in force though enjoying this great weather we are having.


30 03 2009

I really enjoyed this post. I too saw a lot of butterflies over the weekend and I figured it had something to do with the season but didn’t exactly know the reason. Thank you for educating me!


30 03 2009

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your article. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful and inspiring words.

Thank you for all you do with the KIT list.

p.s. Butterflies make a chrysalis, not a cocoon. But again, who cares, we get the idea! 😉


29 03 2009
K Kobylenski

thanks Sue for these words from the heart, which I think is what en-COUR-agement is all about, Ken


29 03 2009

Beautiful Sue! I have been seeing so many butterflies… both in the air and in my group of friends. All points were poignant and enouraging!


29 03 2009
Peggy Jacobs

Not that it matters, but those are not Monarchs. They are Painted Ladies. The metaphors still hold, though.


29 03 2009
Gail Haspert

I too saw huge swarms of butterflies yesterday. It must have been leave-the-cocoon day. They all seemed to be heading for the baylands, probably in search of food. It’s inspirational to think they come out and know by instinct where to go.


29 03 2009
CM Lim

Great post, Sue!

I want to take this opportunity to commend you for the unwavering dedication to keeping this List alive, over all these years. God bless you. Also, keep your chin up. I, too, have a parent that has medical problems. It is important to look at all things in perspective, and make good use of each and every moment…

Am reminded constantly of the following saying:
“Yesterday is but a dream, tomorrow only a vision, but today well lived, makes every yesterday a dream of happiness, and tomorrow, a vision of Hope!!”

Take care.


28 03 2009
Terrence Seamon

Nice entry, Sue. I especially like # 2. It reminds me of one of my blog entries:


28 03 2009
your neighbor Christine :)

Thanks Sue! That was inspired!


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