Sunday, January 08, 2006

it's the little things that matter -- the butterfly effect

this is taken from a motivational newsletter that i subscribe to, but i thought you might get a kick out of the math part of it --

The Butterfly Effect by Ron White (the motivational speaker -- not the comedian!)

It was 1960 and meteorologist Edward Lorenz was working in his lab. He was entering data into his computer in the hopes of modeling weather patterns when he stumbled upon a theory that is known as, 'The Butterfly Effect'. He was entering wind speed, air pressure and temperature into three separate equations that were linked in a mathematical feedback loop. This equation allowed Lorenz to predict weather patterns.

One day Lorenz was in a bit of a hurry and opted to take a shortcut when entering the data. He rounded the numbers to the nearest one thousandth rather than to the nearest one millionth (for example, .407 instead of .407349). As a scientist, he knew this would change the result – however he expected only a minor change. Lorenz was astounded to discover that this tiny change made a profound impact on the final resulting weather pattern. This discovery led Lorenz to ponder: Does the flap of a butterfly's wing in Brazil cause a tornado in Texas? – Thus you have 'The Butterfly Effect' theory.

This theory has been applied to all areas of science since Lorenz's 1960 experiment.

"But, Ron, what does this mean for my life?", I can hear you asking.

It means that every decision or action that you make - no matter how small – could potentially dramatically alter the course of your life. My life, as I am sure yours is, is a testimony to the butterfly effect. When I was 12 years old, I met a friend named Brian in P.E. class. Over two decades later, Brian is still my best friend. At the age of 12, Brian had a thirst for learning and studying (the other 12 year olds called him a nerd) and he was a fitness fanatic. He still has these qualities and because of our friendship they rubbed off on me. At the age of 18, I needed a job and he secured me a job where he worked as a telemarketer. My third day on the job, I made a telemarketing call to someone in the seminar business. He thought I was a good telemarketer and offered me a job over the phone.

Did you follow that?

You are receiving this email from me, reading my books, or hearing me speak because I was offered a job at the age of 18 from a seminar company. I would have never been offered that job – if Brian hadn't gotten me the telemarketing job and Brian would never have known me if we hadn't met at the age of 12 in P.E.! I have an insatiable desire for learning that began at age 12 and have developed into a fitness fanatic as well. Most of the major events in my life can be traced back to a conversation in a gym two decades ago – that is 'The Butterfly Effect'.


1. Realize that 'The Butterfly Effect' is very real and small decisions or actions can make a huge impact on your life.

2. Take responsibility for your decisions, actions and friends – even the tiny decisions – realizing that they can dramatically alter the course of your life.

3. Understand the importance of attention to detail. Years before 1986, the smallest flaw was overlooked in a Space Shuttle O-Ring. That flaw led to a horrific 'Butterfly Effect' and the deaths of seven Astronauts years later in January 1986.

4. Do not allow 'The Butterfly Effect' to paralyze you from inaction. Instead, use it as the spark of motivation to fan the fire of action – realizing that you control your destiny even in the tiniest of ways.

Use the 'Butterfly Effect' as a tool to make a positive, lasting impact on your life and it's direction.

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