The Metamorphosis of You
Many of you loved last Tuesday’s post “The Ecdysis of Growth”. What about you? I would love to know your thoughts. If you haven’t read it, I encourage you to read it because it’s not only a fascinating topic but an extremely important one for all of us. Hence, I thought of sharing some additional insights while continuing to build on the previous post (though you can still read this one without reading the previous one). Last week. I gave the example of a snake shedding its skin. This week, I have taken the help of a caterpillar (still in the zoology zone 😊 ).
To become a butterfly, the caterpillar accepts its own death and kills itself. In the book “Awaken Your Genius”, Author Ozan Varol wrote, “The process begins when an impulse deep within the caterpillar signals that it’s time for a radical change. When that signal arrives, the caterpillar hangs itself upside down from a twig or a leaf and forms a chrysalis.
Inside the chrysalis, the caterpillar begins to literally eat itself, emitting enzymes to dissolve and digest all its tissues. Although the transition of the caterpillar into a butterfly is often glamorized in popular culture, there’s nothing graceful about it. If you were to open the chrysalis, you would find a rotting caterpillar. When the caterpillar digests itself, the only survivors are a group of cells called imaginal discs – whose name comes from the word imagination. Fed by the nutritious soup inside the chrysalis, these imaginal discs allow the caterpillar to develop eyes, wings, and everything else it will need to become a butterfly. Out of that disgusting mess, a marvellous butterfly emerges.”
Compare this to the snake shedding its skin. Even after the snake sheds its skin, it is still a snake. However, in the case of a caterpillar, it becomes something completely different. This process is called metamorphosis (obviously you know this) – the transformation of the caterpillar into a butterfly. We all need metamorphosis for our personal growth as well as the growth of our firm.
I went through my own metamorphosis the first time in 2004 when I quit my job in the US and returned to India to build a world class financial life planning firm. I went through this process again in 2015 when I decided to launch Happyness Factory (HF) even though I had shed my skin several times before from IT to Financial Services and then to Writing, and so on. It was not an easy call to start HF because I was super comfortable in what I was doing. We were an amazing team, and we had a phenomenal base of clients. More importantly, we were growing extremely well. Thus, there was no real need (or a problem to solve) to embrace change and take on the kind of risk we took to launch and build HF. But I knew that to make a bigger impact in the lives of millions of families, I needed to step out of my comfort zone and go through my own metamorphosis (yet again).
Ozan further added, “A safety net that’s there to catch you can also restrain you. It can make you believe that you are safe only above the net. Play only over here, not over there, the net says. Stop taking healthy risks and avoid new leaps. While the safety net feels practical, it isn’t security or stability that keeps you clinging to them. It is just the story you tell yourself.
Rather, the real reason is fear. Fear of letting go. Fear of missing life as a caterpillar. Fear of not knowing if I could ever make it as a butterfly. You will doubt yourself the most when you are closest to your next transformation. Just when the rotting begins, you will be tempted to go back to your life as a caterpillar.”
And remember: You don’t owe anyone the caterpillar you used to be. Your metamorphosis might trigger people who are used to seeing you as a caterpillar. Your transformation might remind them of their stagnation. So many will convince you that you are just doing fine. They will tell you that you do not need any transformation and to continue business as usual. They will even celebrate your success. Look at what you are about to leave behind and turn into waste, they will say.
However, you are not leaving anything behind or turning things to waste. You are simply remembering your past and the clues your former self has gifted your current self. These gifts will help you become the person you are meant to be. You may not know this yet, but you are indeed walking with imaginal discs within you. And these discs seem to be ready to become a butterfly. Provided you get out of your own way.
We all know that our industry/profession is going through an unprecedented transformation itself. Regulations are changing. Customer Expectations are changing. Value Propositions are changing. The nature of competition is changing. Business models are changing. And all of these changes make metamorphosis a priority for all of us. The cost of ignoring this journey is simply too high to pay. Ignoring means paying these high costs in terms of growth and the ultimate value of your business.
The question you need to ask yourself – Am I ready to pay these steep costs or Will I take the next step towards my own metamorphosis?
While you think about the answer, also remember to factor in this excellent William Pollard quote – Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable.
And just to be clear, the time for going through your own metamorphosis is not tomorrow or later. That time is NOW.