Dominos, Butterflies, and You-Make a Difference!



Have you been knocked over lately? 

“On 12 August 2010, Ordos City, located in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in China, became the venue of a new Guinness World Records™ achievement for the longest human domino line. The record was achieved by 10,267 participants who formed a human domino line…” according to Longest human domino line – China, Guinness World Records Blog post

This noble endeavor required 10,267 people to knock each other down one after another. This amazing, if not a little bit odd, feat was started by the action of one single person. Someone choose to be the first human domino or shall we say, the first to fall. 

Our Mongolian brothers and sisters provided us with a living example of the so-called “Domino Effect.” Intrigued, I searched Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, and found the following post, “The domino effect is a chain reaction that occurs when a small change causes a similar change nearby, which then will cause another similar change, and so on in linear sequence. The term is best known as a mechanical effect, and is used as an analogy to a falling row of dominoes. It typically refers to a linked sequence of events where the time between successive events is relatively small. It can be used literally (an observed series of actual collisions) or metaphorically (complex systems such as global finance, or in politics, where linkage is only a hypothesis).” 

Living Domino Effects

The catalysis for my sudden domino fixation were a series of seemingly unrelated personal experiences that appear to be causing various domino effects from me to other people. Some of them were somewhat intentional, while others were completely unintended. Like a virus, these contacts spread from me to someone else, who bumped them into someone else and it made me think about the consequences of me just being me. 

You’ve probably heard or have been e-forwarded the tale of the beach encounter between two men written by author and poet, Loren Eisley called “The Star Thrower.” A man observes another man engaging in the absurd effort of throwing starfish, which had washed up onto the beach, back into the ocean. When asked why he was doing such a futile task, given that there were no-doubt millions of stranded starfish on the beach and that his actions could not possibly make a difference, the man replied with a starfish toss, “it made a difference to that one.” 

The Butterfly Effect

In 1960, MIT meteorologist Edward Lorenz, dramatically changed scientific thought by proposing what he called “The Butterfly Effect” to explain the unpredictable nature of weather. Lorenz theorized that when a butterfly flutters its wings in Beijing in March, the Atlantic hurricane patterns in August can be completely altered. 

If one little flap of a butterfly’s wings can have big impact on our world as a whole, imagine what one of our small actions can have on our immediate surroundings? We may unintentionally alter the course of history by choosing to act one time. It’s a proven fact that we can make a difference! 

The butterfly has no way of knowing the ultimate impact of its action and neither can we foresee the ripples our actions create. What if even the micro vibrations of our thoughts start a domino effect? Think how many times Mr. Eiseley’s “Star Thrower” story has been passed from person to person. Consider the spiritual tsunami created by the teachings of a Jewish tradesman who ended up being publicly executed by the government of his time. There was no high-speed Internet to tweet the news, just campfire whispers, breathed over and over again across the ages, quite possibly changing the lives eternally of many who were knocked over by this biblical domino. How would our world be different if all of Jesus’ disciples decided to return to their old fishing and tax collecting jobs and decided to never tell their story again? 

Your Effect

The chain of our existence is a fragile one made up of small choices and little actions. 

My former pastor tended to end each Sunday’s message with, “The way you live your faith matters!” He’s right. How we think and live is how we flutter our invisible butterfly wings and we begin to bump into other kindred spirits and domino on and on for better or for worse. 

A young woman, whom I work with, bumped into me in a hallway and stopped me to say that my book “Life Matches: Fire Up Your Life!” had profoundly influenced her life in a positive way. I actually could see inner flame burning brightly during this humbling exchange as she detailed her unexpected transformational experience to a more fired up life. Our brief encounter was made all the richer for me when she told me that she had only read the introduction and the first chapter of my book, but couldn’t wait to finish the rest. As a human domino, I was knocked over. 

As I wrote the book, I certainly did not have my co-worker in-mind. I had just been given a story to tell and the time to tell it. No biggie. When I think of the strangers who I will most-likely never meet that may be changed even a little as a result of my laptop hours typing at my kitchen desk, I am awed by the enormity of the possibilities. I may not have written a best-seller. I will never make a penny’s profit from my efforts, since the proceeds are donated to a non-profit charity. Yet, it doesn’t matter at all to me. Because like our star throwing friend on the beach, I made a difference to at least one person and the feeling of satisfaction that I savored as a result, was worth the effort! Mission accomplished. Well done. 

We sometimes believe that our common efforts in common hours are inconsequential. I now have living proof that this is a lie that our fears tell us to keep us from trying to be, as Ghandi said,“the change we want to see in our world.”  

What if you are parenting the next world leader who figures out a way to end poverty, sickness and hunger? What if you are a teacher who sharpens a thousand intellects over the course of her career? What if you are the bedridden senior, who raises prayers to a loving God by the hour, as your last act of service? 

Our world is full of butterflies and dominoes. I hope you are blessed to receive the satisfaction of one of life’s best gifts–a chance to appreciate even for a moment the difference you have made in this world because you were here and you were you. 

You make a difference just by being the you that only you can be. Choose to be the best you that only you can be and that will be enough to make all the difference in the world! 

I would love to hear about your butterfly/domino moments, where you are certain you made a difference. If you want to share, leave a comment. 

Flap your wings and make some waves! It’s been nice bumping into you. 

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About Andrew W Dix, MS, BCC
Author, Board Certified Executive Business Coach, Trainer, Reiss Motivation Profile Master and Private Pilot. Expertise in motivational intelligence, leadership development, strengths, management, coaching, and change management. Available for keynote addresses.

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