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The Butterfly Effect

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When you hear the term “Butterfly Effect” either a 2004 film starring Ashton Kutcher or pretty insects with wings is what likely comes to mind. However, the term “Butterfly Effect” is a popular hypothetical theory, which illustrates how small initial circumstances, may lead to large unforeseen consequences over time.

Now, there’s an author, his name is Andy Andrews, he’s written a book on the topic. It’s fantastic and I absolutely suggest you read it. Although, a man named Edward Lorenz originally came up with the Butterfly Effect and in 1963, he presented it to the New York academy of science and was laughed at beyond belief. The Butterfly Effect said that a butterfly sitting in front of me right now could flap it’ swings and set molecules into motion. Now those molecules would eventually move other molecules of air that would move OTHER molecules of air that COULD potentially create a hurricane on the other side of the planet. It was ridiculous… but it was interesting. And because it was interesting it stuck around and made it’s way into urban legends, movies, and books until finally physics professors in the mid-90’s proved that the Butterfly Effect was accurate and viable and it worked every time. Now they’re not just talking about butterflies here either. It worked with any form of moving matter. Including people. This became a law. Just like the law of gravity. The Butterfly Effect is now known as the law of sensitive dependence upon initial conditions… and it works every time.

Now this is where it gets extremely cool. Imagine you’re going to bed one night. As usual you fall asleep and when your alarm clock goes off you hit snooze a few more times than necessary- as we all do now and then. You then take a shower and I’d like to think that you would brush your teeth. However, today you know you will be seeing that super cute girl so you brush your teeth twice. Next, you go down for breakfast you reach for your usual captain crunch but pull back. Instead you make a different decision. This time you go for the peanut butter captain crunch. That stuff is fantastic. Soon you leave and as you reach for your door handle theres a sharp sting on your hand. You look down and have just been bit by a wasp. Lets assume you’re very strong and tough so you shake it off after a few seconds and head off to work.

As a red light turns green you take off but think you see a good lookin girl right beside you and look to your left only to miss the car still crossing the intersection. In this car accident you have just ended the life of a father. This man would have later down the road been the father of the president of the United States of America. Your decision to look at that good-looking girl just altered the entire future leadership of the most powerful country on the planet. Or was it the wasps fault, the wasp that stung you and caused you to leave several seconds later. Or was it your pause in your decision to pick a new type of cereal. Or was it even that extra brush of your teeth or the prolonged alarm clock. This may seem ridiculous.. and it is. But you see, every decision you make, big or small, ultimately has a profound effect on the outcome of your life and the course of the world around you.

Consider the case of a man named Joshua Chamberlain. While the name may sound familiar to a few of you it is no household name.. but it should be. You see, Joshua Chamberlain was a teacher. An average guy! Just like all the teachers you and I know so well. However, at one point he was also a coronel of the union army. Now, Chamberlain was not a coronel because he had proven himself through years of service or anything. Again, the guys a teacher. Chamberlain was a coronel because he was literally the first man in his home town to volunteer! So on July 3rd of 1863 he was placed three quarters of the way up a hill on the far side of Gettysburg and told whatever you do you can’t leave here. You can’t leave here because if the enemy breaches you, they are going to come down and catch us on a down hill charge. That day the 15th and 47th Alabama came trotting down and they took their first charge.

Chamberlain and his men held them. They charged again, and they held their ground. They charged again and again, and by the 4th time Chamberlains men used all of their ammunition and every bit of power they had in them but they held their ground. Now they had started with over a thousand men but were now down to just 80. His men begged him to turned back. He stood no chance. But Chamberlain yelled “Charge!” It was suicide. They had no ammo left, but Chamberlain yelled “Charge!” Then 80 men flew over the wall and made history. One guy made one move 180 years ago. 80 men captured over 400 of the enemy because of this one move and historians say that single event was the turning point of the entire civil war and he is the reason that America is what it is today.

Every action you take has a substantial result, rather you know it or not. No one is insignificant, and the choices you make matter. You may make one small decision to do one small thing and the butterfly will just flap its little wings and before you even know it you have just impacted the world around you.

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