O’s Success Tips: The Butterfly Effect

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This January I went on a journey, a journey that led me through institutions of learning in a land cursed with its blessings, one that quite never attained its full potential. I had the dreamy goal of resurrecting leaders that would one day transform that land to lofty heights. Armed with words embellished with pure passion I started my journey, but was stopped almost abruptly!

She could barely speak a phrase of error free English and bashfully struggled to maintain eye contact. She must have been 14 or so, regardless she was young but dreamy. She had that look in her eye. That look that made you know she was different. Driven and ambitious. But her shyness cemented the harsh reality that she was stuck in a land infested with frustration and bleeding with corruption. “I want to be a Mechanical Engineer” she said, my ears immediately perked up. “Why?” I responded. “Am ashamed of the infrastructural state of my land and I want to change it.” My logical mind nearly screamed, “you have to be a politician to change that.” But somewhere in my thoughts came words, words spoken by John Maxwell “Leadership is Influence.” I realized that she did not have to be a politician to effect the change she desired, she simply needed to have the desire to influence the change. And my role that day was to influence her to maintain her desire. A famous Chinese proverb says “You Never Truly Die, until all the people you have influenced have died.”

I never quite realized the relevance of this statement to Maxwell’s words, until I read a 1963 paper written by Edward Lorenz for the New York Academy of Sciences. Using a numerical computer model, Edward re-ran a weather prediction program. As a shortcut on a number sequence, he entered the decimal 0.506 instead of the full 0.506127. The result was a completely different weather scenario. This finding created the basis for the term butterfly effect, which refers to the idea that a butterfly’s wings could influence tiny changes in the atmosphere that ultimately could cause a tornado to form. And then it started making sense, when Maxwell defined leadership as an influence versus as a title, he did it because he understood that the end product of leaders is to influence an autonomous action in its followers. He stressed on this point because a lot of us go through life seeking a title to lead, but failing to realize that for every second of the day we are leading. And similar to butterfly wings our little day to day actions, subconscious or not, could influence people around us to lead revolutionary tornado’s of change in our world. The danger though is that influence, if not used correctly could create tornado’s of change that leave a land devastated instead of resurrected.

In 2000 I arrived in the states as an Immigrant to study Mechanical Engineer at the University of Houston. In my first few days on-campus I noticed a distinct trend. Most of the Indian students tended to stick together, on the other hand the Nigerian student community was sparsely separated into incoherent sects and groups. The fundamental basis of this trend amongst the Indian students was the presence of an active on-campus Indian Students Association. Observing the effect of this organization amongst it members I was influenced to conceive the ambitious idea of creating a similar organization for Nigerian students. An Association that would serve to unite Nigerian students across the University of Houston campus. In August of 2001 we officially created the Nigerian Students Association which rose up to become one of the largest student organizations on the University of Houston campus. With numerous community service activities and international recognition, the association has created a lasting and positive influence on its members and the community at large. The reason? A perfunctory almost subconscious influence by a group of tight knit Indian Students.

As I sign off today I ask readers to influence a positive change today no matter how small, we never know what effect it would have years from now. As I think back on my journey to resurrect leaders, I can’t help but think that some day people would gather around and say, there she is, Maxwell’s butterfly, she created a tornado that transformed our land. A land that was once cursed with blessings, but is today truly blessed.

Okechukwu Ofili
Africa’s #1 Success Coach
Copyright © 2008 Ofili Speaks, Inc. All rights reserved

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Words by Okechukwu Ofili of ofilispeaks.com
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