Butterflies and other Terrors

Butterflies and other Terrors

Attracted to her cuteness? The butterfly latched on and wouldn't let go!

The little girl with the horrified expression is Alexis Cady, one of my nieces. The picture (right) tells the whole story—she was reacting to the startling “attack” of the monarch butterfly that landed on her pants.

For a little girl growing up in Florida where stinging insects come in many forms, it’s understandable why she had this reaction. For those of us more familiar with the behavior of butterflies, the urge to laugh at her reaction is nearly irresistible.

We’ve all experienced terrifying fears that we can look back now and laugh about. Very seldom do our worst fears come to pass. If we divorce ourselves from the drama of everyday life, it’s easy to see the pointlessness of fretting over things that might happen or that we don’t fully understand. It doesn’t make sense to live life that way. Yet we all know people who seem to take a strange comfort in having things to dread in their lives. As soon as one peril gets resolved, they are on to worrying about the next one.

Alexis Cady

How do you deal with the undefined threats in your life? Are you an optimist or a pessimist? If a butterfly alights on your pants, how do you typically react?

Here is an interesting idea: the folks who respond to unfamiliar situations with curiosity and confidence are going to be more successful in life than those who greet every change in their world with the suspicion that it is going to hurt them.

This is the premise of David Topus’ recent book, Talk to Strangers: How Everyday Random Encounters Can Expand Your Business, Career, Income and Life (published by John Wiley and Sons). The book catalogs the many advantages to be gained by fearlessly making friends with strangers we encounter in public situations such as elevators, coffee shops, and planes.

To quote one reviewer: “Anyone who reads this book will recall times in their lives when they have stepped outside their comfort zone and experienced those rare moments of serendipity.” You never know what interesting things can happen until you break the ice. Maybe you will gain a new client. Maybe you will learn about an opportunity that you would not have otherwise been privy to. Sometimes you will get stung by an unpleasant or boring person, and you might conceivably risk being victimized by a con man, but the rewards far outweigh the risks.

David Topus' book

Topus has built a profitable business out of networking in this fashion, even going to the extreme of taking a flight to a destination only to turn around and fly right back just for the opportunity to meet random business executives in a setting where people have time to talk. That sounds a little creepy, but Topus has learned how to schmooze people in a non-threatening way, and he claims this technique is more cost-effective in bringing new high-quality clients to his marketing company than other more traditional methods.

So next time you find yourself in an unfamiliar situation, make the most of it. Think of it as a “butterfly moment” that might turn out to be the best thing that happened to you in a long time.

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