Plenty has been written about “the butterfly effect.” Whole movies have been made about it from dramas about how minor changes we make can change the future, to science fiction movies where someone consciously tries to manipulate the present or future by changing something seemingly minor in the past. This entry is neither drama nor fiction, but simply… encouragement. All of us have the ability to change our future and, thanks to that butterfly effect, the smallest of changes today can have the largest of impacts tomorrow.
With that thought in mind, I recently listened to the song “Fight Song” by writer/singer Rachel Platten. In the lyrics, the idea of something small that can make big changes is repeated. She talks about a small boat sending big waves on the ocean; a single word that can make a heart open; one match that can make an explosion.
Think about those examples and consider the relationship between the small instigator – a boat compared to the ocean, a word or a match – and the final unpredictable large results – waves on the ocean, how someone feels and an explosion. We don’t really know how far waves created by the wake of a boat travel. Sure, we know how far we can see them, but consider something that simple and realize the expanded impact they have. I live near water and see boats in the river or bay all the time. The boats typically have an eight to ten foot beam (width) yet their wake can spread for hundreds of yards.
Words can be so powerful – and Ms. Platten’s song is the perfect example of it. How we put words together can have a positive or negative impact on someone’s day, but more importantly it can affect how they feel; what they think; how they perceive something; what their outlook is from moment to moment. How do we even begin to measure the size of that impact?
The comparison between and match and the potential resulting explosion isn’t one that really needs to be made. Such a small thing… and often so weak that the merest gust of wind can snuff it out. But if it accomplishes its purpose of igniting something – a fuse in this case – and that fuse burns to the explosive… how big is the resultant explosion? It depends on many things but big or small it started with the strike of a match… a relatively small thing.
It’s interesting that Ms. Platten opens her song with these examples of something small having big effect. It becomes obvious through the song that she is seeing herself as comparatively small but with all of the potential to have awesome affect. She makes it clear in the refrain that while others want to dismiss her or not believe in her, that’s their loss and her actions will surprise them – because she still has a lot of fight left in her.
She goes on to describe what her “fight” costs her: friends, sleep, concern from others, time away from home… but she makes it clear that it’s all worth it to achieve her dream. And at some point, when any one of us is chasing a dream – OUR dream – we have to decide what it’s worth to us. Is it worth sleep? Is it worth friends? Perhaps more importantly, if it costs us “friends,” were they really?
Each of us has a dream; probably a lot more than one. We have to decide what we’re willing to do to achieve that/those dream(s). More importantly than that, we have to believe in ourselves enough to start the pursuit. THAT is the fantastic message in the song from Rachel Platten: no matter how small you feel; no matter how small others tell you you are; no matter how insignificant you might be perceived… Big things quite often start with something small. And though it might be a small start, there’s simply no way of knowing just how big what you start will end up.
So… go for it. Start it. Steer the boat; speak the words; strike that match. Don’t worry about how small you think you are; keep your focus on how big your dream is and how it can grow.
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