Written by Pranav Singhania
Have you heard the term “butterfly effect” before? Maybe not, because it is commonly used in the world of mathematics within the chaos theory. It simply means a small change or incident which causes a substantial impact well into the future. The origin story for this naming comes from an analogy, “where a butterfly flaps its wings in Tokyo and a tornado occurs in Tennessee. Weather is hard to forecast, because small changes like this can have a big impact on the weather“.
That was the textbook definition of the term, but if you look back at your own lives, have you observed this phenomenon? One casual action having a sizeable impact days, weeks or even years later? Maybe one of the parties you were about to ditch, but ended up going anyway, met the love of your life who you are now happily married to. Maybe one of the laid-back reading topics piqued your interest so much that you graduated in it. Maybe the small talk with a stranger led you to finding your own business, or even your next job.
Story time! During the summer break post my 3rd year of undergrad, I was bracing myself for a future of almost 3 months with nothing to do. I was chatting up one of the people I had worked with, for the college fest. He mentioned an exciting yet greatly demanding problem statement he and his other friends were working on. They were lacking a software developer, and I was a computer science undergrad. Serendipity (I love the word)?
The project was about turning a drone autonomous while solving a ridiculously crazy puzzle in a global competition. I think I was grasping just about 2 words for every 10 words he said, but the fear of sitting idle for the coming months overpowered how daunting and unfamiliar it all sounded. And then there I was, next day, in the laboratory trying to learn. For the next 2 years, that place became my home away from home.
Cut to 2 years later, I’m sitting in what was my 9th job interview of the campus placements. With my self-confidence at rock bottom, I wasn’t sure if I would ultimately land a job (at least that’s what it seemed like back then, feels like an over-reaction only in hindsight). Strangely, for the first time, the interviewer (regional VP) asked me about my “drone project” from my resume instead of me having to bring it up, because the job profile was in no way associated to it.
I explained rather passionately; I was grilled about the intricate details, but I managed to sail through them. Turns out, the gentleman had been a drone enthusiast since he was 10 years and owns about 5 of them. He was just trying to gauge if I really worked on the project as much as I said I did. And that kids, is how I landed my first job. (Lucky for you, it didn’t take few seasons to get there)
That conversation with my friend and then me showing up on the next day at the lab led me to a job almost 2 years later. Mind-boggling? Of course, maybe I would have got the job or a job anyway, without that project. But that still doesn’t take away the strong correlation which did exist in this case. This was my biggest story of the “butterfly effect” in action. Ever since, I have made it a point to put myself out there into the chaos. Sitting and not doing much but expecting life to gift you great things almost feels naive. You’ll have to say “yes” more often, even if it seems unnerving at the time. Give it a shot, give yourself a shot, don’t say “no” just because you don’t see a direct outcome yet. The real outcomes could be tangential, indirect and unimaginable at that point in time, it is only in hindsight can anybody trace back the dots. You’ll have to seek action to be part of the chaos, could be via books, people, events, experiences, travel, absolutely anything you can stretch with. So, go out there, say “yes” to the stray things and your future self will be grateful. How will you move if you don’t even roll the dice?