Create your future with the flexibility of the butterfly and the faith of the bumblebee

you are the butterfly and the bumblebee, always overcoming impossibility and always showing resilience in the face of ever changing circumstances

The origin of this article came about as I watched an interview with the world-renowned boxer Muhammad Ali. “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” was one of his defining phrases coined by corner man Drew “Bundini” Brown, and it aptly described Ali’s remarkable combination of speed and power during his prime.

So before we explore this phrase, let’s look a little closer at two of the most marvellous creatures found on our planet: the butterfly and the bee.

Forge your future with the flexibility of the butterfly and the faith of the bumblebee

The life cycle of the BUTTERFLY is arguably one of the most bizarre and impressive examples of nature at work on the planet – one could be forgiven for believing that caterpillars and butterflies were entirely separate species. They have very dissimilar features and not only feed on different parts of plants but usually, within the same species, on different actual plants.

The cycle starts with the egg. The tiny eggs reveal a variety of shapes under a microscope – they are laid by the female on the relevant food plant, found by a combination of shape or colour recognition and chemical examination and then are abandoned by the parent. Around 5 days later, a tiny wormlike creature will hatch.(1)

The newly emerged caterpillar has biting jaws, six real legs plus a number of extra prolegs’ but no compound eye. It gets to work quickly devouring its food source and shedding its skin (a process called ecdysis) in order to grow. After usually four moultings, the skin removed reveals the chrysalis or pupa. Some caterpillars spin a cocoon first but most just fasten themselves to a plant with a silken thread.(2)

Although the pupa outwardly looks inert and resting, inside it is a bubbling cauldron of activity as the caterpillar is literally liquefied, then reassembled, over about two to three weeks, into a very different creature. It’s still not fully understood how this process occurs. Some species hibernate in this state, although the transforming chemistry is suspended for most of the winter period in this case.

The usual first evidence of the butterfly being ready to emerge is the translucency of the pupa skin showing the colouring of the wings beneath. When the pupal skin splits, the limp, damp butterfly crawls out – now with compound eyes, a proboscis for feeding and very clearly six legs – the initially stubby wings are expanded by pumping blood into them and using gravity to help them enlarge. A little warming in the sun and it is ready to fly off to feed and mate.

Then there is the bee, and I want to take a closer look at the BUMBLEBEE.

Here are some facts about the humble bumblebee.

  • Because they live in small nests, bumblebees never swarm.
  • Bumblebees do not produce enough honey for commercial use, just a few grams at a time to feed their young.(3)
  • Not all bumblebees have a sting. Drones (smaller male bees that hatch in mid summer) have no sting at all.(4)
  • Bumblebees are much less aggressive than honeybees. Generally they will not attack a human at all, unless their life is under threat.
  • Bumblebees do not lose their sting and die if they use it, as a honeybee will.(5)

And the most fascinating thing about the bumblebee is the miracle of its flight.

The bumblebee has 0.7 square centimetres of wings and 1.2 grams of weight.

Following the laws of aerodynamics its wings are too weak and its body too heavy – the bumblebee, not knowing this, flies anyway.

Both the butterfly and the bee have the incredible ability to do the impossible: just like you!


Go on say it out loud: ‘I am a butterfly because I have the awesome ability to change and to adapt to change. I am in a constant state of transformation and flexibility.’

And then add: ‘I am a bumblebee because I have the ability to do what others declare I cannot do. Impossible is not part of my vocabulary. I face what is impossible and see it as only one thing: possible.’

I have recently made it a point to study numerous boxers who have graced the world’s stage this past century.

It is not only their sporting prowess that I have studied. It is their depth of character, and very few have stood head and shoulders above the many.

One who does stand out to me is the Russian-born fighter Kostya Tszyu, who now makes his home in Australia. He is the undisputed super lightweight champion of the world and holds the WBC, WBA and IBF belts. One of the key and standout characteristics that I have noticed about him as a fighter and as a person is his coolness and his underlying calmness.

While other fighters, whom he has faced, have had a lot to say before each fight, he has made it his policy to be the one with the final word. This one attribute alone, to me, demonstrates character.

And as Muhammad Ali’s trainer stated, ‘A great fighter with character will beat a great fighter any time’.

Character is the defining quality.


When your back is up against the wall. When there doesn’t seem to be any way out and no possible means of escape. When the pressure is on and when the chips are down, remember the butterfly and the bumblebee.

Forge your future with the flexibility of the butterfly and the faith of the bumblebee

While ever there is breath in your body and while ever there is hope in your heart, hold on. You will find a way through, if not under, then over or even around whatever you are
facing at the time. There will always be a way and you will always find it if you simply decide that you will.

Problems have been given to us in our lifetime so that we can find solutions. Problems are the stuff that makes us strong and resilient. Without challenges, we would grow weak and insipid. It is only as pressure is put on a muscle that it develops strength. Problems are the gymnasium in which we can get our best workout as human beings. Those who avoid such exercise will always be weak in character. Those who accept the fact that life will always present us with challenges to overcome will grow strong in both character and integrity.

Remember that you are the butterfly and the bumblebee, always overcoming impossibility and always showing resilience in the face of ever changing circumstances.


Avoiding the punch, Tiger slipped in a pool of sweat that lay on the floor. His opponent, seeing opportunity to get him while he was vulnerable, leant over to bring down a powerful right cross. If it had connected it would have sent Tiger packing. However, as he leant over for a split second, he let his guard down and even while Tiger was starting to fall, he saw the opening. With the last vestige of strength left in his body, Tiger brought his right fist around and struck straight up into the air with such speed that when it hit the opponent’s jaw it dislodged his mouth- guard and knocked his head back as if a whip had just been cracked. While Tiger fell awkwardly to the ground his opponent staggered back, back, back until he hit the ropes and slid to the floor, like a slithering snake, unconscious.

For a second the crowd gasped because both fighters had fallen and they thought they had just witnessed a double knockout, but as they continued to look on, Tiger pulled himself to his feet. The crowd went wild. He had won.

There are many who will sit on the sidelines, but few who will dare to step onto the canvas and into the midst of the battle. It is in the ring where one is bloodied and bruised, but it is in the ring where the victor is applauded. I have never seen those in the crowd ever being applauded, have you? No, it is the participator. The contender for the crown is placed in a position where he or she can either win or lose, succeed or fail. Those who stay outside the ring will never get the chance to experience either. They live their lives in mediocrity with no applause, and with no shame, just plain ordinary. They will never win. They will never fail and therefore they will never be.

May the following statement be yours at the end of your days, for these are the words of the champion. ‘I fought. I am. I won.’

You are the butterfly and you are the bumblebee; champions of change and purveyors of possibility.

Motivational Memo: Forge your future with the flexibility of the butterfly and the faith of the bumblebee.