Slowing Down to Butterfly Time . . .

The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.  ~Rabindranath Tagore

I had an amazing half hour this morning.  As you may recall, we are in the south of France for a week long music festival.  The classical concerts are held in small village churches and instead of taking the car back from rehearsal to our house this morning, I walked instead.  Not far, about a half mile or so, and not too hot, yet.

Normally, when riding in a car everything along the road is a blur and my mind is more focused on driving than the countryside.  Occasionally I glimpse a flash of colour and catch the movement of  a bird or butterfly out of the corner of my eye, but mostly I don’t really “see” or experience anything.  I am focused on the destination, definitely not the journey.

But this morning was different.  As I walked down the country road towards our house there was life everywhere.  Birds were moving about hunting for food in the bushes, a toad hopped across my path, beetles and insects were crawling in the verge, and then I came upon a row of Buddleja asiatica, known as the Butterfly Bush.  It was alive with moving patches of airborne colour.  I stopped and easily counted 6 different butterfly species, as well as two types of bumblebees and a moth that imitates a bumblebee.  All my old entomology training in college came back to me and I stood for several minutes absorbing a dramatically different speed of life.  Normally I move at warp speed as I go through my day traveling through airports, driving to client offices, facilitating workshops and planning sessions. Even my evenings are speeded up.

But this was life at “butterfly speed”.  No deadlines, no worries, no missed appointments, no anxiety.  Just going about the business that nature has programmed them to the internal time clock set by their DNA.  I know enough about the butterfly lifecycle to know that their day has a built in cadence of activity during the cool periods, and rest in the shade during the heat of the day.  I marvelled at how they follow their natural rhythms.  My daily rhythm is anything but natural.

A while back two acquaintances of mine, Richard Carlson and Joe Bailey, wrote a wonderful book that quickly became a best seller.  Slowing Down to the Speed of Life shows us how to simplify our life and at the same time be incredibly productive. A very good read which I highly recommend.

I wonder if they got the idea from watching butterflies!

John R Childress

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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7 Responses to Slowing Down to Butterfly Time . . .

  1. mimijk says:

    May you always have time to see such beauty…and share it with us!


  2. beautiful quote to begin with John. you might like reading the Profile magazine by Aalto University…their latest edition has several nice articles on Speed! find it here


  3. Reading your quote John reminds me of the Eagles song title, Peaceful, Easy, Feeling. Great post.


    • David: At this point since we are immersed in classical music, my thought was more like Meditation du Thais, but since the Eagles are one of my favourite groups, you’ve got it right again. Enjoy the journey.


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