Life is a journey. If we were to map our journey of learning and growth on a graph, with time on the x-axis and growth on the y-axis, we would not see a straight line. We’d see a series of jumps and plateaus, with each leap representing a period of transformation.

We transform personally. We transform professionally. We transform organizations. We transform communities. We transform the planet.

I invite you to contemplate the areas of transformation in your life. Let’s look to nature for assistance in understanding the different degrees of transformation.

Shedding Our Skin

For our first transformation, we look to the snake. As snakes grow, they eventually outgrow their skin. This triggers a process called ecdysis, which releases hormones that inform the body it’s time to shed. The eyes grow cloudy. The snake rubs its head against something to create a tear in the skin. Gradually, the tear becomes large enough for the snake to slither out of the old skin. The skin underneath is soft and vibrant and hardens over time.

Imagine an alien whose home planet is nothing like the Earth. If it travels here and witnesses a snake shedding its skin, it may not judge this to be a transformation. The snake that emerges is brighter and more vibrant, but it still looks roughly the same.

One example where we shed our skin is when we are promoted to a higher level of a similar role – from Senior Developer to Principal Developer. Our new, vibrant skin prepares us to grow into greater responsibility over time.

A snakeskin I found two days after drafting this post.

Fish Out of Water

Suppose our alien encounters a pond filled with tadpoles and decides to study the pond in detail. They are in for a more dramatic transformation if they wait long enough. What starts as a large head and tail gradually sprouts additional appendages. Over time, these appendages grow more prominent, and then one fine day, our tadpole-turned-frog does something dramatic and crawls out of the water onto a rock.

This is transformation, thinks our alien friend. When that frog steps out of the water for the first time, their way of being is unalterably shifted. Until that moment, the concept of water did not exist, for it was ever-present. Suddenly, the frog perceives air as separate from water. The water has moved from subject to object.

This was my experience when my company merged with its largest competitor. Overnight, I went from leading a team of 150 based in the same physical location to a team of 500 spread around the globe. My world was unalterably changed. I am profoundly grateful for that experience, especially for all the wonderful friendships I formed internationally.

A frog from my yard

Primordial Soup

As our alien tires of the frogs, it turns its attention to the nearby plants and discovers milkweed. On the milkweed, nibbling away at the leaves, they discover a yellow, black, and white-striped caterpillar. If our alien decides to study this caterpillar, they are in for one of nature’s greatest marvels of transformation.

Eventually, they will see this caterpillar spin its cocoon. We know this story well and know that if we wait long enough, we will see an entirely different creature emerge in the form of a monarch butterfly. Can you imagine what that experience is like for the alien who doesn’t know the backstory?

Here’s what I find most remarkable. Biology class was a long, long time ago for me, and I confess to forgetting the details of what goes on in that cocoon. Inside that cocoon, the caterpillar completely liquifies. It breaks down into a basic soup of cells. There are specialized cells in the soup named imaginal discs that contain the blueprints for the butterfly, and these cells guide the transformation as the butterfly forms.

To become a beautiful butterfly, we must be willing to liquefy and rise anew. Who knew becoming a butterfly was such a messy process?

A monarch caterpillar from my yard

Human Transformation

The transformation is visually apparent to the observer in each of these examples. We can see it with our own eyes, comparing before and after images and declaring yes, I see the transformation.

Human transformation is often less visible. Indeed, we can see the changes as a child grows into adulthood. We can gain weight, lose weight, shave our heads, and cover our bodies with tattoos. All of these examples produce visible transformation. And yet, most of our transformation is not so apparent.

One of the gifts of being human is our ability to transform our consciousness. We can learn and grow in ways that are not visible to the naked eye. And yet, those around us can still sense the transformation. It is a transformation of spirit, and we can feel it energetically even if our traditional senses can’t label it. Have you ever described someone as “glowing?” We don’t physically perceive a glow (well, most of us don’t), but we can feel it.

I am shedding some skin. I recently completed my service on the Newfield Network alumni committee. The experience was enriching and fulfilling, but I recognize I don’t have the space to continue. That skin must be shed to make room for new growth.

I also uninstalled the Heroic app, ending a two-year streak of daily commitment tracking. This remains an excellent tool supporting the pursuit of arete, and I highly recommend it. But for me, those commitments are deeply ingrained at this stage.

In my partnership with Doctums, my transformation is akin to the tadpole growing legs and stepping out of the water. Being a coach is one thing. Leading a coaching practice with a team of coaches at scale is materially different. I’m grateful for the opportunity from Doctums and eager to expand my service to higher education.

And I have begun to spin the cocoon in another area of my life. I will be going into the soup, liquefying, and emerging anew. I will bring some imaginal discs with me and have high hopes for what will emerge. Whatever the outcome, I know the butterfly will be beautiful.

If I’m honest, going into the soup is, at times, terrifying. I wonder how much of me will remain when I emerge. Can I retain the parts I treasure and let the warts melt away? I don’t expect it to work that way. But I have faith that my imaginal discs understand the blueprint of what I’m meant to be when I emerge.

Putting It Into Practice

Take a moment and reflect upon the potential areas of transformation in your life.

  • In what areas do you need to shed some skin?
  • Where must you step out of the water for the first time?
  • Is there an aspect of your life that is ready for liquefication, emerging anew as something entirely different?

If you are ready for profound transformation, I want to work with you. Especially if you’re ready for the messiness of the soup.

I am an executive coach and life coach with software executive roots in higher education and EdTech. I coach because I love to help others accelerate their growth as leaders and humans. I frequently write about #management, #leadership, #coaching, #neuroscience, and #arete.

If you would like to learn more, schedule time with me.

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