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The Struggle of the Moth

Isaac Cheifetz poses the following question: Can the principles of evolutionary biology be used to guide our careers?

In his article, he compares the “stop and go” path that some middle managers find in their journey to executive management to the evolutionary development theory of Punctuated Equalibrium popularized by Stephen jay Gould. In Gould’s theory, evolution tends to be characterized by long periods of inactivity that are “punctuated” by environmental forces leading to rapid, revolutionary development. Further in the article, Cheifetz clarifies what differentiates punctuated career development from a stagnant career path.

It reminds me of an episode of Lostwhere Locke talks to Charlie about the moth’s transformation and struggle to change. While he could help the moth escape from its cocoon with a slight cut of the knife, he would be doing it a disservice by robbing it of one of nature’s essential lessons. Struggle is what nature imposes in order to make things stronger. Without getting too Darwinian, there seems to be something there about our careers. Sometimes, there are lessons to be gained from struggle and if we give in and move on too quickly, we’ll rob ourselves of those necessary learnings.

When our careers seem like they’re stuck in low gear, maybe we need to be there for a reason. And maybe there is a rapid, revolutionary development on the near horizon if we’re open enough to look for it.

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