In Sean Achor’s new book, Big Potential, he talks about how success and happiness are not individual sports but team efforts. He mentions an American biologist, Professor Hugh Smith, who was travelling through a Southeast Asian jungle in 1935. Suddenly, surrounded by night sky, the professor saw a mangrove tree along the river completely light up and then go dark. And it happened again a few seconds later. Next all the trees along the river embankment lit up and went dark together. After his initial shock wore off, he realized that the trees were covered in lightning bugs who were flashing their light in unison.
The professor wrote an article about this phenomenon but no one believed him. They told him he made it up. They questioned why male lightning bugs would glow in unison when that would decrease the chances of female lightning bugs approaching any given male. It took years but Professor Smith was finally proven right.
Shawn Achor writes, “As published in the prestigious journal Science, researchers Moiseff and Copeland found that when lightning bugs light up at random times, the likelihood of a female responding to a male in the deep, dark recesses of a mangrove forest is 3 percent. But when the lightning bugs light up together, the likelihood of females responding is 82 percent. That’s not a typo. The success rate increased by 79 percentage points when flashing as an interconnected community rather than as individuals.”
So although some may believe that the top mark, best job, or coveted school acceptance is the holy grail, it is actually working together, making connections and inspiring others that lifts the world up and brings happiness and success to all.
When Michael Jordan practiced free throws for two hours after a loss, his team mates probably thought, “maybe we should be practicing too.” Which led to many team championship rings. When someone makes others on the team feel validated and reminds everyone that they can make a difference, the team rises to new heights.
As Japanese writer Ryunosuke Satoro said, “Individually we are one drop. Together we are an ocean.”
So just as the lightning bugs worked as a unit to get to their goal, we can all do the same. Shine our lights together with others. Inspire those around us with our glow. And light up life’s sky.
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