Eat The Caterpillar | #MyFridayStory №319

Frans Nel
3 min readJan 12, 2024
W O L F Λ R T | Pexels

It is easy to find mistakes if you look closely enough.

Take anything made by a human, and you will always be able to find fault as you raise the standards. To err is human. What makes us uniquely human is that we make mistakes — not just a few, but plenty of them, each day. Research suggests that on average, we make between 3 to 6 errors per hour, equating to around 50 mistakes per work shift. If you want to find errors, they are there.

I once heard my dad tell a story about the late statesman, Jan Smuts. I’ve tried to corroborate the tale, but unfortunately, it remains an urban legend. It goes something like this:

After World War II in 1947, Prime Minister Jan Smuts was invited to Buckingham Palace for an audience with Queen Elizabeth II. The field marshal duly met the Queen and the pair sat down for lunch. They were served a side salad with fresh garden vegetables. As they chatted over the meal, Smuts noticed a caterpillar on a lettuce leaf. Without missing a beat, he rolled up the leaf with the caterpillar and ate it.

No butlers, chefs or royalty were any the wiser.

They didn’t need to be told.

Shit happens.

You need compassion and empathy to understand another person’s feelings and recognize them as valid. You must be able to walk in their shoes to grasp how it feels to be them. Only with great care and love can we make it safe for people around us to simply be. Would you prefer someone around you — at work or personally — who is on high alert, trying to be who you expect them to be? Or someone who is their authentic self, giving you their full attention and commitment?

In his book Catch People Doing Something Right, Ken Blanchard outlines a key philosophy that goes against human nature. We can easily fall into the trap of finding others’ faults. Jumping up to point out a mistake and shame or embarrass them is like shouting, “Ah ha! A caterpillar in my salad!” But it takes courage, compassion and humility to quietly eat the worm without drawing attention.

Making mistakes is part of being human. Trying to avoid the inevitability of error is unproductive. Accepting your own fallibility, like that of others, is not a cop-out. It doesn’t mean accepting blatant mistakes. Rather, it allows more celebration of small victories than caterpillar hunting.

As an employee, why not tell your boss what a great job she’s done? As a leader, when was the last time you asked your lowest-paid staffer how they’re faring? You may be surprised to find even those you dislike have admirable qualities.

Be kind to those around you — you’ve no idea their struggles.

Have a great weekend and please remember to be generous! 😄

As always, thanks for reading. 🙏

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