Columbus and bees

What Do Columbus and Bees Have In Common?

When I hear the name “Columbus” I think of the discovery of America by Europeans. It got me to ponder about how discoveries happen and what about Columbus and Bees? Do they have common attributes?

In some ways, finding America was a “failure” because Columbus had set out to find India. Oops.

But there are many “failures” that turn out to be amazing discoveries. Europeans discovering America was one of them.
The sticky notes came about from chemists attempting to create a new glue. The glue was not strong at all. It was a failure – until someone thought of a new application for it.

What all discoveries have in common is this: there is motion. Someone sets a goal. Sail to India. Invent a new glue. Or whatever it may be.

The goal causes a person or team to get into motion. Then discovery happens. No motion, no discovery.

Sometimes, an inventor might sit in his or her chair and just think up things. But one might argue there is still motion, i.e., electrical signals in the person’s brain.

The path to discovering something new is

  1. Set a goal that excites you,
  2. Get into motion/ step into action,
  3. Be open to the outcome – it may be different than you were expecting or hoping for. Yet, upon retrospection, the outcome may be better than what you were shooting for.

Buckminster Fuller talked about the precession effect. The upshot of it is: the real purpose of one’s actions occurs at a right angle of the motion. What does that mean?

For example, what is the goal of a bee flying to a flower? Did you think “collect nectar”? If yes, you are right.

What is the ultimate purpose of the bee collecting nectar? Pollination! Yet, the bee has no clue that that is happening as a result of its nectar-collecting. That is the precessional effect at work.

The real purpose happens as a side effect of the intended goal. There is no precession without motion. If the bee doesn’t fly to the flower there is no pollination.

That also means we can never quite know our real purpose. We set a goal to pursue a purpose we have identified. Then there is the precessional effect – or you could say the ripple effect. That precession or ripple creates things that are unforeseen by us.

Some years ago, I started a monthly gettogether with friends. I love being with friends and socializing. I also love learning. Why not combine the two? I figured (even so many years ago) that everyone has something interesting to teach to the rest of us. This was way before I thought of Brilliance Extraction™ as a systematic method to doing that.

We had a potluck once per month and one of us talked about something they know something about. Or we went on a little excursion. Watching meteors or birds or visiting a museum. Our imagination was the only limit on the topics we covered. One of our friends was a hairdresser – and she was very into astronomy and string theory. The physicists in the room were floored by how easily she approached the subject. Amazing!

We called it “Piranha Club.” That is because over a gin-and-tonic or two we decided that we would “gobble up” new knowledge like piranhas… well, okay then. The name stuck!

I had started Piranha Club because I wanted to see my friends and learn something cool at the same time. During the five years that we ran this Club, some people felt inspired to take various classes. People who had not dared to speak in front of a group did and learned they could do it. Those were “ripples” we could see as it was happening or soon after.

Then years later, I got a phone call that touched me deeply. It was a friend who thanked me for the positive influence I had had on her daughter. She had been 15 when her Mom had brought her to Piranha Club. I couldn’t believe it at first when I heard all that it had done for her daughter: She was inspired to study at the university (sciences I believe). She saw women could be successful. She saw one could have a great career and have a ton of fun outside of work as well, too. Those influences were ripples I never would have known about without the friend telling me about them years later.

The key here is: You can’t plan for that – nor should you try. Instead, I invite you to set a goal that you think is worth your time, heart, and soul. Pursue it. And let the ripples form. Trust me; they will.

I am Curious

Which goal is worth your time, heart, and soul right now? What is your “flower”?


  1. Michael Dunkel on at

    I am ready to set a goal and get moving.

    • Stephie Althouse on at

      Michael, bravo! If you like let me know what goal you are pursuing!

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