“The Duck and the Butterfly” by Natalie Michael

Natalie Michael
Trifold Publishing (2018)
ISBN 9780995995833
Reviewed by Marjorine Castillo for Reader Views (10/19)

Natalie Michael’s “The Duck and the Butterfly” is an interesting book composed of a collection of powerful questions that were designed to stimulate thinking about what it means to have meaningful life. The book is organized into three sections that lists questions about leading your life, others, and organizations. The book’s format offers readers the flexibility to read all the questions, just the sections they are interested in, or one question per day. The writing is very clear and carefully organized to appeal to many different types of readers. Throughout the book, there are ducks that symbolize messages for effective listening and butterflies that symbolize an opportunity for transformation. The author accomplished their goal of creating a toolkit that readers can apply in five minutes to different, but interconnected spheres of their lives (e.g. work, parenting, politics).

The first section of the book deals with personal questions about living a purposeful life and focusing on what really matters to the reader. This was my favorite part of the book because I believe it can apply to anyone, and not just people within the business world. I especially appreciated the questions about health and death because it allows readers to confront the reality that certain behaviors people engage in may be damaging to their overall health and prevent them from living the life that they want. It makes you think about how being healthy is part of living a meaningful life. Another question that was extremely useful was how have past tragedies have prepared a person to serve. As someone who is training to be a psychologist, I believe reflecting on how past experiences have impacted our present is an important aspect of understanding ourselves, but also preparing for the person we want to be in the future. The last question in this section that I found to be very thought-provoking was what the reader would do if money weren’t a factor. Our society has become so dependent on assigning value to life based on how much money a person makes, that sometimes people chose careers based on money, and not passion. If money were not a factor, I believe more people would consider different life choices that would lead to a more meaningful life. The questions in this section provided some food for thought!

The second part of the book focuses on good leaderships skills that can be applied to coach others or to improve teamwork. The author uses the personal questions to transition into the second set of questions that make you reflect on how to be a better leader. This format made sense to me because by working on yourself you can more effectively help others to do the same. One of the duck messages that struck me as important was the advice that listening is more about offering questions than giving answers. This approach would work well with others because we are essentially inviting them to self-reflect, perhaps in the same ways we have already done. I liked the question about reminding ourselves of which parts of our job are rewarding because it enables us to focus on positivity. Lastly, the question about creating messages in such a simple way that a 5-year old could understand made me think about how our actions can be exclusionary if we are not careful about how we carry them out. In academia, we have to write in a specific style that may not be accessible to readers outside of the ivory tower. It made me wonder if I were to write my papers in a way that a 5-year old could understand, how would that change my life in a meaningful way? It also made me think about the questions that mentioned “high potential employees.” I would have loved to read more about how to engage and motivate people that would not be considered as high potential employees. I say this because I believe high potential employees are already in a mindset to be receptive to these questions and to want to change aspects of their lives to end up in a career that makes them happy. I’m not sure if this would work with other groups of people or if different strategies would work best with struggling employees or with students in an educational setting. I understand the book is geared towards coaching leaders at work, but if we want to improve an entire team we can’t just focus on uplifting high potential individuals.

The third part of the book discusses questions about macro-level issues such as how to improve organizations. This was the section that I was least interested in since I do not have a business background, but there were still some interesting questions that could apply to anyone. The first question that intrigued me was how organizations make a difference in people’s lives. This was a reminder that organizations serve different populations based on their overall goal and philosophy. If I want to contribute to an organization running smoothly, then I would prefer if my personal goals align with the organization’s purpose. Another question that was noteworthy was the questions about listening to all voices that need to be head. This reminded me that my actions have consequences on myself, my environment, and others, and that in order to make informed decisions I must listen to different perspectives of stakeholders that will be affected. Lastly, the author also provided a bonus section with a few questions about how to make the world a better place. One question that is highly relevant in today’s world is how technology is changing what it feels like to be human. I believe we should all be asking ourselves this question because it affects us regardless of which field we are in or plan to be.

“The Duck and the Butterfly” by Natalie Michael is a wonderful toolkit for anyone looking to reflect and improve on the current state of their life. I recommend that people read this before they embark on a new transition in their life, such as going to college or looking for a new job. I believe these questions can help anyone focus their attention on what they really want and what would bring meaning to their life. It was a pleasure to engage with the philosophical and practical questions provided!

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