The Death of You
by Ozan Varol
To become a butterfly, the caterpillar must accept its own death.
The process begins when an impulse deep within the caterpillar signals that it’s time for a radical
change. When that signal arrives, the caterpillar hangs itself upside down from a twig or a leaf and
forms a chrysalis.
Inside the chrysalis, the caterpillar begins to literally eat itself, emitting enzymes to dissolve and digest
all its tissues. The only survivors are a group of cells called imaginal discs—whose name comes from
the word imagination.
Fed by the nutritious soup inside the chrysalis, these discs allow the caterpillar to develop eyes,
wings, legs, and everything else it will need to become a butterfly. Out of that disgusting mess, a
marvelous butterfly emerges.
My time for metamorphosis arrived back in 2016. Shortly after I got tenure as a professor, I realized
that this life was no longer for me. I didn’t want to write academic articles that only a handful of
professors would read. What’s more, I had been teaching the same classes, answering the same
questions, and attending the same committee meetings for years.
My life as a caterpillar had become comfortable—too comfortable. I had stopped learning and
So I decided to spin myself into a chrysalis and digest my past as fuel for my future. My former career
in rocket science provided me wings for critical thinking—and formed the subject matter for a book.
Academia provided the legs for teaching and captivating audiences. A decade of writing gave me the
antennae for storytelling. These imaginal discs helped me to create the new me.
There’s birth in death. As Joseph Campbell writes, “The earth must be broken to bring forth life. If the
seed does not die there is no plant. Bread results from the death of wheat. Life lives on lives.”
Yes, life lives on lives. Our old selves become compost for our new selves. Our old truths become
seeds for new revelations. Our old destinations become lighthouses for new paths.
Letting go doesn’t mean forgetting. Quite the opposite: Letting go requires remembering the gifts of
the past and the clues the caterpillar left you to navigate life as a butterfly.
Steps forward require steps down. “Our next life,” Glennon Doyle writes, “will always cost us this one.
If we are truly alive, we are constantly losing who we just were, what we just built, what we just
believed, what we just knew to be true.” Any real change requires you to die before you die—and
know that dying can be the beginning, not the end.
You may not know it yet, but you’re walking around with imaginal discs within you ready to sprout a
As you emerge out of your chrysalis, the possibilities will appear endless. You’ve got wings, and you
can fly in a million different directions.
You can look at that infinite abyss and feel paralyzed. Or you can choose to loosen the grip on your
past and see where the universe leads you—step by curious step.
As Rumi writes, as you start to walk out on the path, the path will appear.
And remember: The Greek word for butterfly is psyche. And psyche means soul.
When you undergo a metamorphosis, you won’t lose yourself.
You’ll discover the depths of your soul.
13 Rules For Life
From the Growth Equation Newsletter by Brad Stulberg
The secret is there is no secret. What follows are 13 rules—supported by ancient wisdom and modern science—to help you feel better and be better.
Move your body. Aim for at least 30 minutes every day. More is better. Walk. Run. Lift weights. Dance. Garden. If possible, do some of this outdoors. Whatever you do, don’t try to be a hero, lest you’ll wind up injured. Start small. Consistent effort compounds over time; inertia is real and it works in both directions.
Eat whole foods. Avoid stuff that comes wrapped in plastic. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. Pick one to three habitual eating patterns that aren’t great and upgrade them.
Build community. The people with whom you surround yourself shape you. Being super productive is fine, but not if it crowds out time for cultivating relationships. Most people feel best in a tribe. It’s our nature.
Care deeply. The things you care about will break your heart. That’s fine. Keep caring. Stay in the arena. The depth of your life is directly proportional to the depth of your caring.
Hold pain tenderly. When it hurts, be kind to yourself. If you can’t, call upon your community and let them be your life boat.
Give help. We’re all in this together. What comes around goes around.
Get help. We’re all in this together. What comes around goes around. (Also: good therapy helps everyone.)
Stay on the path. Know your core values. These are the tenets you want to embody, the ways in which you wish to live your life. Let them serve as your guideposts.
Fall off the path. Mess up. Because you are a human.
Get back on the path. Do not judge yourself too harshly, but learn from your mistakes. Go to the place you fell off and start walking again.
Be patient. It’s a nine-inning game. We often think we’re in the bottom of the seventh when we’re really only in the top of the third.
Accept what is—and keep going anyways. Somewhere between burying your head in the sand and pollyanna delusion is wise hope. That’s the place to be.
Sleep when you’re tired. Machines are hard. Humans are soft. These are facts.