Fly Story

A colleague was talking about my last week’s message about Paul. She thinks he should start his own consulting firm. Some of you wrote that he should stay in his current role so he can continue to have flexibility for his kids, which he truly values. A few thought he should move to the regional role to continue working with the leader he trusts. A few said it’s time for Paul to move on.

Paul’s dilemma got me thinking about a story I shared years ago. I call it “The Fly Story.” I think it’s time to share it again.

A True Story by Price Pritchett
I’m sitting in a quiet room at the Millcroft Inn, a peaceful place hidden back among the pine trees about an hour out of Toronto. It’s just past noon, late July, and I’m listening to the desperate sounds of a life-or-death struggle going on a few feet away.

There’s a small fly burning out the last of its short life’s energies in a futile attempt to fly through the glass of the window pane. The whining wings tell the poignant story of the fly’s strategy — try harder.

But it’s not working.

The frenzied effort offers no hope for survival. Ironically, the struggle is part of the trap. It is impossible for the fly to try hard enough to succeed at breaking through the glass. Nevertheless, this little insect has staked its life on reaching its goal through raw effort and determination.

This fly is doomed. It will die there on the windowsill.

Across the room, ten steps away, the door is open. Ten seconds of flying time and this small creature could reach the outside world it seeks. With only a fraction of the effort now being wasted, it could be free of this self-imposed trap. The breakthrough possibility is there. It would be so easy.

Why doesn’t the fly try another approach, something dramatically different? How did it get so locked in on the idea that this particular route, and determined effort, offer the most promise for success? What logic is there continuing, until death, to seek a breakthrough with “more of the same”?

No doubt this approach makes sense to the fly. Regrettably, it’s an idea that will kill.

“Trying harder” isn’t necessarily the solution to achieving more. It may not offer any real promise for getting what you want out of life. Sometimes, in fact, it’s a big part of the problem.

If you stake your hopes for a breakthrough on trying harder than ever, you may kill your chances for success


This story touches me because I know it happens to all of us at times. We think what we’re doing is the best way, and we keep at it. Or we think there might be a better way, but we don’t stop long enough to explore. 

I love working with leaders who want to look away from the glass, break open their thinking about what they’re dealing with and decide how they want to grow. If that’s you, let’s talk.

FYI: True Story is in Price Pritchett’s book, you2: A High-Velocity Formula for Multiplying Your Personal Effectiveness in Quantum Leaps

Share Button