Classic Anecdote | Processionary Caterpillars Story

by Jade Handy on August 10, 2016

pine processionary caterpillar story Jean_Henri_Fabre_NadarPine processionary (caterpillars) march together in long sometimes straight sometimes winding procession, though this promenade is always a continuous single-file line. Nose literally touching the rear in front of them, and they don’t break ranks for nothing!

This behavior not only gives the caterpillar its name, but also a deadly characteristic.

Every caterpillar leaves the nest to work in perfect harmony and with unwavering team loyalty in their quest for food…and survival.

Enter Jean Henri Fabre`, a French entomologist and naturalist, In his 1916 book he famously revealed an experiment he ran. Since he knew the caterpillars don’t care who they’re following, he cunningly lead the pine processionary onto the rim of the flowerpot one-by-one head-to-tail until the rim was full of these loyal marching creatures.

He had placed leaves, sticks and other caterpillar food well within their senses and reach.

Round and round they followed each other. The blind leading the blind leading the blind. Day after day after day. Eighty-four hours, 335 full circle round trips. For a week they followed the leader, starving as they were, without a single one breaking ranks and heading for the food that was well within reach within a matter of seconds.

Ironically in their quest for survival, most of the caterpillars died of exhaustion and starvation and most likely dehydration. ∎


Related: 10 Inch Frying Pan Story

Story inspired by the late Earl Nightingale in the Essence of Success audio set that I own, have listened to dozens of times, and highly recommend. And, this particular segment can be read here.

–Meta Post–

Play Rich Dad Poor Dad Robert Kiyosaki’s Cashflow 101 for this very reason. To break people of the rat race. To teach them in a non-life threatening way that if they don’t see the error of their ways, if they don’t break ranks with the rest of the rat race, they never will.

Google: processionary caterpillar story for other writers’ meanings for this metaphor to be used in public speaking, or coaching, or whatever.

“Fabre conducted a famous study on the processionary pine larvae where a group of them were attached nose-to-tail in a circle with food just outside the circle; they continued marching in the circle for a week; he described the experiment in his 1916 book The Life of the Caterpillar.[8]” – Wikipedia


Classic Anecdote | 10 Inch Frying Pan Story

by Jade Handy on August 9, 2016

10 inch frying pan storyTwo fishermen are fishing near each other at a lake.

One man noticed something very peculiar about the other man. He was catching a ton of fish, but always putting the big fish back into the lake and only keeping the little ones. This goes on for quite some time. The man keeps every fish smaller than 10 inches and throws all the bigger fish back.

Curiosity got the better of him and he just had to ask, “Say, I see that you keep putting the big fish back but keeping the small ones. Can I ask you why?

The other man responded: “That’s easy. I only have a 10 inch frying pan.” His frying pan was only 10 inches. ∎


This 10 inch frying pan short story is about small goals vs big goals. A anecdote about not stretching your capabilities. A narrative about self-imposed limitations. A story about awakening and enlightenment and wisdom.

Quotes that tie it together:

If you always do what you’ve always done. You’ll always get what you’ve always gotten. – multiple attributions

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and over again – and expecting a different result. – Einstein misattribution?

Related cliché phrase:

Take the road less travelled.

Marching to the beat of a different drummer.

Other inspirational anecdotes for speakers to drive home the point or for semantic priming, the story of the grandma that cuts off the ends of the ham (or roast) unnecessarily. Maybe even insert the square pumpkin story.

Dark anecdotes like the pine processionary caterpillars (revealed in my next post) that march blindly in allegiant military formation on the bell jar to an untimely death illustrates the idiom and metaphor of the blind leading the blind which has a bit more spotlight on the leader.

Add the sometimes humorous persuasive parenting cliché: Begs the question a parent would ask of a child, “if your friend jumped off a building would you?”

Related: Processionary Caterpillars Story

–Meta Post–

Classic Anecdote series consists of my all-time favorite metaphorical short stories (with a side of success psychology) used by multiple well-known speakers and authors through many years. The uniqueness of my versions are the result of boiling down multiple versions to their common denominators and/or essential elements.

There have been plenty versions of the 10 inch frying pan story through the years, but the above are the common denominators. Hours of Power by Robert Schuller was the catalyst for this post. Thank you.

“Fabre conducted a famous study on the processionary pine larvae where a group of them were attached nose-to-tail in a circle with food just outside the circle; they continued marching in the circle for a week; he described the experiment in his 1916 book The Life of the Caterpillar.[8]” on wikipedia

Photo Credit: Lars Plougmann via Compfight cc Thank you!


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