You've probably heard of the ‘butterfly effect’ from the 2004 American sci-fi movie featuring young Ashton Kutcher. But the term stems from the branch of math called chaos theory and is actually associated with mathematician and meteorologist Edward Lorenz.
According to Lorenz, a tornado could be influenced by minor perturbations and a tiny change in the initial conditions would create a significantly different outcome. His ideas quickly spread among philosophers and mathematicians, but today, the whole concept of the butterfly effect is often used to describe a situation when a small change causes great consequences.
Like the decisions we make in life. So this time, we’re diving deep into real-life stories of the “butterfly effect” shared by people in this Reddit thread. Some of them are truly unbelievable, but hey, truth is stranger than fiction.
TL;DR: I over-drafted and caused four marriages and five babies.
Longer version, I was just out of high school and new in town with no job. I was living off what savings I had left and my account went below zero without me knowing. I was overdraft charged like 10 times and owed $300+. I went down to the bank spoke with a teller and she ended up being a lifesaver. She worked with me and got all the charges removed. On top of getting the charges removed, we got to talking about my situation and she said that her son worked at a local restaurant and she would help me get a job. She was a woman of her word and by the end of the week I was working full time. Fast forward, I meet a cool dude who worked there, we became friends, I introduced him to my sister, they fell in love, got married and had two kids. His best friend came into town for the wedding and I introduced him to my roommate at the time, they fell in love, got married and had two babies. I also got my best friend a job at the restaurant where he met a girl working there, they feel in love, got married and had a kid. Right before I left I got my roommate a job at the restaurant, where he met a customer, fell in love, got married and had a kid.
As a bonus, my best friend, who I helped get the job repaid the favor and got me a job at a different restaurant, where I met a girl, fell in love and got married.
I was walking to school and got distracted by a hedgehog that ran in a bush next to me then a big ass tree branch fell infront of me, would've crushed me if I didn't get distracted by a spikey little mouse scurrying in the bushes. I gave him a dead cricket the next day, he took it and ran off. God speed spikey mouse.
To find out more about this incredible phenomenon, Bored Panda reached out to Helen Marlo, a licensed clinical psychologist and Jungian psychoanalyst who provides psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, and consultation. Helen is also a Professor of Clinical Psychology and the Department Chair at Notre Dame de Namur University.
“At its core, the 'butterfly effect' describes a phenomenon of interconnection between people and our larger world,” she explained and added that “This phenomenon has been expressed poetically by Walt Whitman in 'Song of Myself' when he describes the natural, inherent interconnectedness across space and time between individuals and the world.”
I celebrate myself,
And what I assume, you shall assume
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
Walt Whitman (1959, p. 25)”
My teacher encouraged me to enter a poetry competition when I was 17 years old. I only entered because there was a cash prize, but I ended up winning and getting my poem published. Well, a couple of months later, I got a Facebook message from a girl who wanted to know more about my poem because she had to analyze it for her upcoming exam. It turned out that we were about the same age, so we decided to meet up and discuss it. We've been together for four years and are getting married next month. I often wonder what my life would look like if my teacher hadn't approached me back then.
When my dad was 20, he needed to find someone's phone number, so he called the operator from a pay phone and she gave him the number. He hung up, and she accidentally refunded the money back to the pay phone. She called the pay phone back and asked him if he could put the money back in, which he did and hung up again. She accidentally refunded the money a third time and had to call back again to ask him to put the money back in...he did and hung up.
She was so flustered, she refunded the money AGAIN and called back AGAIN and, since it was such a funny situation, my father got to chatting with her and got HER number. They set up a date, got coffee, and — four years later — were married.
This coming August, it'll be 50 years for them.
If my dad didn't need that original phone number, I wouldn't be here. My dad still calls it 'The most expensive phone call he ever made.
When I was in eighth grade, I had a really long bus ride home, so I would pass the time by reading. One day, I faced the very serious situation of having nothing to read and only a minute to grab something in the library. For whatever reason, I grabbed a book on astronomy. That book was amazing and grabbed me like nothing else had before. I remember being so excited to realize every astronomer on Earth was 13 years old once too, and that was a career you could actually do, even if you were from Pittsburgh!
Anyway, today I am a professional astronomer who studies gigantic space explosions for a living. There was a lot of work to get from that moment to this one, but I’m always grateful that I picked up that library book!
Helen continued that similarly, this phenomenon has also been described, psychologically, by psychoanalyst Carl Jung. “His concept of 'synchronicity,' which he defines as an 'acausal connecting principle,' involves the simultaneous occurrence of two meaningfully but not causally connected events,” she explained. So ‘butterfly effect’ is not only referred to in mathematics or philosophy, it also has a significance in psychoanalysis.
My parents dream was to have a 'famous child.' When my older sister's figure skating career ended in her early twenties, the spotlight shifted to me. I was a fine oboist, and took private voice lessons with the intent to audition for the local music faculty. In any case, there was a lot of pressure and, while I was successful at school and with classical music, it was never enough.
At 17 — before senior year began — my sister gifted me a kitten. My parents had given her two in her senior year and the implication was that it was my turn. When my sister dropped me off at their house, my parents locked me out, saying that if 'I wanted my own pet, I needed my own place.' So I found one that night. I worked three jobs to support myself through my senior year and graduated with entrance scholarships to both of the local universities.
Still, I couldn't afford a music degree while living on my own, even with the entrance scholarships. It was a good thing. Entering the work force showed me how much I love active jobs. Three years later, I enrolled in college and became an industrial mechanic/millwright, to my parents great shame.
After a few years of this I landed a sweet contract where I work on Saturdays and Sundays, but receive a full week's pay. Although I am a living beacon of disappointment, I comfort myself with my 100k a year job, two day workweek, and two cats. So, basically, kicked out over a kitten saved me from wasting years chasing an improbable career just to please my parents
My mother and her five siblings were deported to Auschwitz in May of 1944. Soon after their arrival, my mother was placed into a line of people assigned to 'take showers' after their long trip. My mother was 13 years old and very frightened, so she held her mother's hand. Well, a Nazi soldier happened to spot this, and he ordered my mother into a different line, thinking it would be funny to separate her from her mother and make her cry. My grandmother was gassed to death about 15 minutes later, but my mother had been put in the line for the work camp. She worked in that camp until the Russians liberated Auschwitz in 1945, then moved to Romania, where she met the man who would become my father
I was going out to grab pizza and a case of beer for me and my roommate but he texted me that he had a stomach thing so I walked to a restaurant and ordered dinner at the bar and met a girl there and now we are married and have two kids because my roommate had diarrhea
The psychoanalyst also said that in the butterfly effect, these meaningful interconnections happen with such frequency and often trigger reflection. “I have found it valuable to work with them, as other sources of reflection, guidance and meaning, in my psychotherapy practice,” she said.
Helen even coined the term, “Synchronicity-Informed Psychotherapy,” “to describe treatment that is informed by these kinds of phenomena.”
My mom made me sign up for French in high school since I already spoke Spanish. I didn't really care about the language, but I became friends with a girl in that class. Later that year, she became sick with cancer, and she passed away the following year. Well, I had become close with her family, and they told me that French was her favorite subject and that it was her dream to study abroad. Her parents asked if we — her friends from French class — would do that on her behalf.... I was the only one who worked towards it, and I finally spent a semester there during my third year of college. I had always enjoyed French, but it wasn't a passion until something shifted that semester. So I came home, finished my undergrad degree, got my masters in French, then moved back to France. It's been 11 years since my friend died, and three years since I've lived here, and the whole time it's been clear to me that she's been with me on this journey.
My girlfriend and I were on a road trip on the West Coast, and we had planned to spend a night in Las Vegas, go to Zion the next day for some hiking, and then spend another night in Vegas. Well, when we woke up for our Zion trip, we discovered that our hotel's coffee machine had broken down, so we had to go to a nearby McDonald's to get some coffee to go. When we got there, however, they told us they had run out of milk, so we let our GPS direct us to another one around the corner. Well, we arrived to find that one was permanently closed... The third McDonald's we tried to find only existed on the map. So, we nervously arrived at the fourth and final McDonald's and agreed that if we can't get coffee there, we'll stop wasting time and just go to Zion. They did have coffee and milk, but after we got to our car, we realized our order was wrong. We replaced it and laughed the whole thing off, and headed to Zion late. Well, we got back to Las Vegas just before 10 p.m. and started getting ready to go to the Harvest County Music Festival on the strip. We knew we were late, but thought we'd go anyway. But we were stopped at our hotel exit by a policeman telling us to remain in our room. There had been a shooting there, and if not for wasting all that time in the morning trying to get coffee, we would have made it to the festival in time. 58 people were shot dead that night at the festival. If not for McDonald's, it could've been 60
I had to renew the sticker on my license plate a couple of years ago and really didn't feel like sitting in the waiting room by myself forever, so I told my mom I'd take her out to dinner after if she came with me. The guy working at the counter turned out to be my mom's long-lost biological brother. If she hadn't come with me, I would have never known
Moreover, “Psychotherapy is a process where two people mutually constellate the unconscious. It is a unique dialect between two psyches where patient and therapist develop a meaningful exchange guided by their conscious and unconscious mind.” Such an exchange may include experiences from synchronicities or the “butterfly effect,” Helen concluded.
Pregnant cousin usually takes the bus at around 5:10pm after work. She was about to hop inside the bus but she needed to pee really badly and the commute is about an hour long so she decided to go to the restroom instead and just catch the next bus. That 5:10 bus ended up falling from a cliff.
So a few years back, I lived in Nice (South of France) for a while. As a musician, I would make a bit of extra cash busking, and one day, I figured I'd go and busk at the Promenade des Anglais by the sea. It's usually packed, but a generally pleasant place to be. I set up, played a couple of songs and was doing pretty well and making a decent amount of money. Then, suddenly, not one, but two of my guitar strings snapped (I even remember I was playing 'The Scientist' at the time).
I was massively gutted and decided to cut my losses early. I stormed off home (by the station) in a bit of a sulk at having to re-string my guitar and cutting short what was essentially one of my most productive days of busking since moving there. Literally one hour later, my phone starts to blow up with family and friends freaking out and asking if I was at the promenade.
It was Bastille Day, 2016. The truck drove into the same crowd I was playing to, killing 86 people, including my at-the-time gf's uncle. I had two other friends who were among the 458 injured. I moved home the next month because it was too much, and haven't been back since.
It's hard to explain, sometimes I think I was super lucky, sometimes I just kind of cry and wonder why I was lucky and others weren't. It's surreal, and despite what people think...it's a truly horrible feeling
had to call my heart surgeon to give him my new insurance number, which was delayed by a bit because I was waiting on the insurance lady to call, but she had the flu. When I finally called, the receptionist said, 'Oh hey, we just had a cancellation for this Friday! Do you want it?' Of course I wanted to get it over with and not wait another full month, so I decided to take the open heart surgery cancellation appointment. Well, my surgeon said thank goodness I did because — once he got a look inside — he realized I would not have survived to the original appointment date.
So, if the insurance lady didn't have the flu, I would have gotten those numbers sooner, called at a different time, and probably never have gotten the offer to have the surgery when I did.
Someone else's flu saved my life
I had been looking for direction, and went out for Chinese food one day. In my fortune cookie was a fortune that said, 'To teach is to learn twice.' I thought hard about it, and it led me to apply for a job at a local school as an ESL instructor. Well, two years later, there was an earthquake in Taiwan which caused many English teachers to leave. The school I was working for asked if anyone was interested in replacing those teachers at its sister school — I signed up, got a promotion there, then a wife, dog, son, and daughter. All because I like Chinese food
Four years ago a kid I barely knew from school invited me to a Six Flags. I was a bit of a loner at the time and I heard rumors about this kid being 'weird,' so I intended not to go but, on the day he wanted me to go, I was extra bored and decided on a whim, 'Why not?' So I met up with this kid and two of his friends.
It's been four years and that 'kid' is my best friend, and I have three other very close friends I met through him. Not only that, but I also met my first ever girlfriend because of the connections some of my new friends had. It transformed my high school years from being lonely to having an amazing group of friends I could do almost anything with.
I intend to ask him to be my best man one day, and I don’t intend on ever falling out of touch with any of them. I’m home from college now, and we are still having a lot of fun together. Going to Six Flags was still the best decision I ever made
My grandfather, then a toddler, woke in a night during WWII, and moved to his parents bed.
His room was a short while later decimated by a German bomb.
High school, I didnt get into the AP history class wanted. Changed up my schedule, including a different gym class, without everyone I knew. I was heartbroken. I really wanted to teach, and without an AP class senior year, I was screwed.
Made a new friend in gym class, who was wearing a volunteer firefighter shirt. He had just joined. Seemed interesting, and he invited me to check it out.
They paid for me to get my EMT. Fell in love with healthcare.
Fast forward quite a while, and I'm an ER Nurse and 'precept' students and new nurses, teaching them how to survive in the ER. I also do public outreach and injury prevention. And I love it. Glad I missed out on my class.
My mother wore heels to work and slipped on the carpeted steps, resulting in a broken high heel and a broken leg. While she was home recovering, she somehow developed allergies that led to her needing an inhaler*.
The inhaler* interfered with her birth control and now I have a brother 13 years younger than me.
When my now-husband was 18, he found out that his mom's side of the family was Spanish, not Mexican. He found this interesting, so he changed his country to 'Spain' on MySpace, instead of the US, which is where he really was.
Meanwhile, in Australia, I was helping my friend find Spanish people to add as friends, since she was learning the language. I came across my now-husband's profile and decided to send him a friend request as well. We got along really well and met in person after three years. We have now been together 11 years, married for seven. If he didn’t change his country to Spain (which he only did for a day or so) we’d never have known each other existed.
At the end of 6th grade, my class took a field trip on a whale watch. That night, I saw a commercial for a documentary TV series on whales. Ever since that day, I wanted to grow up and protect whales from being hunted. Today I work in the military specializing in Marine Preservation.
My desire for pizza set off a chain reaction that destroyed my family:
One day, I got home from school and really wanted pizza. My family was poor, so spontaneous food trips weren't always in the cards. I really worked my pouty face on my mom, and begged to go to the local pizza place for dinner. She actually went with it, so we went. While chilling there, I saw my uncle walk by, and I said, 'Uncle [insert name], is that you?!' Now, you might be thinking, 'He just wanted pizza, what's the big deal?'
WELL, he lived several states away, so to arbitrarily be in town and not tell anyone was strange.
Turned out he was having an affair with his sister-in-law (my aunt on the other side of the family). One thing led to another and now everyone hates each other, and we haven't had contact in like 20 years.
I just wanted some pizza
A few years ago, I was on the phone with my boss as I was getting home. We were discussing what we needed to get done the next day when he asked, 'What the eff is that noise?!' I said it'd make more sense to just show him, so I took a video of me opening the door and feeding my (very loud) farm cats.
He wanted me to show the video to other people, but I realized I didn't like anyone crowding me awkwardly looking at my phone to show the video, so I uploaded it to YouTube. The next morning, I went to show someone on the computer, and noticed it was up to 11 views, which I found odd.
Then, it went viral.
Thousands of views per hour. I was getting constant calls and emails about buying the video rights and just asking for permission to use it. It took off again in the pandemic time and has been a nice little source of income when things have been rough.
All because I didn't like holding my phone to show people a 30 second video."
I procrastinated one day in high school by watching a foreign musical on youtube. I ended up trying to learn the lyrics and eventually the language. That led me to discovering the field of linguistics, which I'm now majoring in. I don't know what I'd be doing now had I actually started doing my homework that day instead.
Had a surprising and rough breakup and decided to treat myself to a vacation somewhere I'd always wanted to go. Well, I loved it there more than I expected, and six months later, I emigrated there.
The wife and I were having dinner in Hawaii one night on vacation. As we were getting up to leave, I noticed she hadn’t finished her beer. I told her she should finish the beer since we paid some ridiculous price for it. Fast forward 30 seconds and we leave the restaurant and are walking the 3 blocks back to the hotel. About 50 feet in front of us as we’re walking (were walking down the sidewalk on the left side of the road), a car comes flying out of a side street from the right and crosses through the street, hops the sidewalk in front of us, and smashes into a wall. If she didn’t finish her beer, we would have been smoked by the car and most likely squished between the car and the wall. We always finish our beer now.
I was going to carpool with my aunt to go to a family gathering. At the last minute, I decided to go by myself instead so that I could leave early if I wanted.
On the way there, my aunt drove off the road into a ditch. She was okay, but the passenger side of her car — where I likely would've been sitting — was totally smashed in
Back in the 80s, my mom studied abroad in England. A couple days before her flight back home to the US, she got too homesick to wait any longer and spontaneously bought a ticket home early. The flight she was originally supposed to take was Pan Am flight 103, where all 243 passengers and 16 crew died. If not for her homesickness, her and my dad would not have met and my brother and I would not have been in existence.
The other day, I was driving home from work. Traffic was light and I was behind a car with a license plate that started 'KFD.' It made me hungry, so I decided to duck through the KFC drive-thru for chippies with extra salt as a little treat to myself!
They took forever to bring them out and by the time they finally did (all told, about 10 minutes later), traffic had slowed to a complete halt.
I needed to get over a bridge that's normally six lanes, which had now been reduced to one. Turns out, it was due to a massive collision involving several cars. When I finally got to the point where I was driving past the accident, I noticed the license on one of the cars...it's the KFD plate.
If I hadn't stopped to get hot chips, I'm fairly sure I'd have been in a major collision. KFC chippies with extra salt saved my life.
I'm alive because my aunt was born.
My grandfather was conscripted into the Romanian army as a medic, and his unit was one of the many acting as a defensive barrier, covering the Nazi supply lines to Stalingrad. She was born, and he was called back to Bucharest from the front. While he was on leave, the Russians launched Operation Uranus, which decimated the axis forces. He recieved word that his unit had been completely destroyed. He was never reassigned, and in 1948, my mother was born.
I'm also alive because a bunch of Romanian cows got sick. My other grandfather was a pharmacist, back when that meant actually making medicines, he was also a Jew. The town he lived in was largely agrarian, and their cow herds came down with some illness that was killing them. He whipped something up that cured them. The townspeople were very grateful to him. So grateful that when the chief of police heard that the Nazis were coming to town to take inventory of who lived there, he came to my grandfather's house with some train tickets for him and his wife. They escaped the Nazis, and never got caught. My father was born at the end of 1945.
I guess this is the opposite of the butterfly effect, really. Rather than one small action blowing up into a much more important chain of events, two hugely improbable events are eventually lead to my birth(and obviously my extended family as well)... and now, I run ads on the internet.
My wife got an email from her old colleagues the day we returned home from our honeymoon, asking if she wanted to star in a short film they were doing for fun. She said 'sure,' and asked if I wanted to come along, as she knew I had an interest in movies.
At the time, I worked in life insurance and was miserable, and filmmaking was more than an interest — I had always wanted to make films, but never made the right connections with people and didn’t know where to start.
I made friends with the producer of that short film my wife was in and, 11 years later, filmmaking and video production is my career. I’ve shot feature films, short films, video for TV and web all over the world because of that one email to my wife. Changed our lives!
I chose to rearrange my sequence of classes slightly before starting my education. By doing this, I had to commute to a different branch of the school in a different town than the one I was originally signed up for.
On my first day there, I helped a girl who had, somehow, managed to break both of her arms in a drunken shopping cart accident. This girl, whom I would absolutely never have met had I not changed my classes around, is my wife of 14 years
I was Very little and singing a song completely with made up words. My mom asked what it was, and I said Evelynese (my name is Evelyn). Then a year later I made up a fake country for that fake language (Evelyninis). Then I started making up some stories. Now it’s a little over a decade later, I’m in high school, and I have a whole fictional world with three political superpowers (that I won’t name for personal reasons, but just know Evelyninis has a better name now). This world has a very intricate map of ecosystems (and soon, political borders of various eras), five distinct cultural and ethnic groups so far, and some unique flora and fauna. Former Evelyninis specifically has twenty families of nobility, two hundred thirty seven common families, a religion, a specific type of domesticated big cat, the bones of a conlang, two epics in the works (the first being adapted from older stories I made up), and much more. I’m probably going to work on this until the day I die. All because toddler me wanted to throw some snark at my mom.
Got arrested for growing weed, moved back home. Got first job I could at Ikea. After working there for over a year, randomly decided to check Craigslist for jobs and saw an opening at a cafe and they were hiring right then, so instinctively went for it.
The cafe was connected and owned by one of the most popular brewpubs/beer gardens in the area. They hired me to host there, quickly worked my way up the ranks to eventually bar manager. Met girl of my dreams, we are now married with 2 amazing kids. Opened two more restaurants with them and currently assistant director of operations, overseeing three restaurants @ 3, 5, and 8 million a year in sales!
Love my job, love my family, love my life. No idea what I'd be doing if I never got arrested, or never applied for the cafe job.
Someone I know once had a flight planned to Spain. He ended up missing it because he was like one minute late. The plane ended up crashing... one minute literally saved his life
I sent a friend from secondary school (who I had a huge crush on) a message just saying, 'Happy Birthday!' a couple years after we all left school. I did the whole 'We'll have to catch up soon!' thing, not expecting much.
He replied, 'How about Monday?' So I saw him that Monday for a coffee.
Next month is our six year anniversary.
It's truly the best thing that ever happened to me, and my friends joke that I'm the queen of escaping the friendzone.
Getting my ears pierced the day after I graduated high school got me where I am today.
I worked at McDonald’s at the time and was scheduled to work that night. Before my shift, my girlfriend at the time convinced me to get my ears pierced. Well, when I showed up to my shift with these clear ear studs in, my manager gave me an option. Either take them out, or go home. Being only 17 and not taking anything seriously, I went home.
On my way home, I called that girlfriend’s dad, and asked if I could work with him laying tile. He gave me a chance, and I quit McDonald’s that day. Worked with him for about a year until the 08’/09’ recession caused us to run out of work. I got laid off.
4 months later, I land a job in a new hospital doing admitting in the emergency room. Did that for 2 years before I got my phlebotomy certification. Been doing that for a few years and now I’m in my final semester of nursing school.
I attribute everything I’ve done to that day my ex girlfriend pressured me into getting my ears pierced. Who knows how long I would have stayed at McDonald’s.
I decided to try weed in high school. I met a dude through my weed connections, and we became roommates. My roommate talked me into trying World of Warcraft. I met a girl through WoW. Years later, I dated her. A year after that, I moved states and married her. We have kids now.
So, basically, my children are a direct result of weed.
If my former roommate wasn't an alcoholic going thru withdrawal and had to be hospitalized, we'd have had enough money for rent. Then, I wouldn't have moved home. If I hadn't decided, while looking for a new job in my hometown, that it would be nice to have insurance, I'd have got another restaurant job instead of a manufacturing job. If I hadn't started that manufacturing job, I'd have never met a co-worker who was quitting for a much better job. Then, I wouldn't have also applied for a job with that company that was still hiring. I still work here 8 years later and hope to retire from here. It has its sh*tty days (or weeks), but the benefits are amazing and I'm making more than most college graduates.
In grad school I said f it and submitted a conference proposal the night before the deadline. Long story short, I basically have my job, my city, and my wife as a direct result of that decision.
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