One of my all-time favourite children’s books is Hope for the Flowers by Trina Paulus.

The book tells the tale of a caterpillar named Stripe who finds himself clambering his way to the top of a huge pile of caterpillars.

All of Stripe’s fellow climbers are equally determined and desperate to reach the pinnacle of the huge, squirming caterpillar pillar – despite none on them actually knowing what is at the top (spoiler alert: there’s nothing at the top, just a push off the pillar).

After the initial shock of all the pushing and kicking inside the caterpillar pillar, Stripe quickly learns what he must do to succeed – he must ‘climb or be climbed’.

This single-mindedness serves Stripe well.

He becomes very focused on reaching the top.

As a consequence, his fellow caterpillars ‘become only threats and obstacles’ – which Stripe ruthlessly turns into ‘steps and opportunities’.

One day Stripe accidentally finds himself talking to another caterpillar named Yellow.

This is very inconvenient because after their conversation Stripe notices that he has lost his single-mindedness.

Stripe climbs on, avoiding Yellow as much as possible until the day Stripe encounters Yellow again, blocking his only way up.

The three lines that describe what Stripe does next are incredibly poignant:

‘Well, I guess it’s you or me,’ he said, and he stepped squarely on her head. But something in the way Yellow looked at him made him feel just awful about himself. Like: no matter what is up there – it just isn’t worth it.”

When I first read this last line it pierced my heart – because, just like Stripe, there have been many moments in my working life when I have felt that the individualist ‘climb or be climbed’ ways of working I was unwillingly participating in just wasn’t worth it.

I have spent decades ‘climbing the ranks’ of large organisations, my behavior shaped by elaborate systems of sticks and carrots.

I have ranked when I really wanted to link.

I have competed when I really wanted to connect.

I have fought when I really wanted to fly.

The great irony of the lone wolf, dog-eat-dog, every-man-for-himself mentality is that unless we work together there is no way we can pull off the scale and speed of innovation that we all so desperately need.

Now more than ever, we urgently need to start working together in ways we have never worked before.

The belief that we need to go it alone goes against the grain of our true nature and makes it impossible for us to thrive (and ultimately survive) individually or collectively.

And it changes one caterpillar, and one person at a time.

“The most powerful predictor of your functioning in the present is your current relational connectedness. The second most powerful component is your history of connectedness.” Bruce Perry


By reconnecting to our deepest selves we liberate our highest potential and serve the greatest good. That’s why I specialise in the tricky business of authentic leadership and why I’m pioneering the practice of self-fidelity. I’m a trusted guide for leaders who are ready to explore their inner worlds and rediscover their true selves. I help big-hearted leaders feel empowered to be who they need to be in order to make the difference they want to make in the world. I offer keynotes, workshops, programs, one-on-one and group coaching. Book a no-strings-attached discovery call with me here.