The Butterflies are Almost Gone

There are almost no butterflies left

I was 12 years old when I overcame the butterflies in my stomach just enough to jump my BMX bike over a curb. Four years later I had progressed in the battle against those butterflies far enough to claim hopping on top of picnic tables. Another four years and I needed more speed and gravity to find the butterflies. They lived in the sky now, 10 feet, 12 feet up at least. It seemed to me like that was about as high as anyone could get a BMX bike to go, but I was very wrong.

The kids who’d grown up watching guys like me jump 12 feet into the air grew up. They had to do crazy things to find butterflies. Us older kids had gotten rid of almost all of them. Instead of starting with curbs, they were doing backflips on their bikes. At the professional level things were getting absurd, and the progression has never stopped. There are almost no butterflies left.

This video tells the story of the universal human drive to hunt for butterflies on bicycles. They call it something else, but it’s the same story. It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come. What do you think is possible for us?

Where did all the butterflies go?

Human performance has progressed logarithmically over the last several decades. Records are broken and broken, then broken again. People are doing things that were “impossible” five or ten years ago.

Here is Brazilian Surfer Rodrigo Koxa setting the official world record for largest wave ever surfed earlier this year. The record won’t last. It’s probably already been broken unofficially. It’s just a matter of time before someone finds the right wave while a camera is recording.

People have been doing the impossible so frequently that it’s changing the definition of the word. When someone says  “Impossible!” I hear, “I don’t believe it can be done.”. Whatever it is, it’s possible. The human genome hasn’t radically altered itself to produce superhumans in the past 20 years. Statistics on childhood chronic illness and a declining lifespan say the opposite, that we’re degenerating.

What has changed for athletes today is mindset. They see the impossible happening around them everyday. When a 12 year old gets on a BMX bike today, he’s not the first person his age he’s ever seen do a backflip. And a backflip isn’t a trick that will win a competition anymore. Now the backflip is a filler trick to gain a few points on your way to making the real magic happen. The backflip seems inconsequential compared to the expectations for someone’s future performance. The are no butterflies on the landscape of backflips anymore.

Achieve Optimum

I’m fully confident that I could surpass the cycling accomplishments of my early twenties were I to take the challenge seriously. I know what’s “possible” from the human body now, and my spine is in way better shape than it was in my twenties.

It used to be that a chiropractor would take an X-ray of your spine, find the spots with problems, then draw lines on vertebral landmarks to determine a “listing”.  This “listing” would be your listing for life, or until you had another injury that changed the spine for the worse. The “listing” would return after a period of time because it was considered a weak spot in the spine, which was probably genetic or due to a traumatic accident.

Today I have higher expectations for my chiropractic care and the care I deliver to the people I work with. The level of knowledge about spinal function and human movement has progressed at the same rate as BMX performance. When I see a chiropractor now, I want my spine to improve in a real and lasting way. That also means that I expect to have a personal responsibility to support the work my chiropractor is doing with specific movement and neurologically focused exercises.

I also have the expectation that my chiropractor will not ask me “What’s wrong?” on every visit, or say “Come back when it feels like its “out” again”. I want my chiropractor to be able to know what level of function I have in my spine, and to know how to take it to the next level. I expect to be there frequently. Frequency of training is critical for gains in the gym and critical for gains in spinal performance.

I don’t want my spine to be like it was when I was 20. That spine was really dysfunctional. My posture and movement back then limited the quality of my life and what I was capable of. I want to feel what it’s like for my spine to express its full potential, to achieve my optimum. Those are my expectations. What are yours?

BMX in the year 1999 vs Today

Don’t take my word for how much progression has happened in extreme sports the past 20 years. It’s right here in video proof. The 1999 video would look like an ordinary backyard jam session by 2005.



The butterflies are almost gone… and it’s beautiful

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash


Leave a Reply Text

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *