NY Times bestselling author Andy Andrews has published a life changing little book entitled the “Butterfly Effect”. I strongly recommend it to readers ages nine to 99.

In 1963 Edward Lorenz presented a hypothesis to the New York Academy of Science that a butterfly could flap its wings and set molecules of air in motion, which would move other molecules of air, in turn moving more molecules of air – eventually capable of starting a hurricane on the other side of the planet. The learn’ed scientists laughed him out of the academy.

Imagine the scientific community’s shock and surprise when more than 30 years later physics professors working from colleges and universities worldwide came to the conclusion that the butterfly effect was authentic, accurate, and viable! The butterfly effect now has the status of a “law” known as the “law of sensitive dependence upon initial conditions.” This principle encompasses more than mere butterfly wings, it engages with the first movement of any form of matter – including people.

Everything that you and I do is important and sets off a chain reaction for greater good, or for greater evil.

Did you know that there was once a single man who, more than 150 years ago, made one move that still dramatically affects how you and I live today? His name was Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, a school teacher from Maine who, in 1862, joined the 20th Maine Regiment. A year later the tattered regiment of less than 300 men successfully defended the far left flank of the union army at Gettysburg and denied the Confederate Army the high ground at Little Roundtop. Out of ammunition, the 80 remaining union troops charged down the hill and captured 400 heavily armed Confederate troops. If not for the action of Chamberlain, the battle for Little Roundtop would have been lost, the war ended in favor of the Confederate South, America divided, and there would have been nine to 12 separate and probably feuding countries in North America, none of which could have won World War II.

“Everything that you and I do is important and sets off a chain reaction for greater good, or for greater evil.”

The butterfly effect is why ever interaction with people, whether customer or not, no matter how seemingly insignificant, could set off a chain of events that can make or break a business financially. This hit home to me last Thursday when the “check engine” light came on in my minivan. I went to Mike’s University Chevron on College Road where the mechanic quickly fixed the problem set off when another mechanic from a different firm forgot to reset something when they changed my oil. Mike’s didn’t charge me! Do you think that mechanic’s actions will have a butterfly effect?

Mike’s Chevron gets all my business for the rest of my life, I will use this example in my classes and workshops that 100’s of Fairbanksans attend every year. Oh, one more thing… tens of thousands of people like you, have read about that mechanic’s actions in today’s News Miner!

Remember, the butterfly effect works in two directions. Thursday evening I stopped by a fast food franchise off of Airport Way, (not McDonald’s or Wendy’s), for a take-home hamburger and add bacon. God was about to punish me for my evil dietary sin.

When I got home, the hamburger was cold and surprise! No bacon. I took my baconless burger back to see what direction the butterfly effect would take. The cashier disappeared into the back and a few moments later she returned with a chicken tenders cardboard box with three cold slices of bacon in it! I said, “are you kidding me?” She said that her manager told her to give that to me.

Do you think that action by the manager will have a long term affect on this drive-in long term profitability?

I encourage you to clip this column, inspired by Andy Andrews little book, read it often, and share it with your employees, coworkers, and children. Let’s live lives of “permanent purpose” where we realize that everything we do matters, and that every move counts as much as any other.

Charlie Dexter is a professor of applied business emeritus at the UAF Community and Technical College. He can be reached at cndexter@alaska.edu. This column is brought to you as a public service by the UAF Department of Applied Business.