If given the chance, would you go back and change something about your life? Think twice before you answer this questions, because even the slightest change to the past can have big changes in the outcome of your future.
Here are 35 stories of the 'butterfly effect' in action.
I Demand A Recount
On May 21st 2000, then Governor Jeb Bush signed legislation repealing Florida’s helmet law. In the presidential elections in November of that same year, the vote was so close in Florida that there were multiple recounts. Eventually, Bush’s brother George won a decision by the Supreme Court preventing further recounts, resulting in Al Gore conceding the presidency to George W. Bush. The butterfly effect comes about when you realize that many many motorcycle riders would normally vote for the Democratic candidate, but in this case voted Republican out of gratitude for that one helmet law revocation; enough to swing the presidential election; and the course of the United States ever since.
Don’t Forget The Salad
When my grandmother was a kid she and her family would take a ferry to this beach house island off the coast of long island. Well one year as they were about to get on the ferry they realized that they had forgotten a bowl of potato salad that they were bringing to a picnic once they got the island. So they went back to get it and they had to take the next ferry. Well turns out the ferry they missed sunk and everyone on board died. That potato salad saved my grandmother’s life and thus saved mine. Thanks Potato Salad.
On Monday, September 10th, 2001 my father received a call to let him know his job interview for tomorrow had to be postponed until that Thursday. Because his would-be employer had overbooked his schedule, my father was not in the World Trade Center when it went down.
I have the love of my life because of my 8th grade math teachers bad judgment.
In 8th grade, I was doing unusually well at algebra. So well that my teacher decided to recommend me for freshman year honors algebra. I was surprised because math had never been an interest or a strong suit, I was much better at my English classes.
Anyway, during that ill-fated, one-semester-long attempt at honors algebra, I met a guy (lets call him Nathan) who invited me to be part of his homecoming group, as I knew nobody at the school. One of the girls in that homecoming group (we’ll call her Linda) had a slightly younger sister (we’ll call her Anna) who tagged along for the drop-off at the meet up spot. I only caught a glimpse of Anna, but it burned into my mind. She was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen, but I didn’t get to talk to her. Weeks later I got an invite to Linda’s birthday party, piggybacking on Nathan’s invite, as he was friends with that group already. At that party, I became friends with Anna, and I was in love with her for years before I did something about it.
We’re getting married in March. If that math teacher hadn’t had the terrible judgment to put me in a class I had no business being in, I would never have met anyone in that group, including my future wife.
My sister’s muffler fell off her car on the way to a family function. It wasn’t a big deal, but it meant that she could no longer lend it to my mom later that week as it would be in the shop for repairs.
My mom had already been told she could use the car, and had already made a doctor’s appointment. My uncle volunteered to drive her instead.
This minor change in plans, altered when my uncle and aunt would be able to leave the city by a few hours. They were supposed to go to their farm, but instead, my aunt waited at her mother’s while my uncle was dropping Mom off.
My aunt’s mother had a heart attack and would have been completely alone that afternoon if not for my sister’s car trouble. Because my aunt was there, she was able to call the paramedics and they were able to save her.
You Can Always Quit
A close friend of mine smoked two packs a day. Every day, he’d walk to the 7-11, buy a couple packs, and walk home. He wouldn’t buy cartons for some reason. Liked to change his brand occasionally, I guess.
Anyway, his apartment was right across the street from the 7-11, and he would always take the same stoplight, etc. Smoke a cigarette on the way over, hang out outside the 7-11 to finish it, throw it in the garbage, then walk in, buy two packs, and smoke one on the way home. The guys at the 7-11 knew him by name, loved the guy. He was always friendly, and they knew his schedule. Home from work around 7, come over, grab a couple packs. Sometimes grab a six pack of beer.
So eventually he decides to quit smoking. Has a tough time of it. Tells the guys at the 7-11 he wants to stop smoking and they tell him good luck and encourage him. They encourage him so much they refuse to sell cigarettes to him when he has a moment of weakness.
He freaks out, heads back across the street in anger without waiting for the light, gets clipped by a motorcycle speeding through the intersection.
Motorcycle crashes, the rider is tossed. Ambulances come – both head to the same hospital.
Turns out motorcycle is ridden by a guy who runs his own construction business. Feels pretty bad about it. Talks to my friend about his business – my friend hangs drywall, but doesn’t like his boss. Eventually, rider hires friend at a higher salary. Friend has a good job for a bit.
Two years later friend is doing very well, promoted numerous times, now has a team of guys working for him. Gets a phone call – the boss was in a motorcycle accident, in hospital. Friend rushes there directly. Boss ends up being paralyzed, has some brain damage from a concussion that slurs/slows his speech.
Within a few weeks, the boss has friend running the business for him. Friend is doing great. Business is doing great. Boss decides to sell the business to my friend. He decides to take it over and buy it. Friend now owns a construction business and has grown it a lot. A few years later my friend gets an offer to sell the company to a larger company. Takes the money.
My friend is 42 years old and retired, worth over $10M now. All because he quit smoking. Well, and because he worked his butt off when the opportunity arose. But still – if he hadn’t decided to quit smoking – who knows?
Online dating back in 2012, a random girl with no picture and a very short bio looked at my OKCupid profile, but didn’t message me. I never message somebody with no picture (what are the chances you are attracted to them?!) and on top of that we had a 37% match rating. On a whim I sent her a one-liner.
Tied the knot in 2014 and very happily married. That 10-second message fundamentally altered my life’s path including what continent I’d spend the rest of my life on (Europe vs the US).
My grandpa went off adventuring as a young man with some of his pals: a buddy who boxed and a buddy who played guitar. My grandpa didn’t have any special skill like that, so he washed dishes.
These three guys just ambled across America, boxing, strumming and scrubbing for enough cash to make it to the next town. After a while the adventures tapered off and the other two fellas made their way back to their corners of the world–but my grandpa couldn’t scrounge up the money to get back to Illinois.
So he kept washing dishes for quite some time, hoping for a lucky break. That break came in the form of a wallet he found lying on the sidewalk with enough cash for a bus ticket back home. He wasted no time.
He met my grandma back in Illinois, settled down, started a family. And as a result, I exist.
Sometimes I think about that man that lost his wallet, and how mad he must have been when he realized. I owe him my life.
I can trace my wonderful relationship with my wife to my grandpa getting a “Dear John” letter from his original girlfriend in WWII.
For most of his time in the service, he hadn’t been getting letters from home, and thought his girlfriend had forgotten him. But one day, some mail finally made it through, and he got two things: a breakup letter from his girlfriend, and a letter from his childhood friend. He came back from the war and married his childhood friend, who would become my grandmother.
Later, their son, my uncle joined the Air Force and was deployed to Thailand. His sister, my mother went to visit him, and met a man playing in a band at a club, and married him that week. They had me and my siblings.
My mother and father got divorced, and my mom married a man she met by accident on an AOL chatroom. Because of how unstable our lives were after we moved in with my step-father, I decided to join the army to get out of the house.
My then-girlfriend made me make a MySpace account so we could stay in touch while I was in bootcamp. We broke up but I met another girl on MySpace, and she is now my wife.
The world is truly amazing like this. It really is. And if we all look back at our family lineage we can see the amazingness of factors that came together so we could be here in this world at this very moment in time.
First off let me tell you a little back story. My mom and dad were married in Mexico but soon after their wedding my father immigrated to the U.S. He was a legal resident so he could come and go as he wished yet my mom was not. He would visit, get my mom pregnant and soon after go back to the U.S. to work. Well, while living here he would carpool with a friend to go to work. He never missed a day because he was saving up to bring my mom, my two siblings and I to the U.S. so we could all finally be together.
One cold winter morning he woke up and decided not to go to work. It was heavily snowing out. That never stopped him from going to work yet that day he decided otherwise. It turned out that the guy that he would carpool with got in a car accident and died. It’s scary to think that my dad would have died along with him. We would have never come to live in the U.S. and overall life would be so different for me and my family.
I tossed a coin to choose an answer on test when applying to university. Got admitted by one point. On 2nd year started a small software house with a friend from one of my university courses. 10 years forward, this start-up evolved to quite successful IT company.MarshalByRefObject
Uncalled For Inspection
My mom had uncomfortable digestive symptoms for a year or so that couldn’t be explained. Her doctor ordered a colonoscopy and discovered colon cancer. She quickly had surgery and recovered well.
She decided that it was important that my dad be screened just in case. Turns out he also had colon cancer. Six months after my mom’s surgery, my dad had a portion of his colon removed as well and recovered quickly.
After recovery, my mom still had the same initial symptoms. It turns out she was lactose intolerant. Since both parents had colon cancer and no tell tale symptoms, my mom decided I needed to be screened as well.
So my mom becoming intolerant to lactose later in life lead to me getting an otherwise completely uncalled for colonoscopy at the age of 27.
Boyz 2 Men. They formed in a bathroom at school. A couple of them were in the choir and practicing, another one randomly has to use the bathroom and chimes in.
Where The Wind Blows
In Chad, on the southern outskirts of the Sahara, there’s valley called the Bodélé Depression. It was once a lakebed, and the dry dust in the valley floor is full of nutrient-rich matter from the microorganisms that lived there. From October to March, winds coming in from the east are pinched between two mountain ranges. When the surface winds climb over 20 mph, they start picking up dust from the valley. This dust is blown westward, all the way across Africa, and out over the Atlantic. That dirt—from one small valley in Chad—supplies over 50% of the nutrient-rich dust that helps fertilize the Amazon rainforest.
The Worst Hangover
One of the craziest ‘butterfly effect’ stories to come out of the London bombings is Martine Wright. She was out celebrating London winning the Olympic 2012 bid the night before and was hungover the next day and therefore late for work, because she was late for work she ended up on the tube that was bombed at Aldgate.
She lost both her legs and ended up doing sitting volleyball as part of her recovery. She became quite good and was picked to be part of the Great British team during the London 2012 Paralympics. So, her celebrating London winning the Olympic and Paralympic games lead to her actually being an athlete in that very same event 6 years later.
When One Door Closes
A number of years back, I put in a job application at Walmart. After not hearing back for a long time, I assumed I wouldn’t hear back, so I smoked with some friends. I heard back from them THE NEXT DAY. Of course I failed the drug test. Because of this, I got a job at UPS. Because of that, I worked with this dude. Because of that I met this girl. Because of that we started dating. Now I’m sitting next to my pregnant fiancee, and will be a father in less than two weeks
All Goes Back To OJ
The Buffalo Bills sucking in 1968 created the Kardashians.
If they didn’t suck they wouldn’t have drafted OJ Simpson early. That caused him to move to Buffalo and meet and allegedly kill his wife. Kim Kardashian’s dad was famous for being one of his lawyers, which made her just relevant enough for her sex tape to get noticed, resulting in the Kardashians we have today.
Enjoy Your Trip
I tripped over a rug at work, but caught myself before I fell. I didn’t bother to fix it for whatever reason. An hour later my coworker (she’s an older lady) walked in and tripped on it too but she ended up falling face first into a door. She dislocated her shoulder pretty badly also and needs surgery, she’s been on medical leave for about three months. Last I heard she might also sue the company.
The Next Generation
His name was Fleming, and he was a poor Scottish farmer. One day, while trying to eke out a living for his family, he heard a cry for help coming from a nearby bog. He dropped his tools and ran to the bog. There, mired to his waist in black mulch, was a terrified boy, screaming and struggling to free himself. Farmer Fleming saved the lad from what could have been a slow and terrifying death.
The next day, a fancy carriage pulled up to the Scotsman’s sparse surroundings. An elegantly dressed nobleman stepped out and introduced himself as the father of the boy Farmer Fleming had saved. “I want to repay you,” said the nobleman. “You saved my son’s life.”
“No, I can’t accept payment for what I did,” the Scottish farmer replied, waving off the offer. At that moment, the farmer’s own son came to the door of the family hovel. “Is that your son?” the nobleman asked. “Yes,” the farmer replied proudly.
“I’ll make you a deal. Let me take him and give him a good education. If the lad is anything like his father, he’ll grow to a man you can be proud of.”
And that he did. In time, Farmer Fleming’s son graduated from St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School in London, and went on to become known throughout the world as the noted Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin.
Years afterward, the same nobleman’s son was stricken with pneumonia. What saved him? Penicillin.
The name of the nobleman? Lord Randolph Churchill. His son’s name? Sir Winston Churchill.
One Is Bigger Than The Other
The best example I can think of is JFK. Born with one leg slightly shorter than the other, leading to his famously unstable back. Football injury in college exacerbates back problems. Injury during PT-109 incident in WW2 further worsens back.
Fast-forward to Dallas, Texas. November 22nd, 1963. The first shot that hit Kennedy in the back and exited his neck was survivable. He could have easily ducked out of the way after, but his back brace kept him upright, leaving his head completely exposed.
JFK could have been saved had his one damn leg been the same size as the other.
Yellow Is My Colour
I wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for my grandma wearing a yellow sweater. My grandparents worked in the same building for several years and my grandpa would always walk right past my grandma on his way to his office. One day my grandma decided to wear a yellow sweater to work that day and it caught his eye. He immediately proceeded to ask my grandma out and they’ve been together ever since. She was planning on quitting her job in the next two weeks, so there is a good chance that he never would have noticed her or met her if she hadn’t worn that sweater.
Saturday Night Invite
I had plans with my girlfriend for Saturday night a couple months back. I received a last minute call from my close buddy, inviting me to drive an hour and a half north of where I live to a party. I call my girlfriend, explain the situation, she said “Go ahead and have fun, I’m just filling out online job applications anyway, I’ll just finish doing this. We can just see each other tomorrow on Sunday.” I was so happy and relieved. I promised her a great night and had a couple gifts to give her as well. Things were going so good with this girl. As the night progressed, I text her and ask her how things are going. She said that her friend was trying to drag her out, I encouraged her to go out, so she did.
I text her a couple hours later, no response. I call her, no answer. The next day, I call her a couple times, no answer. I text her, no response. She completely flaked on our date with no explanation. I find out a couple days later that she is in a relationship with a guy she had met that night when her friend dragged her out – and I encouraged her. They are now engaged.
Socially Anxious Vegetarian
I had been a vegetarian for 8 years. In the past year or so, I had been feeling weaker physically, getting lightheaded and dizzy easily. Then one day, I stub my toe which hurt like hell. Being physically weak I couldn’t handle the pain, passed out, hit my head and as a result had a concussion. For me that was the last straw, I did some research to find out why I had been feeling so weak (probably should have seen a doctor though). The symptoms I had indicated a vitamin b12 deficiency, which is very common in vegetarians. It can go unnoticed for years without any symptoms, which is why I hadn’t noticed anything before. I decided to start eating meat again. After a few months, I realized my social anxiety is much less than it used to be. I did some more research, turns out vitamin b12 deficiency can worsen anxiety and depression. If I hadn’t stubbed my toe I would probably still be a weak, socially anxious vegetarian.
I needed a replacement lock in high school for my locker. I went to the office after school to collect it. After I was given my new lock, I went for a 360 jump shot with my broken lock into a far away bin. The lock bounced off a metal pole and hit a female student in the leg. 10 years later, we are married with 2 children.
In the building where our college speech and debate program operated, there was one tiny office through a side hallway with a single door that nobody talked about, and I’d never caught anybody going in there. One day I’m curious and pop in, and discover a man in an office.
That man ran an office for a separate organization, which had temporarily located to our building for the year. I talk to him and get a job offer. I work as his secretary for six months.
Then his mother falls terminally ill, and he moves across the country to care for her. I remained secretary when a new boss comes in.
Two years later, I’m living in Chicago as a grad student. My wife is working full-time for a job she’s overqualified for, puts in 80+ hours per week, and is not enjoying her job. My former boss finds out about this. He is in Texas, and offers my wife a job, and helps me network a job offer as well.
We move across the country to Texas. We buy a house in Texas.
We encounter a homeless couple and offer them the chance to stay in our spare bedroom until they get on their feet.
We later find out from Mr. Homeless that he had decided that he was going to commit suicide (feelings of inadequacy) that evening, but things turned around when they were invited to live with us. He’s gotten help now and starts work next week.
So basically, I’m going to say that if I hadn’t explored a little nook and cranny out of boredom in a building in Kentucky, a man would have killed himself in Texas three years later.
King Of England
In 9th century England, a mom got a book of poetry and told her kids that whoever learned to read it and memorized all the poems first could have the book. One of her sons wins the book. He grows up to be Alfred the Great, king of England. Around the year 880, decided he wanted every young man in England to be able to read books in English, too, but there weren’t many books in English. He had a bunch of books translated into English (and translated a few himself), and had copies sent out to all the monasteries so they could teach people to read. The monks taught people to read in English, the people taught other people to read in English, now here we all are on the internet.
The Donkey’s In Charge
A few years ago I was in East Africa. It was Easter and all of the taxis had taken the day off so my Spanish lover and I had to take a donkey cart from one destination to another. The donkey lost his wits and ran rampantly through the town, so the donkey driver jumped out of the cart. Eventually so did my Spanish lover and I, but unfortunately broke my arm. The best orthopedist in all of East Africa was in this small town but for some reason I waited to get back to the city to seek treatment (hello 3 days with a broken arm + vodka + Asiprin = no). I went to a foreign clinic and was referred to a local doctor who was the best in the city. This man explained to me that my arm was broken and then went on for AN HOUR about how he knew a girl with my same common name who lived in the US and told me all about her life.
I kept saying thank you and that it was a really common name and that there were 300 million + people in the US, it’s a big place. Sorry, don’t know her. Why are people so weird, how would I know this person? Fast forward to three years later, I put an ad on craigslist for a new roommate when I’m living in New Orleans. My boyfriend at the time says, “pick her she looks cool.” She seemed normal so we go with her out of 10 or so responses. She moves in AND IT TURNS OUT SHE’S THE PERSON THE DOCTOR WAS TELLING ME ABOUT THREE YEARS AGO ON WHEN I WAS ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD. NOW SHE’S LIVE WITH ME AND WE ARE IN OUR KITCHEN. I was complaining about my wrist hurting and mentioned that I had broken it. She asked me about it, we found out we had both been in East Africa doing different things. She was working with an orthopedist, and that’s when I realize that she’s the girl.
Crazy small world.
During secondary school, I often went to the tech lab to goof off on the computers during lunch break. One day, I opened up Windows Media Player’s Media Guide and, as a joke, typed in “sonic the hedgehog”, thinking I wasn’t going to find anything. What I did find however, was this particular remix of Sonic 2’s Metropolis Zone. After searching through the site it was from – OverClocked ReMix – and becoming a member, I was a regular poster of the “post funny pictures” thread and, after finding another site with a bunch of material to cross-post, I joined that site’s forum (and I still regularly visit that place too, although the forum itself has dropped in activity over the past couple years, sadly.. it’s been close to 10 years since I opened my account there too).
So, after happily chatting with the people on the forum, I noticed that one of the members had started a personal music project. Now, I was always that “I can do that too!”-kind of kid back then, and since I was a short-time poster on OverClocked ReMix’s forums and had attempted to do one or two “ReMixes” of my own (which completely sucked and I like to think that no-one online has them anymore – I only have a copy of it on my hard drive because I never delete stuff), I figured I’d give it a shot. I picked up my acoustic guitar (incorrectly strung because I play left-handed), made a handful of songs (half of which were half-assed covers) on a crappy headset microphone, and left it at that. I did end up making stuff that was a little more electronic, since I had a sequencer but again, outside of the video I would put on YouTube, nothing came from it.
Then in the beginning of 2009 (so this is about 3-4 years later), I was let go from the job I was working in. Kind of a bummer. So while searching for a new job I remembered that, back when I was studying at college for a computing course, my friend at the time was studying at a nearby college doing a course in music (but had dropped out in the second half). I figured, “Since I like making music (thanks to the guys on the forum giving me the idea to do so), I’ll give it a shot”. One of the modules was to compose a piece of music set to a piece of video, as if we were writing a new soundtrack to it. Well, I fell in love with the idea immediately. After I completed my two years of college, I found out the University in the same city was doing a similar course.
Fast forward three years: I graduated University, I’m a qualified sound engineer, I produced my debut album and have been putting together ideas for the next one, and on top of that, I’m currently in the middle of setting up my own business where I plan on composing music for other clients.
All because the 16-year-old me searched “sonic the hedgehog” on some arbitrary search engine.
One Giant Butterfly Effect
Isn’t basically life one whole butterfly effect? Every little decision you made and every single encounter you had so far led you to where you are now.
_I know of a _guy who didn’t get into art school so he attempted genocide.
I decide to use skip school one day, which my mom allowed. Since I stayed out, my mom decided to stay home and we would go fishing.
It didn’t rain, so we just sat around the house. My Aunt we hadn’t seen in years decided to visit that day.
We take an impromptu trip to her house, where my aunt talks my mom into moving up there.
This event leads to my sister meeting her husband and having 2 kids; my other sister getting raped and having a kid; my mom meeting my stepfather, having a child at 40, and nearly getting murdered by said husband.
All of these major life-changing events can all be traced back to me skipping school.
The World Wars
The biggest example of this is history must be the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. One murder that lead to a world war, and that war fueled the fire for what would be the second world war, which then again helped lead to the cold war.
When I was 3 years old, my father gave me a cheap, plastic toy airplane for Christmas. We didn’t have much money, and my parents did their best. I fell in love with aviation because of that toy. I mean, I’ve been obsessed with it my entire life. This drove me to enlist as a helicopter mechanic and spend 10 years in the army. Last year, my love of aviation drove me to buy a ticket, that I could barely afford, to the annual air show. It was there that I met a representative from a helicopter flight school and learned that I could use my G.I. Bill benefits to pay for flight school. Now, I’m a private helicopter pilot and I’m working towards additional ratings. All because we were really poor when I was a child. My dad ended up giving me the greatest gifts a parent could give a child when he gave me that toy plane… imagination and passion.
Power And Wealth
Got kissed by a girl whose boyfriend was part of a wealthy and powerful family. Lied about me threatening him, got me kicked out of my school, had to go to school an hour away, gained access to advanced classes my school didn’t offer, made it to college because of those classes, got an engineering degree and met my hopefully soon to be fiancé, and am now living a very secure and comfortable life.
The Queen Connection
9/11 wouldn’t have happened if Queen Victoria hadn’t been born with a mutation on one of her X chromosomes. It sounds crazy, but hear me out.
Queen Victoria was born with a mutation that made her a carrier of the blood disorder hemophilia. It was likely a spontaneous mutation, as there is no evidence of it in her maternal line until her birth.
Victoria passes the mutation on to 3 of her 9 children, and from there on to numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She passes it to her daughter, Alice, who passes it to her own daughter, Alexandra. Alexandra marries Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, and passes the faulty gene on to their only son, Alexei.
The family becomes reclusive as a result of their son’s illness. Alexandra forms a close bond with the mad monk, Rasputin, because he seems to be able to manage Alexei’s bleeding. The royal family is already unpopular with the Russian public due to Nicholas being a shitty ruler and being too dependant on his equally shitty advisors. Their reclusiveness is interpreted as indifference towards the Russian people, and their association with Rasputin as seen as general insanity. Although there was a lot of animosity towards them, these things are the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Rasputin is murdered by minor members of the Russian nobility, and soon after the Russian Revolution starts.
Nicholas and his entire family are murdered by revolutionaries. The USSR is born, and becomes one of the world’s superpowers.
The USSR invades Afghanistan in the late 1970s. This leads to all kinds of trouble, and their eventual retreat leads to the Afghan Civil War.
The Taliban and Al Qaeda both come out of the Russian occupation of Afghanistan and the subsequent civil war.
Al Qaeda plots the 9/11 attacks under the protection of the Taliban, and carry them out.
Is it convoluted? Yes, but there is a connection. Without the USSR, there would be no Al Qaeda, and Queen Victoria’s genetic disorder played a huge role in the formation of the USSR.