Shelling along the edge of a sea, a man catches sight of a young woman who appears to be engaged in a ritual dance. She stoops down, then straightens to her full height, casting her arm in an open arc. Drawing closer he sees that the beach around her is littered with starfish and she is throwing them one by one into the sea. He lightly mocks her, “There are stranded starfish as far as the eye can see, for miles up the beach. What difference can saving a few of them make?” Smiling, she bends down and once more tosses a starfish out over the water saying serenely, “It certainly makes a difference to this one.”
This parable, recounted from one of my favorite books The Art of Possibility by Roz & Ben Zander is the reason I chose to develop this blog. It deftly describes the essence of making a difference. It turns the abstract concept of something like world peace into the more possible action of being at peace with your neighbor.
This column is about starting a dialog around things that I feel appeal to that sense of wanting to make a difference; whether it is the broad topic of leadership, the esoteric thoughts around higher ground thinking or the detail of overcoming a small obstacle.
I’ve come to realize that some of my favorite moments in life have started when simply connecting with another person about something we were both passionate about. Since I am writing about my passion, I have at least made it possible to find a starfish. But finding a starfish is only the start.
In the original, much darker story of the stranded starfish, called the Star Thrower by Loren Eiseley it becomes clear the dual motivation for tossing the starfish back into the sea.
“But we, pale and alone and small in that immensity, hurled back the living stars. I could have thrown in a frenzy of joy, but I set my shoulders and cast, as the thrower in the rainbow cast, slowly, deliberately, and well. The task was not to be assumed lightly, for it was men as well as starfish that we sought to save.”
So while this column is to help find starfish, it is equally critical to improving the star thrower.
If you would like another take on the Starfish theory, check out Andy Stanley’s incredible message One, Not Everyone.