Go ahead… Toss
By Paul Shearstone
There is an old story that tells of a man
walking along a beach when up ahead in the distance, he catches
sight of another man
acting strangely. As he gets closer, he notices the man is picking
things up from the sand and throwing them into the water.
Upon reaching him,
he sees the objects being tossed are starfish, stranded on shore
by the retreating tide.
Curious about his intentions,
the first man asked, “What are you doing?”
“I am saving these starfish,” he replied. “They
in the sun until the tide returns.”
Totally taken aback
by this statement, the first man said, rather indignantly, “Aren’t
you being a little silly? Do you not realize
how many hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of starfish
there are in the sea and that by throwing a few back will make
absolutely no difference at all?”
The second man said
nothing but was unfazed. He picked up yet another starfish and
threw it out into the waves.
for a moment, then looked back the first man and said, “I
made a difference for that one.”
It is an old story
but a good one and it still serves to remind us — or maybe just me — of
several important life lessons.
Given the unrest
in the world of late and the day-to-day pressures, people endure;
it comes as no surprise
that too many of us have
become conditioned to seeing our lot in life from a jaded point
of view. We learn to accept the notion that we, as individuals,
have no real control and/or that in the big scheme of things,
what we do or influence, doesn’t really matter. As a result,
tend to retreat psychically, so as not to deal with conditions
we believe beyond the realm of our control.
The net result is
we act in ways in keeping with a defeatist’s
outlook, or to borrow a phrase, to see the glass Half Empty. Almost
everybody can think of people they know that fit this profile — perhaps
even they themselves.
The starfish story serves to underscore the
importance of a basic human psychological need for people to find
balance and purpose
in their daily life.
One could argue
about who benefited more, the starfish or its benefactor. At
the risk of sounding a little ‘out there’,
ponder the question; in this example, whose life was made better?
An answer might be that the starfish’s life was saved but
the man, albeit on a small scale, found ‘Purpose’ and
the feeling of satisfaction that comes from doing something good
Although it would
be easy to dismiss this observation as being a little academic
or foolish, psychologists,
tell us that genuine feelings of — in this case, doing something
simple but good — automatically influence one’s physiological
chemistry. Simply put, when we feel good, our body produces endorphins
that stimulate our brain and vital organs, which in turn, helps
promote better health, pleasure and improved life-balance. We
have all heard the expression, It is better to give than receive.
Granted, the starfish
example is a simple one, but the premise or law still holds true
for human interactions
more complex. For
those who possess ‘Purpose’ — even marginally — find
more in control than out. The fact is, they cannot be directionless
if they have a ‘Purpose’.
Many find purpose
in their job or career. They do not dread the work they do; they
embrace it and benefit
from it. In the workplace,
they are a pleasure to be around. People, who find purpose in
family, are apt to achieve enjoyment, satisfaction and pleasure
in their own life — but only in the pursuit of their purpose,
achieved only by serving others — which brings us to perhaps
most important point.
A generation ago,
purpose-based coaching was more structured, finding bedrock in
the traditional family unit,
religious institutions. We were all taught the Golden Rule: “Do
unto others”. Sadly, however, we now live in different times.
The traditional family unit has changed. It might even be broken.
Religious institutions play less of a role with a greater number
of people and today’s work environment is more challenging,
and stress-filled than ever before.
The result? Near
epidemic numbers of people suffering from depression and health
related breakdowns. A world
filled with too many individuals
bereft of passion, purpose and self-fulfillment. As Mazlow once
said, “Most people live lives of quiet desperation”.
Therefore, what can we learn from the starfish
scenario? Two things.
- The act of saving the starfish, in the
end, brought greater benefit to the man than the starfish. “It
is in the GIVING or
the doing that we help ourselves!” Our reward? Purpose… A
- The Contagion Factor: Although the starfish
story clearly demonstrates a moral, benevolence and wisdom,
it stops short of
casting light on the ultimate outcome from such an activity.
It is no stretch to believe that the second man may have been
In so doing, he may reevaluate his own jaded outlook, and wish
to emulate the kindness he’d witnessed.
know that an unselfish act serves as its own lesson and motivates
others to react in kind. It is infectious!
It is also circular
or better put, “What goes around, comes around”. It
it, renewed purpose, balance, hope, health and satisfaction.
So go ahead… “Toss a Starfish!” •
© 2004 Paul Shearstone
About the Author
Paul Shearstone aka The ‘Pragmatic Persuasionist’ is
one of North
America’s foremost experts on Sales and Persuasion. He
founder and President of The CFIDS Foundation of Cda Inc [A registered
Charity]. As an International Keynote Speaker, Author, Writer,
Motivation, Corporate Ethics, / Time & Stress Management,
Specialist, Paul enlightens and challenges audiences as he informs,
motivates and entertains.
To comment on this article or to book Paul for your next successful
event we invite to contact Paul Shearstone directly @ 416-728-5556
or 1-866-855-4590 www.success150.com or firstname.lastname@example.org www.paulshearstone.ca. 11/29/04