There’s a story that I think of sometimes, about a boy and his desire to help even when the need seems overwhelming. A boy and his dad are walking on the beach together, enjoying the feel of sand between their toes. They come upon a part of the beach that is covered with starfish. The boy is shocked — shouldn’t these starfish be in the water, where they can live safely?
He starts picking up starfish, one by one, and throwing them into the sea. His dad notices what his son is doing, and says, “Son, there are too many starfish. This won’t make a difference.” The son looks down at the starfish in his hand and tells his dad, “It will, for this one.”
For those of us who are self-employed, we want everyone to like us all the time for everything we do. If I can help one person, instead of everyone, is it still worth it? I think it is, for the same reason the boy in this story keeps throwing starfish back in to the ocean one at a time. I may not be able to make a difference for everyone, but if I can make a difference to one person, that’s worth my time and effort.
Rory Vaden, author of “Take the Stairs and Procrastinate on Purpose,” struggled and labored over writing Take the Stairs. For a while he couldn’t get any traction despite knowing what he wanted to communicate.
I had dinner with him recently and we talked about his writing process for that book in particular. One day while he was working on the book, his brother called him with a problem similar to what he was writing about. Rory helped his brother out with that problem, and later realized that he didn’t need to write Take the Stairs to everyone — he could just write it to his brother. And that’s what he did.
Realizing that he could just write the book to his brother changed Rory’s perspective. He wrote it really quickly after this discovery and the book became very popular.
It may not seem like much, but helping one person — saving one starfish — can make a world of difference. You never know how much of a ripple effect that one helping action will have.