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The Starfish (Transcript)

Once Upon a Business – Episode 79

The Starfish

Lisa Bloom: Once upon a time, there was a man who was used to taking a walk by the sea to contemplate in search for inspiration. Perhaps he was a writer or a storyteller himself. One day, he was walking along the path that led to the beach. He looked down and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself to think of someone who would dance by the water, so he began to walk faster to catch up. As he got closer, he saw that it was a young girl, and the young girl wasn’t dancing, but instead she was reaching down to the shore, picking up something, and very gently throwing it into the ocean.

Hi, I’m Lisa Bloom, the Story Coach, and you’re listening to Once Upon a Business. In each episode, we explore a story, a fairy tale, folk tale, or traditional story so that we can discover the amazing lessons relevant for business and for entrepreneurs.

As the man got closer, he called out, good morning. What are you doing? The young girl paused, looked up and replied, throwing starfish into the ocean. I guess I should have asked, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean? The sun is up, and the tide is going out, and if I don’t throw them in, they’ll die. But, little one, the man said, don’t you realize that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it? You can’t possibly make a difference.

The young girl listened politely. Then she bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves. It made a difference for that one, she said. Her response surprised the man. He was upset. He didn’t know how to reply. So instead he turned away and began to walk back in the direction he had come.

He didn’t walk far because he realized the wisdom of the little girl. He turned around and went back to where the girl was still busy throwing starfish into the sea, and he joined her. Slowly, he bent down, and one by one lifted the starfish and threw them into the water. And after some time, he barely noticed all the other people who had joined them.

This story is inspired by The Star Thrower by Lauren Eiseley. I can’t remember the first time I heard the story, but I was immediately drawn to it. I love the idea that even the smallest actions can have impact, that no matter who you are or what you do, you can make a difference. But let’s begin at the start of the story.

The man was taking his daily walk and, in the distance, he can see a person moving back and forth. He thinks she’s dancing. I love this. I’m a big believer in taking daily walks. I’ve been doing it for years, often twice daily. Sometimes I make phone calls to family or friends, or listen to podcasts. And often, I just watch the passing view and let my thoughts dance.

Since my sweet dog passed away, I find it harder to take my daily walks. I still miss her so much. But this story reminds me of how important it is to be out there watching the world and allowing our thoughts and perhaps our memories to dance. I love how focusing on a story can help me get back to what really matters in my life.

In this story, the man gets closer to the little girl and sees what she’s actually doing. Like most of us, he initially sees the folly in the action she’s taking, overwhelmed by all the starfish strewn across the beach. It’s an example of the all or nothing mindset that we often fall victim to. If we can’t change everything, then why change anything or why even try in the first place? How often do we think about doing something, but let the sense of overwhelm deter us from doing the very thing that we desire?

As a child, I always wanted to write, to tell stories. I remember realizing at a certain point that I wouldn’t be able to write a poem like Yeats or a sonnet like Shakespeare, so what’s the point? And I gave up writing for years. Decades, actually. I think I really believed that it didn’t matter. Who was I to write? And that I could never make a difference. Even now, in the face of enormous political, social, and environmental upheaval, it’s easy to think that your voice, your words, and your heart don’t matter. They won’t make a difference. But this story is such a beautiful reminder that it does matter.

Sometimes it’s just about living in a manner that is true to our hearts. But often, it’s about how we can influence others as this little girl in the story does, and slowly people can come together and positive change can happen. I think about this every day when I recycle my garbage or when I use water sparingly or when I do something wasteful, like dreaming about something I want to buy that I don’t really need. It’s not about feeling guilty or stopping yourself from enjoying life. It’s the opposite.

It’s about what this little girl has in the story. The certainty, the determination, the wisdom that every little action counts. That living in our truth of what matters and the impact we want to have and then taking action on it, perhaps it’s all that matters. Like the beautiful Margaret Mead quote, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

I’m Lisa Bloom, and you’ve been listening to Once Upon a Business. You can find out more about me at That’s Once Upon a Business is part of the Mirasee FM podcast network, which also includes such shows as Just Between Coaches and Soul Savvy Business. To catch the great episodes that are coming up on Once Upon a Business, please like, and follow us on Mirasee FM’s YouTube channel or your favorite podcast player.

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