Starfish and Making A Difference

“A man walking on an ocean beach noticed that a young man was reaching down, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean. As he came closer, he called out, “Good morning! What are you doing?”

The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”

“Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the older man.

To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

Upon hearing this, the man said, “Young man, don’t you realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish along every mile? You cannot possibly make a difference!”

At this the young man bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it landed in the water, he said, “I made a difference for that one.” 1

Each of us has the power within to make a difference in the lives of others. In less than four months some of us will be graduating from this great university. Like you, I’m planning on making 2016 the best year ever. With that in mind, there is a lot of work to do. Between classes, extracurricular activities, and making memories, making a difference might not be so high on goals for the year. But, remember: we all have the same hours in the day as Beyoncé.

If you haven’t made your goals for the New Year, there is never a better time than the present to do so. Goal setting is critical to success in any stage of life. Whether you are graduating, half-way through or just getting used to the cougar lifestyle – consider the following advice:

“The establishment of goals in our lives is of extreme importance; without them we are blind. There is a difference between a wish and a goal. We should make our days count, not just count days (J. Thomas Fyans).”

In order to make your days count, here are ten ways to make a difference.

1. Save money (It will make a difference to your pocket/bank account!) I was a seasonal worker at Nordstrom (a large fashion retailer) but I paid them to work in terms of buying store merchandise. I was surrounded with articles of clothing with the words “TAKE ME” printed on the price tag. Saving money is a disciplined activity. Financial freedom makes all the difference.

2. Use online or mobile services to connect with someone far away or someone you haven’t talked to in years. Try What’s App, Skype or Google Chat and get talking. Reaching out to someone on another continent has never been easier.

3. Read the news. It’s election year and it will make a difference at the voting booth. We need informed voters, not ignorant ones. Make a difference in your community by learning about issues on a local, state, and national level and vote for wise, honest candidates for public office.

4. Learn something new each day. Rather than play “Candy Saga Crush” —no judgment— learn something new like a foreign word (have you heard of DuoLingo?) Pick a new book outside of course study to read for pleasure and expand your knowledge.

5. Write a letter or card and send it or hand deliver it to someone. Just because the holidays have passed does not mean you can’t write a card and deliver it. I’m sure you know people with birthdays. Get them a card.

6. Find a new song or perfect melody that matches your optimism for 2016. Sing happy!

7. Make a mistake AND own it. It’s too easy to blame others and criticize, thinking we would or could do it better. Accept responsibility 100 percent of the time for 100 percent of your actions. This will make a world of difference.

8. Share something on social media – and make a difference in the world with a reference to who you are or what is important to you.


9. Get rid of at least one annoying/bad/off-putting habit. We all have idiosyncrasies. Some are more visible than others. If it is wasting time reading a gossip magazine, chewing food loudly, interrupting people when they speak–focus on it and eliminate it from your conduct. I’m sure you can make at least one person happy, if not yourself.

10. Look for ways to add “thank you,” “I love you,” “please forgive me,” and “I forgive you” to your daily life. No explanation necessary.

If there is one take away from this article: just make someone happy. Cheers to you and 2016!


1  Adapted from Loren C. Eiseley, The Star Thrower (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1979).

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