I have a coffee mug that I received years ago from a group called Hope Worldwide. On the navy blue mug was a picture of a starfish with the inscription, “Make A Difference”. The story of the starfish as I recall goes a little somethin’ like this. There was a jogger running down a beach early one morning. In the distance he saw someone curiously stooping over and then as if making throwing motion would heave something into the sea. The jogger was intrigued and as he approached was trying to figure out in his mind exactly what was going on. The person in this unfolding drama continued repetitively to stoop and throw, Finally,the man saw what was happening and stopped the morning jaunt to talk to the lead actor in this movie he had been watching. The mystery was solved. The person he had been observing was standing amidst hundreds and hundreds of starfish that had washed ashore the night before and was throwing them back into the ocean. The jogger said, “You know. There is no way you are going to get all of these starfish off the beach and into the water before they die. You just not going to make much of a difference.” The savior of starfish replied as he threw another one into the sea, “Made a difference to that one” and he continued.
I was pushed from a very early age to excel, to be the best I could be (which Mom, of course, believed meant I would be the best at whatever) and to lead. Frankly, this was a huge stress and pain producer for me for many years. It is a lot of pressure for someone to feel like they must be a Top 10% producer at everything, all the time in any circumstance. There are other ways to relate to the world versus this pressure packed strategy. For example, you can lead from “second fiddle”, you can be satisfied providing labor for a cause in which others provide the leadership and you can be internally satisfied just making a meaningful contribution. Over time and many years ago, I realized that I wasn’t going to be the leader at everything anyway as there are so many talented and incredibly gifted people on the planet. I learned to lead where I was needed to provide governance or inspiration and work for others wholeheartedly on other tasks or projects. I felt a deep sense of pressure release when I “got it”. This can be a real anxiety fighting tactic for lots of people. Today, you don’t have to be in charge though it’s OK if you are. Regardless, it’s OK to just make a contribution.