You may have heard of the starfish story, inspired by the writings of American educator Loren Eiseley. It goes something like this:
In the calm after an awful storm, an old man took a walk on the beach. As he walked, he came upon a starfish that had washed up onto the shore – then another, and another, and then dozens, and then hundreds more. The storm had ravaged the coast and swept them all onto dry land.
After walking past countless starfish, the old man found a young girl picking up the sea creatures one by one and throwing them back into the ocean.
He laughed to himself. “What are you doing?” he asked her, “There are thousands of starfish on this beach. You couldn’t possibly save enough of them to make a difference.”
The young girl paused for a moment, eyeing the starfish in her hands, before tossing it back into the sea. “I made a difference for that one!”
One for All: Making a Difference by Adding Value
With Christmas less than one week away and Hanukkah already underway, many of us are thinking of others – it’s the nature of the season. Every winter, songs regale us with tales of cozy evenings in with loved ones. We spend hours trying to find the perfect presents for our friends and family – and overall, Americans will give hundreds of billions of dollars to charitable organizations.
But the story of the starfish reminds us that our influence extends beyond the festivities. We pass by people every day who we have the ability to impact. No matter the time, place, or context, we have tremendous value to add to others.
In the spirit of the season, here are 4 everyday ways you can reach out to anyone to let them know their value.
1. LEARN TO ASK GREAT QUESTIONS.
In his leadership guidebook Good Leaders Ask Great Questions, John Maxwell writes, “Questions–for forty years I’ve asked questions on the subject of leadership. You might think that as time has gone by, and I’ve received thousands of answers, questions have become less important to me. But the opposite has been true. The more questions I ask, the more valuable I recognize them to be.”
And not just for the insight we receive in the response.
Asking a question is an effective way to connect. In asking, you reveal a desire to know what they know – to learn what they’ve learned – to see the world like they see it. You show that you value their perspective.
Here are some insightful questions you can ask to get to know others:
- What is the best advice that has ever been given to you? Their answer gives them the chance to tell some of their story.
- If you could solve one problem in the world, what would it be? In asking this, you learn what causes they are passionate about.
- What accomplishment are you most proud of, and why? This question uncovers what they admire.
- Who do you know that I should know? This allows you to make new connections and see what new directions would be good for your growth.
2. LET PEOPLE KNOW YOU NEED THEM.
“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
Sir Isaac Newton was 32 years old when he wrote these words in a letter to Robert Hooke. By then, Newton had already made a name for himself inventing the reflecting telescope and developing a system of thought around fluxions, the precursor to modern calculus.
But his work did not exist in a vacuum.
He could only accomplish his work by building on top of those who came before him, like Dutchman Hans Lipperhey, whose refracting telescope design Newton sought to improve, and Greek mathematicians whose ideas Newton incorporated into his own.
Life is not a solo sprint – it is a full-on team sport. We can’t win just by being the best at whatever we do. If we have a big dream, it’s going to require a big team. And when we let others know how crucial they are, they know that we see their value.
3. DO FOR OTHERS WHAT THEY CAN’T DO FOR THEMSELVES.
Newton illustrated that it’s impossible to be entirely self-made. We all eat fruit from trees we did not plant.
But that’s just as true of others as it is of us – they will need you in order to accomplish their goals. You can offer them unique value because you have…
- met people they haven’t met yet,
- learned information they haven’t learned yet,
- mastered skills they haven’t mastered yet,
- been to places they haven’t been yet,
- gained insights they haven’t gained yet,
- had ideas they haven’t had yet,
- read books they haven’t read yet,
- experienced things they haven’t experienced yet,
- seen value in things they haven’t seen value in yet, and
- grown in ways they haven’t grown yet.
How can you act as a resource for someone else’s dream?
4. BE THE FIRST TO HELP.
Think about the first person who believed in you. Whether they’re a parent, a mentor, a teacher, a manager, or a friend, they stand out, don’t they?
Some people will support you only because you have something to offer them. Some will help because it’s how they make their living; others, because you’ve done the same for them. But the first one to help set themselves apart by offering their time or talent willingly – without any obligation.
How can you be that “first responder” for someone else?
Are you setting yourself up for personal growth in 2023?
Growth is the only guarantee that the future will improve – it is the foundation for and starting place of true, lasting change.
Our goal at Maxwell Leadership is to make that growth possible. Our Maxwell Leadership app gives you the tools, community, and expert guides to help build your plan for growth. The app offers tailored digital content to enhance your strengths and your weaknesses to guide you to become the greatest version of yourself, no matter where you are on your personal growth journey.