Category Archives: Dealing with Criticism

Criticism and negative energy is never fun to deal with. Learn how to filter the valuable and constructive feedback from the rest, so you can be better equipped to tackle the challenges ahead.

Exercise Your Ideas with Criticism

This article is the third in a series of five that discusses ways that you can still be successful as an ambitious would-be tech star but cash or Ivy league-credential poor. Click here to see all five strategies to find success with fewer resources.

Muscles grow from pain. For entrepreneurs or would-be CEOs, pain is rejection. Court rejection – safely. Talk to your mentor about your ideas – and ask for a brutal critique. Listen, don’t whimper, and assimilate their wisdom into your business model or your career approach. Listen to your colleagues, especially the ones after your job if you’ve made it to employees. Like wolves after the scent of blood, they will attack your weaknesses and kindly help you see the spots where you need a patch job.

If your mentor ridicules your ideas as grandiose, ask how he or she thinks it actually could work. If they’ve got nothing, come back with your proof of concept – humbly. Let them “discover” how smart you are. Look at the pain of critique as the only path to growth, because it is the quickest and the least crowded.

Thank your critics – sincerely. They are helping you to succeed. What you don’t want to do is abandon your ideas or remodel your soul to something that is socially acceptable because you are swallowing every criticism whole. You need a filter, to discern between the snarkiness of colleagues who are embittered and the full-on attacks of those who sense your potential. If you receive a volley from a colleague who has let it be known that you are an enemy of sorts, then take it to heart and remember to give them zero material to attack.

Having a work enemy doesn’t mean you are a bad person or you did something wrong. It means you are someone worth attacking, and that is a compliment. Bulk up on courage and realize that this is the space where most talented, ambitious women drop out. Understanding the importance of criticism is the original, and swiftest fast track.

Takeaway: Accept criticism as a method of building growing your personal brand, quickly.

Written by Carla Rover
Adapted from Success For The 99%, published in Women 2.0

Image Courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Reasons to Seek Rejection

Pitches, Not Sales

I was out of college for the summer and working as a door-to-door educational material salesman. There is no better introduction to the feeling of rejection than having a door slammed in your face over… and over… and over again.

Every day ended the same — I was exhausted, both physically and emotionally. My sales were low. I wasn’t getting nearly the amount of “Yes”s that I needed.

I was truly on the verge of packing my bags and quitting when I got an idea that totally revolutionized my way of thinking — what if, instead of making my goal about the number of sales, I made it about the number of sales pitches I did every day?

From that moment on, I stopped focusing on getting sales. My single focus was on the goal of doing 30 sales pitches every single day, no matter the outcome. So, even if I did 30 pitches and was rejected all 30 times, I would still accomplish my goal.

But here’s the funny part: I never could get 30 “No”s in a row. If I succeeded in doing 30 pitches, I always got at least one “yes”. I ended up becoming one of the best salesmen… simply by not caring whether I made the sale or not.

Eating “No” for Breakfast

Years later, I took this concept to another level. I had just started managing a young comedian, and was trying to get him bookings in the college market. My goal for each day went beyond simply doing 30 pitches. I was now trying to literally receive 30 “No”s every day. On each phone call, I would actually say, “You wouldn’t be interested in booking a comedian, would you?”

Inevitably, someone would always end up saying, “Yes, actually, we ARE looking for a comedian.” I truly never succeeded in reaching my goal of 30 “No”s per day.

By making rejection my goal, I got to the point where “No”s meant absolutely nothing to me. I was eating them for breakfast. Worrying about rejection became a thing of the past. And when that happened, the “Yes”s started rolling in, one after the other.

Reasons to Seek Rejection

Sounds crazy, right? How in the world could this have possibly worked? Here are five reasons why:

  1. Seeking rejection makes you fearless. If you truly commit your mind to getting 30 “No”s every day in whatever goal you are trying to achieve, whether it’s making a sale or finding an investor, you can train yourself to actually feel happy when you get each rejection.
  2. It forces you to do something. When you take fear out of the equation, it becomes much easier to take action and pick up the phone, write the email, make the sales pitch, etc. Taking action is always better than doing nothing. Even if you’re doing it wrong, just do it so wrong that it looks right!
  3. It will make you stronger in all areas of your life.
    This concept goes beyond your business. If you get good at seeking rejection, that fearlessness and boldness is going to sneak into every other area of your life as well. Pretty soon, you’re going to become a fearless friend, a fearless parent, a fearless spouse. You can become the person who steps up and takes bold action.
  4. You will feel massively motivated. You know what happens when you force yourself to do something 30 times in one day? You end up feeling crazy productive. You know what happens when you feel crazy productive? You end up doing even more! Real motivation is always the result of intense action and productivity. Motivation doesn’t lie within a self-help book; it lies within you.
  5. You’ll get rich. History has proven this again and again. Show me a successful person who didn’t spend years trying things that ended up being massive failures and I’ll show you a dancing unicorn. Steve Jobs was ousted from Apple. He came back and made them the most valuable company in the world. Michael Jordan got cut from his eighth grade basketball team. He won six titles in the NBA. You know the stories. Why can’t the same be true for you? It’s time to believe.

Whether you seek it out or not, rejection is going to find you. Why not meet it head on? If you’re ready to succeed tomorrow, you better start by failing today. What 30 “No”s will you find before the sun goes down?

Written by Robert D. Smith

About our guest contributor: Robert D. Smith, known affectionately to those around him as THE Robert D, is a leader in providing life-changing entertainment resources, a global customer service rep, and a favorite uncle.

For more than three decades, he has managed and overseen the career of Andy Andrews, a three-time New York Times best-selling author and in-demand speaker. He has served as a private consultant to numerous best-selling authors, speakers, entertainers, and cutting-edge organizations, educating them on the unique methods he has employed to sustain massive success and growth across multiple industries for the past 30+ years.

His new book, “20,000 Days and Counting”, shows you how to maximize every moment and live purposely with tremendous certainty of who you are and what you are here to do.

Image courtesy of pakorn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Types of Possible Attacks From Critics

In their book Buy-In: Saving Your Good Idea from Getting Shot Down, John Kotter and Lorne Whitehead provide a virtual one-stop reference resource for turning congenital saboteurs or mere critics into true believers. Whitehead and Kotter’s advice for neutralizing naysayers and getting buy-in is counterintuitive. “It is much more effective to engage your attackers and draw them in than to draw a line and confront them,” says Whitehead, who is Leader of Education Innovation at the University of British Columbia. “People, and I mean naysayers, will respect you more if you respect them, namely by acknowledging them and their criticism.

They also list 24 attacks that are the most common and offer the response to each that is likeliest to defang an attacker. They group the set into three broad categories:

Category One: “We don’t need your idea, because the ‘problem’ it ‘solves’ doesn’t exist.”

Attack example: “We’ve never done this in the past, and things have always worked out okay.”

Response: “That’s true. But surely we have all seen that those who fail to adapt eventually become extinct.”

The response is simple, accurate, and basic. It essentially says that life evolves and to continue to succeed we must adapt. Examples will help your case.

Category Two: “Okay, there is a problem but your idea is not the solution.”

Attack example: “You’re abandoning our traditional core values.”

Response: “This plan is essential to uphold our traditional values.” An effective response is based on a simple insight. Much more often than not, a really good idea upholds key values in the face of change. For example, “Yes, we propose advertising for the first time.

This is a good idea because it’s needed to help us grow, which is essential to offering more jobs and promotion opportunities, which is what our founders really cared about. We’re not abandoning our traditional values, we’re upholding them.”

Category Three: “Okay, there is a problem, and this is a good proposal to deal with the issue, but you’ll never make it work here. It’s too difficult to understand.”

Attack example: “Too many of our people will never understand the idea and inevitably they will not help us make it happen.”

Response: “That’s not a problem. We will make the required effort to convince them. It’s worth the effort to do so.”

“Whatever you do,” cautions Whitehead, “don’t be defensive. Always, always engage.”

Written by Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute

Adapted from “Responding to Naysayers and Skeptics” Leader to Leader. 60 (Spring 2011).

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Don’t Let Anyone Tell You You’re Not Good Enough

There’s a letter that hangs on my wall. It has hung on the wall of every office I’ve had for the past 13 years.

See, in the spring of 1998, I learned that the girl I was head-over-heels for would be working at the university during the summer. A summer job in Sackville then became my mission. The most promising looked to be as a graphic designer for the student union. Having spent plenty of time in high school working on the campus paper and the yearbook, I breezed through the technical requirements in the interview. It was then they threw me a curveball.

“What kind of experience do you have in fundraising?” They asked unexpectedly. It turns out they had added the coordination of a fundraising campaign to the job description. I had never been good at fundraising, and never had a whole lot of interest in doing it. I did however have a whole lot of interest in her, so despite my misgivings about having to run a fundraiser, I accepted the job when they decided to offer it to me.

It was a decision that completely changed my life.

On the May long weekend of 1998, I arrived in London, Ontario for the national conference of Canada’s biggest student fundraiser: “Shinerama: Students’ Fighting Cystic Fibrosis”. Nothing has been the same for me since. That weekend introduced me to a passion for fundraising I didn’t know I had, and a new realization about leadership: credibility as a leader doesn’t come from power, money, influence or fear. It comes from the ability to make those around you feel like they are better because you are a part of their life. If you can make people feel as if they are capable of more when you are around, they will follow you to the ends of the earth. The amazing people I met that weekend, and for the 13 years that have followed, opened my eyes to the extraordinary things that can happen when you put youth, energy and friendship together.

I returned to Mount Allison dedicated to reinvigorating a Shinerama Campaign that had been the worst in the country the year before. Somehow, we smashed the campus’ previous fundraising record and raised more than $15,000 – and became the number one per-capita fundraising school in the country. The rest is history.

Which brings us back to the letter that hangs on my wall. It’s dated March 13th, 1998, and was sent to me by the VP Operations of the Mount Allison Students’ Union. It reads in part:

Dear Drew,

Thank you for your application for the position of Publications Editor and Shinerama Director for the upcoming summer. While we were impressed with what you have to offer, we do not feel that you are the proper fit for the role at this time…

They initially turned me down for the job. They told me that I wasn’t good enough to run the worst Shinerama campaign in the country. The man to whom they offered the position decided to accept another job on campus, and when he did so, they settled for their second choice. Me.

I’ve spent 13 years with the campaign and have helped them raise millions of dollars. At one point I was in charge of coordinating all 65 campaigns and 35,000 volunteers. And almost every day of that journey I’ve looked at a letter saying someone thought I wasn’t good enough to run the worst campaign in the country. That letter is there to remind me that anyone else who tells me I’m not good enough is probably just as wrong as that hiring committee 13 years ago.

You are going to be told you’re not good enough a lot in your life. You’re going to be told that you’re not good enough for jobs you want, for awards you think you deserve, for relationships you want to have. You’re going to be told your ideas aren’t good enough, that they’re not thought through well enough, that they’ve been tried before.

Every time someone tells you you’re not good enough, you have two choices: believe them and lower your expectations, or simply tell yourself that they’re wrong. Don’t disrespect them or hate them or decide they aren’t worth your time. Simply choose to believe that they’re wrong. You may not be as lucky as I am – you may not get the chance to actually prove it, but that doesn’t mean that they’re right.

Why should you listen to anyone who tells you what you can or cannot do? Because they’re experts? Perhaps they’re experts like Charlie Chaplin was when he said, “The cinema is only a fad. It’s canned drama. What people really want is flesh and blood on the stage.”

Perhaps they’re experts like Albert Einstein when he observed, “There is absolutely no evidence that atomic energy could ever exist. It would mean the atom would have to be smashed at will.”

You are the world’s biggest expert on you. The foremost authority and the final word on what you are capable of, and the validity of your dreams, is you. When they say you’re not good enough… they’re wrong.

Hey… nobody’s perfect.

Written by Drew Dudley, Nuance Leadership
Adapted from Just Assume They’re Wrong, a piece written for SoJo

Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Responding to Naysayers and Sceptics

Like so many of us, you have probably been there before, in a meeting room, standing in front of your colleagues, PowerPointing your way to getting buy-in on a business plan. You’re just about to start the wrap-up when the saboteur strikes: “But we tried that two years ago and it didn’t get us anywhere. And you think it’s going to work now, in this economy?”

At best, the saboteur is a sceptic, but at worst — as is usually the case — you’re facing a naysayer, someone who makes a habit of shooting people down, whether in a business meeting or at the local pub. “The role of a naysayer is a natural one,” says Lorne Whitehead. “He or she is out there in all parts of society. It’s simple human nature.”

Whitehead is the-coauthor of Buy-In: Saving Your Good Idea from Getting Shot Down. Along with Harvard Business School professor John Kotter, Whitehead has written a virtual one-stop reference resource for turning congenital saboteurs or mere critics into true believers. Whitehead and Kotter’s advice for neutralizing naysayers and getting buy-in is counterintuitive. “It is much more effective to engage your attackers and draw them in than to draw a line and confront them,” says Whitehead, who is Leader of Education Innovation at the University of British Columbia. “People, and I mean naysayers, will respect you more if you respect them, namely by acknowledging them and their criticism.

  • Don’t push the troublemakers out; let them in and allow them to shoot at you. Letting people in gets their attention, and when people pay attention their minds are engaged and you can get the intellectual and emotional commitment you need.
  • Don’t respond by giving a speech or dumping loads of data. Keep your response short so that minds don’t have time to wander. Use common sense, not lists or data, and speak clearly, using simple, direct language.
  • Don’t get personal, no matter how badly you want to. “Disrespect is negative,” says Whitehead, “and even though some attackers are narcissists or bullies, if you respect them you will draw an audience emotionally to your side.”
  • Keep your eyes on the whole group and don’t get hung up on the attacker. You’re not trying to win over those who want to shoot down a good idea; you’re pursuing the majority of those that determine whether you will win or lose.
  • Don’t try to wing it. Prepare well and try to anticipate attacks. If the stakes are high you may benefit from holding a small brainstorming session to review and prepare for the different types of attacks you think are possible. And don’t ever become defensive.

Written by Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute
Adapted from “Responding to Naysayers and Skeptics” Leader to Leader. 60 (Spring 2011).

Kotter and Whitehead also list 24 attacks that are the most common and offer the response to each that is likeliest to defang an attacker. They group the set into three broad categories, as outlined in this article.

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Revolutions and Dictators

Revolution has sprung from oppression since the beginning of recorded history. Over and over again, dictators and despots, armies and empires have sought to deny opportunity and power to others. Again and again, people have come together to claim that which they believe has been denied.

Revolution has also sprung from innovation: new knowledge and tools making possible that which never was before. With the steam engine came the industrial revolution; the advent of contraception was a major part of the sexual revolution; and the silicon chip made possible an information age that shapes our lives in ways unimaginable even 15 years ago.

Driving revolution is the idea that at its end something new will emerge: a new social structure, new forms of understanding, and in many cases, an entirely new country. The shoving off of a dictator has often given millions of people opportunities for freedom and happiness – and for new paths to fulfillment – that could not even have been considered before.

But what of our own private dictators? The internalized oppression each of us creates for ourselves? We all carry with us these private dictators – forces that deny us happiness and coerce us into behaviour which pulls value from our own lives and the lives of those around us. These dictators are of our own making – existing nowhere but in our own minds, but driving behaviour that keeps them all too real for us.

You know these private dictators, these personal despots. They’re the voice that tells you you’re fat. They’re the voice that tells you to settle for less in your relationships; to stay in the job you hate because security is more important than happiness; to let others build themselves up by tearing you down. They were there in high school when you spread the rumour or laughed at someone being mocked because you were just glad you weren’t the target. They were there in university when you chose courses based on what would make the most money rather than what would ignite your passions.

But while we create our own private dictators, where are our own personal revolutions?

Written by Drew Dudley, Nuance Leadership
Adapted from Overthrow the Dictator in Your Life

Image courtesy of Master isolated images / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Professors and Grades: the Myth and the Reality

During a workshop at one of Canada’s more well-known business schools, we were discussing a hypothetical situation in which they had to choose between turning in a friend they saw cheating on a test or letting the indiscretion slide. A student commented, “Of course I’d turn him in. Friendship is important, but if the professor found out, he could destroy my career.”

Intrigued by this belief, I asked the student exactly how a professor could destroy his career.

“He could make sure I don’t get a good job,” he replied.

No. No, he can’t.

The amount of influence any one professor can have on your career is minimal. Success in your career isn’t determined by how well you demonstrate what your professors taught you. It is determined by how well you demonstrate what your employers teach you.

Like the fictional “permanent record” we worried about in elementary and high school, I worry that too many students today have blown up the “professor” to some sort of mythic status. They’ve become convinced that what their professors think of them is somehow more important than what they think of themselves.

Let me share with you something I’ve discovered in my years in higher education: professors are as full of crap as anybody.

I’ve never understood why we see the assessment of university professors as an accurate assessment of how we’ll do in the world outside of university. After all, a large percentage of professors have never lived in a world outside of the university. They did their undergrad, took a Masters, finished a Ph.D., and took a teaching position somewhere along the way.

Given that, why do we see universities as the best way to prepare for the “real world”? If I’m going to be taught to fly, I’d prefer it be by someone who had been in a plane before.

Don’t misunderstand me – I am not saying that university professors are not talented at what they do, or that their assessments have no validity at all. However, the assessments of most professors are an assessment of how well a student might be a doctor, lawyer, architect, engineer, researcher, professor or some other profession where the ability to read and regurgitate is tremendously important. For many of the students in Canadian universities, that assessment is pointless. Many of you are at university (or heading there) because you’ve realized that somehow four expensive years of university have become mandatory to get a job where a far better “education” would have been four years on the job. You’re not alone: we’ve got thousands of young people paying for the privilege of being evaluated on how well they could do something they have no interest in doing.

It is a modern reality that people who have every ability necessary to do a job well without a university degree still need to pay for that degree so that someone will give them the chance to prove it. One of my missions in life is to let those of you whose brilliance and talent will not be adequately measured or valued at university know that you are not “less than” those around you. I want to let you know that professors and transcripts don’t control your life.

I want to let you know that regardless of what you hope to do in life, you should work incredibly hard to make your grades extraordinary. Right or wrong, your grades do play a significant role in opening doors for you. As such, your transcript is an incredibly important part of your life.

However, your transcript is not a measure of your worth as a human being. My concern is that too many young people have come to believe that it is. I’m worried that there are simply too many extraordinary people out there believing that because they are a “C” student, they are somehow a “C” person.

So remember that your grades are a measure of how well you gave a specific professor (or in our more “prestigious” educational institutions, how well you gave a specific TA) what they wanted. That’s it. It’s one person’s opinion.

And professors are as full of crap as anybody.

No professor can keep you from getting a good job, but YOU can by failing to become someone willing to think for yourself, stand up for what you believe in, or by becoming someone who is more interested in how you look on paper than in what you can actually do to make an impact on the people you meet, the organizations you work for, and the communities you are a part of.

Grades are the currency controlled by professors, but before you start to believe it’s the only currency that matters, remember that your grades will get you your first job interview. After that, it’s who you are and what you can do that determines your success.

I challenge you to get up, stand in front of a mirror, and talk for as long as you can about your grades. Then I want you to look at your watch and figure out what you’re going to do with the other 55 minutes of your first job interview. What are you doing and learning right now that will fill that other 55 minutes? To me, a real education focuses on “the other 55 minutes.” Your professors control five minutes of that first conversation with an employer. You control the other 55. Why would you sell out anything you believe for a professor? Why would you ever believe they have more influence in your life and long-term success than you do?

It seems to me that’s not giving yourself enough credit for the control you have over your own life.

But of course, it’s important to acknowledge one thing…

I’m as full of crap as anyone else.

Written by Drew Dudley, Nuance Leadership
Adapted from Professors and Grades: the Myth and the Reality

Image courtesy of jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Emotional Separation From Your Ideas

Often we feel as though our ideas are a part of us – we created them, and as such we see in them a piece of ourselves.

As a result, when someone suggests even the slightest change in what we have conceived (let alone when they tell us they don’t like it at all), it is sometimes difficult not to feel as if they have found fault with us personally. That feeling pulls our focus away from the validity of the feedback we receive and its effectiveness in strengthening our idea, and instead focuses our thoughts and energy on to how we can defend our original idea.

This defence mechanism is instinctive, and renders profoundly difficult the development of a key leadership skill: the ability to separate yourself emotionally from your ideas.

The ability to recognize that other people’s perceptions of your ideas (often identified through their desire to modify them in some way) is not a reflection on their perceptions of you as a person is a trait all of the most effective leaders I’ve ever known share. If you want to instantly make yourself a more productive member of teams, accept the fact that once you present an idea to the group, it is no longer “yours”. Instead, it is something the group as a whole has a responsibility to make stronger and use most effectively. As such, you aren’t responsible for defending your ideas, you’re responsible for working together to change them as necessary to meet the team’s goals and the realities of the situation.

However, even those of us who have been consciously working at separating ourselves emotionally from our ideas fail to do it effectively sometimes. It can be extremely hard to do when you’ve already poured a great deal of work into the idea, when time is running short, or if you don’t particularly like the person who is suggesting a change. As such, I have begun utilizing a particular mental perspective I have found makes the process a little bit easier.

When you offer an idea or a suggestion, and someone reacts by suggesting a small or large change, concentrate not on how to defend your original idea but on the fact that something you have done has inspired something in someone else.

This perspective shifts your focus from the perception that you have failed at something (namely presenting an idea that is without flaws), to the fact that you have accomplished something (namely generating a new idea in the mind of someone else). At that point, ask yourself honestly, “what does that person’s idea/suggestion inspire in me?” This moves the focus of the group from the idea that you are a group of individuals evaluating each other’s personal ideas to the idea that you are a collective production unit for the strongest ideas possible.

In other words, let go of the perception that “we are competing with one another for the right idea” and replace it with the belief that “we are inspiring one another to the best idea.”

It can be a profoundly powerful (and productive) shift in how the group perceives itself.

Written by Drew Dudley, Nuance Leadership
Adapted from Idea Creation as Idea Marketing, Part 3: “Learn to let go”

Go to Part 2 on refining your ideas, if you missed it, or continue on to Part 4 to learn how to identify the influential people who can help you take your project further.

Image Courtesy of basketman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Don’t Let Pessimists Control You

Open Letter to Pessimists:

Dear Pessimist,

I know it’s not okay to push my ideas on other people. I know not everyone thinks the same, but lately, it’s been hard holding my tongue. Every once in awhile I run into you – in the street, at a party or in the gym and I’m amazed you’re still holding on. I wonder from where you get your energy.

This week, you came to visit me personally – Friday night, unannounced, over a few pints of beer and the bitter taste of our contrasting worldviews has not yet left me.

We started to talk about Haiti and you said, “Nobody can help Haiti. There is nothing we can do for them and just because I don’t want to travel down there and build a house for them doesn’t make me a bad person.”

“Well, you could donate money,” I suggested. And you jumped across the table – a much angrier reaction than I had anticipated.

“Haiti doesn’t need money,” you snarled. Well, maybe you didn’t snarl, but that’s the way I imagine it now. After it’s all said and done, I picture you more beast than human. “We can’t do anything for them. Their population is growing well beyond their resource capacity and it doesn’t help they live in an earthquake zone. The only thing we can do for Haiti is impose a one child rule like they did in China or other countries need to open their borders and accept all Haitian refugees. Money won’t do anything. Education will take too long – we don’t have time for that. Going down there personally just makes things worse. They need to move and they need to stop having babies. The money never gets where it’s supposed to go anyways.”

I attempted to politely disagree. “Regardless of the level of poverty, these are basic human rights. You can’t ask someone to stop having children and you can’t kick someone out of the only place they’ve ever known as home. You can educate them so that they realize on their own the benefits having less children and pursuing higher education, but you can’t force them to do so…Yes, that will take time, but it’s a better option than just flat out abandoning them and declaring all is lost. Why should we lose our empathy when objectives become too daunting?”

I was worried about my friend, who was sitting next to me. He wants to go work for an NGO in Africa this summer and there you were, offhandedly insulting his New Year’s resolution and damning the entire nation of Haiti. I didn’t want to lose him; I didn’t want to discourage him before he even began the long fight to do good. Thus, before you even had the time to make your rebuttal, I threw back my favorite piece of ammunition: starfish.

The starfish story is a story that was told to me by two of the most inspiring, little-known change-makers on earth, just after I went to the Third World for the first time and left feeling a little sick about the enormity of our “eradicate poverty” task. It goes a little something like this:

There once was a little boy who was walking along the beach when he came across thousands of starfish that had washed up on shore and were now dying under the hot, afternoon sun. Immediately, he began picking up the starfish and throwing them back into the water, one by one.

A short time later, an older man came by, saw what the little boy was doing, and shook his head. “Don’t waste your time,” he said. “There are so many starfish that you’re hardly going to make a difference.”

To which the little boy picked up another starfish, chucked it back in the water, and replied, “I bet you I made a difference to that one” and returned to his work.

You said nothing, but it was obvious you were not impressed. The bar grew quiet, our pints were empty, and we awkwardly turned to tamer conversation. I know I’ll run into you again, but it’s my hope that over the years it will be less and less because the story of the starfish will have spread and everyone will value the importance of making a difference to one just as much as to all of them.

Written by Ashley
Adapted from Open Letter to Pessimists
Posted by SocialEarth

Image Courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net