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Save Your First Starfish – Ignite Passion with a Good Story

By May 21, 2018January 23rd, 2022No Comments
yellow, live starfish at the shore with the waves and water just covering the starfish sets the mood for telling a great business story

I’d like to share an experience about one of my favorite stories, the Starfish Story. I was recently asked to assist with the launch of a new marketing initiative. It was a premium offering targeted to a small segment of customers. The offer would be designed around offering our customers an opportunity to join a movement to address a global environment-related problem they cared deeply about.

My role was to inform and excite our customer-facing associates about this new initiative. I said to myself, “If I could ignite their passion for helping others to improve their lives, they would, in turn, ignite the passion in our customers. And then the recruiting of future customers to join the movement would be that much easier.”

The new marketing initiative was designed to solve a global problem. The problem was widespread, and there were many causes. I anticipated that a common thought the associates would have was, “How could one person possibly make an impact?”

How could one person possibly make an impact?

To address the “how can I make an impact?” thinking and ignite their passion, I knew I needed a story with a clear business message, what we at The Chief Storyteller®, call a Better Tomorrow Message™.  I looked at my “Story Library,” which is a collection of personal and professional stories appropriate for the workplace. I needed “a business message that would allow me to show how one person could indeed, make a difference.” I selected the “Boy and the Starfish” Story, which I have heard referred to as The Starfish Story. It is a story adapted from Loren Eiseley’s, “The Star Thrower.” It touched me many years ago. I knew The Starfish Story would be perfect for my meeting with the associates.


Petro, an older man, used to go to the ocean to walk along the shore. He would walk on the beach most mornings before he began his work to clear his mind. One night there was a terrible thunder and lightning storm that lasted for hours. When Petro started his walk the next morning, he found the beach covered with hundreds of starfish, as far as the eyes could see. He thought about this for a moment. Then, he just kept walking on his regular route.

Off in the distance, Petro noticed a small boy doing something. As he got closer, he could see the boy bending down to pick up something and then throw it into the ocean. When he was close enough to the boy, he noticed the boy throwing starfish. Petro said to the boy, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young boy smiled and replied, “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t get back in the water by themselves. When the sun gets too high and too hot, the starfish will die, unless I throw them back.”

The man, a little puzzled, replied, “There are thousands of starfish. I’m afraid you won’t make any difference at all.”

The boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it as far as he could back into the ocean. Then he turned to Petro, smiled, and said, “It made a difference to that one!”


As I told The Starfish Story, the room became quiet. The audience was attentive and engaged. Questions and comments flowed freely during the discussion that followed. One member of the audience later told me The Starfish Story brought a tear to her eye. It was then… that I knew… I had succeeded in igniting their passion for helping others to improve their lives.

What business stories are you deliberately using to ignite passion within your organization?

Find the right story for yourself and find the right Starfish Story for your situation. Save your first starfish.

[Note:  This post was originally published on our CEO’s LinkedIn Account]

Interested in (dramatically) improving your storytelling, public speaking, or communication skills?


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Photography Source:  DepositPhotos

Duane Bailey

Duane Bailey is a regular contributor to The Chief Storyteller® online conversation. He has helped organizations of all sizes drive growth in revenues and market share through the development and delivery of key business messages that resonate with target audiences. He holds an MBA in International Business and a BS in Marketing. He brings 28 years of experience in marketing communications and high technology sales.