Ever heard this story?
A man is walking along a beach where thousands of starfish have been washed onto the sand. He sees another man, scooping and bending, then hurling something out to sea again and again. When he catches up, he sees that the man is throwing marooned starfish into the water.
“There are too many to save,” said the first man. “What you’re doing is meaningless.”
The second man flings another starfish into the water, looks at the first man, and smiles. “It certainly meant a great deal to that one.”
If that seems entirely too New Age and hippie-dippie to you, maybe you’ll like this story better:
Two guys are hiking and they see a grizzly bear, who starts to chase them. The first guy starts running.
“What are you doing?” shouts the second guy. “You can’t outrun a grizzly.”
“I don’t have to outrun the grizzly,” the first guy yells over his shoulder. “I just have to outrun you.”
It amuses me that these are essentially the same story.
Despite our earnest do-gooder yearnings, sometimes not everyone makes it. That’s not a reason to give up.
If you want to save the world, paralysis and inaction are completely unhelpful. You’ve got to just start somewhere. And you might as well start with yourself.
So many are having a brutally tough time finding a job, or they’re consumed by anxiety about keeping the job they have. I have many friends in those ranks.
A few have more work than they can handle. They’d be pretty relaxed except they have an awful lot to do. But they’re smiling. I have friends in those ranks, too.
One of the most pernicious barriers to success is avoiding moving from the first group to the second, because you feel bad for for surviving, or even thriving.
You feel bad for the guy closer to the bear.
The answer, however, is not to lie down and let the bear maul you too.
No one benefits if you fail
The bear doesn’t even actually want to eat you. It just feels that way, with his hot breath at the back of your neck and the graze of his claws against your shoulder blade.
You may run a business, or be employed in one. You may be trying to put your dreams into action and start a business. You may be among the ranks of the newly unemployed, trying to figure out how you’re going to stay afloat.
You may feel a lot like a stranded starfish, with no compassionate philosopher to fling you back into the comfortable sea.
Please know that no one benefits if you fail. You collect no karma points by standing idly by while the economic meltdown engulfs you. You have to get strong before you can help anyone else.
We all feel like sitting down and giving up sometimes. Then we stand up again and keep working. It’s what human beings do. It’s how we’ve come this far.
You have every right to survive. You have every right to rescue yourself.
Teach yourself. If you can’t afford the expensive guru classes, create your own class using the amazing amount of free information we have now. Write your own success map.
(You can start with one of these, if you like. They’re free, and honest-to-goodness, I won’t spam you or sell your email address to a Romanian meth lab.)
Your success is going to be a lumpy, funny-looking little thing at first. Keep at it. Your first eBook, your first consulting client, your first blog posts, your first podcast might not be thrilling successes.
What other people call failures, you’ll learn to call fascinating experiments.
Learn from everything you do. Keep doing projects that are a little bigger. Keep figuring things out.
Quit talking to people who tell you it’s a pipe dream, or too risky. Or that it’s pointless, the starfish are too many and there’s only one of you. Right now, you can’t afford the luxury of pessimism and whining.
Learn to fling yourself back into the sea.
People who can help
- Naomi is helping 1,000 people this year quit their day jobs. Her advice has always been hugely helpful to me, and I think it might be to you as well.
- Havi can show you how to learn to talk with the bear, find out what it’s trying to tell you, and send it whuffling on its way. (And no, you don’t have to learn to like the bear. At all.)
- Also, if you’re overwhelmed with anxiety, Havi made this Emergency Calm-the-Hell-Down Program, which I have found tremendously helpful. Stress is a natural part of life, especially life in times of change. You don’t have to let stress rule you, you can deal with it and keep moving.
- Brian, Jon and I can give you tools to create online businesses that work for your goals and your values.
- Charlie can help you figure out how to make better use of your time, and how to think big (or small).
- Dave faced down the bear when he was just a child, and he can help you do the same.
- Pam created a road map out of the “safe” (except it’s not actually safe at all) world of the cubicle.
- Jonathan did, too.
There are thousands more fantastic resources for each one of these that sprang to mind this morning. Can you do me a favor and let us all know about your favorite survival tactic in the comments?
Flickr Creative Commons image by Misserion
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