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  • kristen lessig schenerlein

Can You Really Live Off Making a Difference?

Updated: May 22, 2020




An old man walked up a shore littered with thousands of starfish , beached and dying after a storm. A young man was picking them up and flinging them back into the ocean. “Why do you bother?” the old man scoffed. “ You’re not saving enough to make a difference.” The young man picked up another starfish and sent it spinning back into the water. “Made a difference to that one,” he said.


This poem has always struck me. Perhaps it is my connection to the serenity that I experience walking along the beach and hearing the waves roll in, symbolic of the ever present ebbs and flows of our lives. Maybe it is the idea that the young man may in fact be teaching the older man something...something that too many years and too many struggles have caused the older man to lose connection to. This idea that we each can make a difference every day with our own acts of compassion, empathy and kindness. This notion is often considered naivete amongst older generations when perceiving the innocence of our youth.


In having worked with hundreds of volunteers over many years in nonprofits I always felt that this poem and idea that each and every one of them truly made a difference in someone else’s life, each and everyone one of them affected real change. They gave of themselves freely, not even considering for once that their efforts would not matter. The collective work that they were part of, they believed, would serve to better their community and in essence the lives of those perhaps less fortunate than them.


As a leader, you seek to create this type of “buy in” and commitment from your team members, don’t you? One where each employee understands that they are part of a bigger vision. Where they understand their work adds value, each contribution they make impacts the efforts of those working across departments lines, it impacts the end of year results and it drives the sales, it forwards the mission… Each individual IS valuable and therefore as a leader, it is essential that a culture exists that inspires and empowers.


For me, I have a passion to see leaders transform their teams through this type of work. To embrace their own vulnerability and step forward courageously to lead the way. People are the key to any business, without the right people, it does not matter which process you have in place or what your product is. As a coach, I feel very fortunate to be able to see my clients achieve their goals… It has given me a sense of purpose and meaning in my work that I truly had not experienced before. For me, being able to link my passion for helping others to a career that leaves me fulfilled personally and professionally is a true gift. A synergy that I want to be able to help everyone achieve in their life!


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