There is a great punchline from an old commercial that I repeat to Mary every time she cooks dinner as part of a little husband / wife humor. Of course, as is the case with most of our husband / wife humor, only the husband finds it humorous. The wife just finds it annoying. Thank God, she married me for my looks.
In the commercial, a woman is planning Thanksgiving dinner with the new “self-basting” turkey. One of the “old guard” is incredulous that the turkey does not require basting and keeps stating, “It’s gonna be DRY!” Of course, the turkey comes out juicy and delicious. So, every time Mary starts to cook whatever entree she is planning for dinner, I comment, “It’s gonna be DRY!” and then I just laugh. I know, I guess you have to be there (or not).
The point of the commercial is that you need to have faith. Small things can have a great impact. You just have to believe that it is possible.
Frequent readers of this blog know my affinity for the poem, Footprints. It is the fundamental basis of what I believe. Following a close second to Footprints, The Starfish Story frames the fundamental premise of how I try to lead my business and personal life:
One day, an old man was walking along a beach that was littered with thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore by the high tide. As he walked, he came upon a young boy who was eagerly throwing the starfish back into the ocean, one by one. Puzzled, the man looked at the boy and asked what he was doing. Without looking up from his task, the boy simply replied, “I’m saving these starfish”.
The old man chuckled, “Son, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you possibly make?” The boy picked up a starfish, gently tossed it into the water and turned to the man,
“I just made a difference to that one!”
Ultimately, success in business is not found through grand plans and earthshaking discoveries. It is found through small, seemingly insignificant, consistent focus on fundamentals. Every time you put a client first is a starfish. Every time you hire for values first and aptitude second is a starfish. Every time you avoid taking a shortcut is a starfish. Every time you stick to your principles is a starfish.
A few years ago, a dozen or so baseball sportswriters were asked what player they would choose if they were starting a team from scratch. The majority of the sportswriters did not pick a mammoth home run giant or a blazing strikeout pitcher. They picked Derek Jeter, the hall of fame to be shortstop of the New York Yankees. They all cited a version of the same rationale – Derek Jeter mastered the fundamentals and did all of the “little things” that do not show up in the box score but coaches know are necessary to win games. Running out fly balls is a starfish. Turning double plays is a starfish. Sacrifice bunts and moving runners over is a starfish. Hitting the cutoff man is a starfish.
In life, it is not about what blessings we are given. We have no control over that. Rather, it is about what we do with the blessings we are given that determines the impact we make on others and our world. Saying a prayer for strangers is a starfish. Letting that obnoxious driver merge in front of you is a starfish (especially if it is me!). Overtipping the breakfast waitress is a starfish. Giving someone the benefit of the doubt is a starfish. Handing out candy instead of “healthy snacks” at Halloween is a starfish. Looking at the person in front of you instead of the screen in your hand is a starfish. And, of course, giving a hand to those who need one is the best starfish of all.
Several years ago, my Mom was relegated to driving a motorized scooter while she recovered from a serious operation and was unable to walk. As she was scooting around the grocery store, she came across a little girl who was crying because she had become separated from her mother. My Mom told the little girl to “Hop on!” and proceeded to drive the girl all around the store until she relocated her with her frantic and grateful mother. How do I know about this story? It was told to us by that little girl’s mother, who contacted our family after she read my Mom’s obituary and recognized her from the picture.
“I just made a difference to that one!”
Michael C. Marcon is the founder of M3K Holdings, Chairman of The Marcon Foundation, and the former founder, Chairman and CEO of Equity Risk Partners.