The Starfish Story

By Michelle Seekins, Ukeru Learning Engineer

I became a Learning Engineer in August of 2021. I had been teaching Ukeru for a privately owned company in Virginia Beach where I was also teaching and using Comfort vs Control™ approaches for over 20 years. What intrigued me about this job was the passion and dedication I saw from my Ukeru trainers. They seemed to absolutely love their job and I thought, “Wow, I want to be part of that!” I knew that by joining the Ukeru team I could make a difference on a broader scale and affect more people’s lives in a positive way, and I am so glad I did. I truly love my job and work with some of the most amazing people.

When I think about Comfort vs Control, I must constantly remind myself this concept is not natural for most people. Through years and years of practice it has become more natural to me, but I find that I always need to take a moment before I engage with others to ask myself, “What is going on with me?” All of us have a story; we have all been through something. No one is immune to the trials and tribulations of life.

Supporting others requires listening to their story. Sometimes the people we support (and staff members) can communicate this through words, but sometimes they cannot. We need to focus our energy on building relationships starting with a strong foundation of mutual trust and respect by showing people they are physically and emotionally safe while in our presence. If we do this in every interaction there is a good chance we have made a difference in that moment, even if it only affects just one person. It still makes a difference to that one person.

In my training classes, I often tell the following story to help others feel inspired by their work. I hope it brings you encouragement.


One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean.

Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?”

The youth replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”

“Son,” the man said, “Don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!”

After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf.

Then, smiling at the man, he said, “I made a difference for that one.”

If we can avoid just one restraint through our use of Ukeru we are making a difference!

Original Story by: Loren Eisley