Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is?
Mitch: No. What?
Curly: [holds up one finger] This.
Mitch: Your finger?
Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and everything else don’t mean shit.
Mitch: That’s great, but what’s “the one thing?”
Curly: [smiles] That’s what *you* gotta figure out.
–from City Slickers (1991)
I had a job interview recently, and the interviewer closed with an interesting question:
“If you wanted me to walk away with just one thing from this conversation today, what would it be?”
An excellent interview question (and one I’ll probably steal). It’s also a great question for us to consider for any other instance where we interact with others and want to make an impression—in social situations, of course, but also when interacting with our audience as creators.
So think about the work you’re doing right now—the stuff you’re bringing into the world. When someone interacts with you (in whatever way that happens to be for your business or art), if they only remembered one thing, what would you want that one thing to be?
If we can distill our message down into this sort of central idea, then we can be sure that everything else we do is aligned to that core statement of purpose. And if we touch someone only once, and they never interact with us again, if nothing else they’ll still have that central, singular message to take with them.
If YOU Only Remember One Thing…
My answer to all of you would be the same answer I gave the interviewer:
“I’m committed to positive transformation, for people, organizations, and the world.”
Okay, so my answer was a little less polished when I rattled it off in the interview, but that was the core concept. And I think that was the right answer to give in that circumstance. I’d already talked about what I’ve done, and how I’ve done it, but I needed to reinforce the internal motivations, the WHY that makes me want to do that job, as well as the work I do here and other places.
And I’d elaborate on that core statement with the following: whether I do that through consulting, or teaching through courses or blog posts, or inspiring and moving someone emotionally through powerful stories, in the end I want those who encounter me to learn and remember that they can transform themselves as they desire, unleash their own hero, and create their own positive change in the world.
That’s what I want someone—who reads my stories or visits Free of Gravity or takes a course from me, or talks to me in a coffee shop or seminar—to come away with.
(All of this, including this website/blog, is a work-in-progress, and needs to be revised until that concept of “positive transformation from personal heroism” shines through. I’ll keep at it, and share the new versions with you as I create them.)
If THEY Only Remember One Thing About You…
So now I’m asking you. Think very carefully about the question:
When someone interacts with you, if they only remember one thing, what would you want that one thing to be?
Now answer it for yourself. You may only have this one chance to impress upon them the importance of your message. What will you say? What will you do?
Take some time with this. Strive to articulate very clearly your purpose. Focus on the WHY of your creation. If you need some help with this, I recommend the work of Simon Sinek (check out his website, his book Start with Why, and his TED talk).
Then, craft a sentence (or maybe two) that captures and conveys the essence of those ideas. Refine your statement until it sings. This might take days, or weeks. That’s okay. It’s part of the process. Get some help from a wordsmith to help distill the words down into that single, beautiful chord. You’ll know it when you hear it.
Once you’ve created this statement, I bet you’ll find it easier to create your art, because you’ll know the reason WHY you’re creating it, and it’ll be easier to keep your creations true to that core.
I also bet you’ll start attracting more people to your work—and better yet, attracting your people, your tribe—because they’ll resonate not only with what you do but why you do it.
“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” –Simon Sinek
And, last but not least, how much easier will it be for you to properly answer that pesky cocktail party opener: “So, what do you do?”
I’d love to hear what you come up with. Please share in the comments.
If my “just one thing” here at Free of Gravity resonated with you, be sure to subscribe by entering your email in the box in the sidebar to your right. You’ll get your own copy of the Be Your Own Hero manifesto, regular updates from the blog, and other subscriber-only tools and goodies.
[photo courtesy of Sarah Murray cc]