Remember the movie “City Slickers?” The theme of this classic comedy, written by the brilliant team of Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, is that we struggle in life when we forget what is most important to us. It’s summed up in a poignant scene between Mitch (Billy Crystal) and Curly (Jack Palance.) Curly, a weathered, tough old cowboy, laughs at “citified” Mitch’s confusion about his life. Then he offers his sage wisdom: “It all comes down to one thing. You focus on that, and everything else don’t mean s#&t.” Mitch, still confused, asks him what that one thing is. Curly responds: “That’s what you gotta find out.”
The “One Thing” works for our life. It also works in our communication. If you are interviewing for a job, presenting to prospects, conducting a meeting, or meeting a new business contact at a networking function, it pays big dividends to be crystal clear and congruent about the “one thing” you want them to take away from the conversation.
In matters big and small, it’s amazing to me that we so often fail to identify that one thing. We lose sight of the shore as we drift through days without taking the time to reflect. The waters of our clarity are muddied by our need to feed our fragile ego, make a particular impression, or reach our goal without equal account for the needs of those with whom we converse. Sometimes it’s just a difficult challenge to condense many qualities, services, or benefits into one concise message.
Think of corporate branding. Companies spend significant resources to give you one defining impression. Effective communication is the process of distilling the complex down to the simplest, essential elements. If you systematically incorporate this distillation process into your important conversations, you will find that your effectiveness improves – often significantly.
Back to “City Slickers.” Mitch found out his “one thing” through life-threatening, dire circumstances. When he thought he was going to drown in the rapids of the Colorado River, he gained clarity about what really mattered to him – his wife and kids. In that instant, his troubles with his career and reaching middle age, previously considered monumental and insurmountable, just melted to nothing. Often, we must be tested, broken, wracked with pain, to reach clarity. Many find clarity through Jesus and prayer. Transformation begins when we make that deep-down, gut-check-time decision to take the actions that break previous paradigms and behavior patterns.
Clarity in our conversations does indeed emanate from clarity about the bigger issues in life such as: “What is my purpose in life?” Addressing this kind of question is worth the effort. But incorporating the “One Thing” approach need not involve dramatic circumstances. It might just be taking the time to talk something through with a willing listening partner (one of my favorite conversations.)
So let me ask you: In your life, and/or in your business conversations, what’s your “One Thing?”