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Master of One

June 3, 2024

Sometimes we find wisdom in unlikely places.

In the classic film City Slickers, there’s a brilliant scene where grizzled cowboy Curly (played by Jack Palance) shares some timeless wisdom with Mitch (Billy Crystal). Mitch has paid for a two-week dude ranch vacation, where he learns some important lessons about himself.

I’ll paraphrase the conversation they had as they rode the range on horseback.

Curly observes: You all come out here about the same age. Same problems. Spend fifty weeks a year getting knots in your rope then…then you think two weeks up here will untie them for you. None of you get it. (Long pause) Do you know what the secret of life is?

Mitch: No, what?

Curly: This. (Holds up his index finger.)

Mitch: Your finger?

Curly: No. One thing.

Just one thing. You stick to that and everything else don’t mean crap.

Mitch: That’s great, but what’s the one thing?

Curly: Well, that’s what you’ve got to figure out.

Curly is right. It’s up to us to strip away all the clutter and noise and find the one thing that matters more than anything. And, when we do, relentlessly pursue it.

To the younger readers: You earn this opportunity the older you get. In my book, 8 Essential Exchanges, I talk about moving from being the master of none to becoming the master of one.

The years peel away the superficial, allowing the core of who we are and what we’re meant to do to take center stage. Each of us should work to ruthlessly eliminate the distractions and zero in on our singular defining purpose. While we may never fully achieve mastery, the pursuit itself provides clarity and conviction.

When the apostle Paul was writing a letter recorded in scripture, he said, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.” (Phllippians 3:13)

There it is again: one thing.

For each of us, that one thing will be different.

But, when we narrow in on that one thing, we begin to fulfill our purpose and reach our true potential.

So ask yourself: What is your one thing? What on earth are you here for? And always remember, each of us has a reason for being here. If you have a pulse, you have a purpose!


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