Find Your One Thing (Day 28 of 30 Days of Getting Results)



“Purpose is what gives life a meaning.” —  Charles H. Perkhurst

Your Outcome:  Find your one thing.  Whether you call it your passion, your purpose, your mission, your crusade, finding your “Why,” or simply what you want your life to be about … express it in words, as a motto, or tagline, or a simple one-liner.  This will be your path and torch.

If you’ve seen the movie City Slickers, this scene should sound familiar:

  • Curly: You know what the secret of life is?
  • Mitch: No. what?
  • Curly: This. (holds up his finger)
  • Mitch: Your finger?
  • Curly: One thing.  Just one thing.  You stick to that everything else don’t mean shit.
  • Mitch: That’s great, but what’s the one thing?
  • Curly: That’s what you’ve got to figure out.

If you haven’t seen it before, you can watch the scene Find Your One Thing (YouTube.)

That’s the challenge in life, but the key to your success … you have to find your one thing.

Welcome to day 28 of 30 Days of Getting Results, based on my book Getting Results the Agile Way.  In day 27, we set ourselves up  to do something great as  a month long project.    Today, we find our one thing.  We find our purpose with skill.

The Story of What Drives Me …
Maybe I watched too many cartoons, but growing up I was a defender of underdogs.

Somehow I got the message, defend the weak or underprivileged.  My Mom re-enforced this making sure I knew to protect my little brother and sister (although, my sister knew how to whoop some arse, and she killed any spider that threatened my path.)

It’s not just defending people weaker than you though.  Early on I saw the movie Trading Places.  I remember how just by swapping people’s lot in life, everything changes … What people expect of them changes, how people treat them changes, and what people expect of others changes … even what people expect of themselves changes.  It’s powerful stuff.   But don’t expect anybody to pick you up and plop you down.  You have to make your own changes.  I’m a big believer that …

… Everybody deserves a chance at their best life.

I learned early on that it’s not your lot in life.  It’s not what you’ve got in life.  It’s what you make of it.  And the one thing you have your whole life is you.  You take you, everywhere you go.  The one thing you can invest in that gets you exponential results is you … your body, your mind, and your foundation.  Your foundation isn’t the stuff you have … it’s who you are, it’s your beliefs, it’s your values, it’s your rules, it’s your mindsets and your metaphors, and it’s your strategies and tactics for life … it’s your toolkit you use to make the most of what you’ve got.   That’s the story behind my one-liner purpose…

… Exponential results for the underdog.

I level the playing field with smarts. And everybody is an underdog at some point in their life.  Maybe it’s a game, where you don’t know the rules or how to play the game.  Maybe it’s in a situation, where you’re in the dark.  Maybe it’s your education compared to somebody else’s.  Maybe it’s your money compared to somebody else’s.  Maybe it’s your status compared to somebody else’s.  Regardless, we’re all underdogs in some way, shape, or form, in some situation.

The way to level the playing field is through know-how and knowledge.  I share the best skills I learn for making the most of any situation.  I share the wisdom of the ages and modern sages.  I draw from books, people, and quotes, as well as what I learn in the trenches at Microsoft and what I learn from my masterful mentors.  That’s what drives Sources of Insight.  That’s my Little Engine That Could. I make others great … I enhance you with skill … I empower YOU to be YOUR best.

But enough about me … this post is about you, and finding your one-liner purpose.  I shared mine to help you find yours.  Maybe seeing mine in action, helps you connect your dots and lights a bulb and your ah-ha moment fires for you in a way it’s never fired before.

Do What You Were Born to do or Do What You Love to Do
For some people, they find a way to do what they love for a living.  For some people, they find a way to fund their life style, and in turn, make time to do more of what they love.  Either way, this is the happy path.  Fulfillment is potentially a by-product.  For other people, they do what they were born to do.  This is the fulfillment path.  Happiness may be a by-product of the process, but, what drives them is giving their best, where they have their best to give.  Either way, effective people are find ways to answer their calling.  Where people fall down is when they ignore their passion or their lust for life or they don’t capitalize on making the most of what they’ve got.   Bringing your calling to the surface, or doing more of what you love to do, even in a simple way or a small way, on a regular basis, is how you light your fire, get on your path, and make a world of difference, starting with you.  It’s how you lead your life from the inside out.

Here’s a tip – a lot of people find their inner-strength by finding something to bet on that’s bigger than themselves, whether it’s service to others, their community, or an ideal in their life.

What Do You Want Your Life to Be About
Who do you want to be and what experiences do you want to create.   If you want your life to be magical, then spend time with magicians.  Explore the natural wonders of the world.  Stay curious and dream up possibilities, and watch more Disney.   If you want your life to be a comedy, then go to more comedy clubs.  Watch I Love Lucy.  Learn to look at life through a twisted lens that helps you open up and say, hah!  Find the funny in your life and the funny in the world.

Your one thing, can become an over-arching theme for your life, that helps you make meaning and enjoy the journey as you go.  The beauty is, to make the change, all you have to do is start with the question … “Who do you want to be? … and what do you want your life to be about?” … and then start creating those experiences. You’re the author of your life, the architect , and the director … point your camera at what you want more of.

Find Your One-Liner Purpose
This is where the magic happens.  Turn your calling into a one-liner reminder.  Here are some examples:

  1. I’m the explorer who paves the path for others.
  2. I’m the mentor who helps people live more, laugh more, learn more, love more.
  3. I’m the coach who helps make others great.
  4. I’m the writer who helps people write their life story.
  5. I’m the developer who writes the code to change the world.
  6. I’m the musician who makes people feel alive.
  7. I’m the poet who makes people think.
  8. I’m the researcher who finds the truth.
  9. I’m the bridge builder who connects people.
  10. I’m the mother who leaves my world a better place than I found.

This is the motto you’ll pull out when times get tough or when you have to remind yourself of your path or which way to go or how to get back on your horse.  It’s how you’ll inspire yourself with skill and lead your charge.   Finding your why is your compass for life.

If you get stuck here and you really want to seriously find your “why”, then explore the post Discover Your Why and download the free Purpose Pack (PDF).   Janine’s super skill is helping people find their passion and their purpose.  The download is a set of questions that guide you to your answer.

Today’s Assignment

  1. Find your theme.  Distill your story into something simple.  Flip back through your life and find the theme.  For me, it was helping level the playing field with know how and helping underdogs get exponential results.
  2. Find your one thing.  What do you want your life to be about?  Some people make life an epic adventure.  Some people make life a tragedy.  Some people spend their life turning tragedy into triumph.
  3. Create your one-liner reminder.  Let your productive artist come out to play and turn your mission into magic.  You know you nailed it when you suddenly feel like you suddenly have the strength of a thousand bulls on your side, and you are on your path, and you’re an unstoppable force of one.

The surprise is that when you become a powerful force of one, you actually create a coalition of the willing and you become a lightening rod for those that share your values, help lift you up, and spread your cause like wild fire.

Whether you become a fire starter for you, your family, your neighbors, friends, or your community, the world becomes a better place when it’s filled with people with a lust for life.

My Related Posts

Photo by Victor Bezrukov.


  1. J.D. This was a great post and I couldn’t agree more. I have always felt that we either need to be discovering what our purpose is or living out our purpose. If we are not doing one of those 2 things, then we are probably missing out on all that life has to offer. I really, really, really liked that piece of advice to create your own one-liner. That is definitely one of the best pieces of advices I have heard in terms of focusing on your purpose. Thanks for passing it along.

  2. Very cool 30 day challenge! I like this particular project because it really bolsters many of the other concepts. By finding our passion we can become more motivated and productive. We can maintain the enthusiasm necessary to push bast obstacles and really focus on doing what needs to be done. This project makes me think of the idea of developing a “life sentence.” That one statement that can summarize what we’ve done and contributions we’ve made. Most influential leaders major contribution can be summed up in one sentence. This helps someone discover what it is they want to be remembered for and legacy they want to be involved with. Very good stuff! Thanks!

  3. Hi JD
    Looks as though I’m a bit late to the party but this is still a useful post.

    Find your one thing and then “Create your one-liner reminder”

    Love the idea of a one liner reminder – guess if you can’t sum up your “one thing” in one line, you’ve not worked out your one thing.

    Comprehensive post as usual.

  4. Great article. And I totally agree with what you have mentioned here. You simply should do one thing. And that’s the hard part for me. I have to find out what. I guess that’s the hardest part for everyone.

  5. WOW! As we near the end of your “30 Days of Getting Results”, you certainly are peaking! I remember thinking you’d be unable to top “Day 27 – Do Something Great”. I should have known better. J.D., this is yet another fantastic post!

    As a child I had a keen sense of justice–I can still recollect the incident that precipitated it. Ever since, I’ve watched out for the little guy (or girl), & remain perplexed that some humans can be so unkind to one another. Whatever one’s spiritual beliefs, the Golden Rule provides superb guidance for living one’s life.

    Like you, I believe life is what we make of it. I’m lucky enough to know not only that we have choices, but also *how to make effective choices*–to be an agent of positive change in my own life & in the lives of some of the people around me.

    Like Alik, I look forward to studying the Purpose Pack. Now, to find my *one* thing–I have some work to do!

  6. @ Sibyl — Thank you. Well put and well framed — it’s find your purpose or live it out.

    The one-liner has helped me in so many ways. It’s like instant inspiration in a nutshell.

    @ Joe — Thank you. I like how a one-liner makes it easy to remember or share the focus.

    @ Keith — Thank you. It sounds like one-line should be easy and yet that’s the art.

    @ Farouk — It’s definitely fuel for the fire.

    @ Julius — Thank you. I think one of the keys is finding where you’ve had a thread of success through your life. It’s at least a place to look.

    @ Alik — I like the fact Janine made it question-driven. That’s what makes it so effective.

    @ Jimmy — Thank you. My Mom taught me empathy and the Golden Rule early on, and it’s sticky. I think she balanced it out for me with, “what goes around, comes around.” The circle is complete 😉

  7. Hi JD .. I echo the others .. finding what it is that drives us, and will make us the power force we can become .. and your one liner: the world becomes a better place when it’s filled with people with a lust for life.

    Thanks – I’ve loved this series .. and will be back to go through Janine’s post .. this summation is something I need to work out very soon!

    Great – wonderful post .. Hilary

  8. @ Hilary — Thank you. For me, I think my one thing is writing guides to change the world. I like to share and scale expertise and writing is one of the best ways I can do that. It’s a craft I can continue to refine, while making impact along the way.

    I think you will truly enjoy Janine’s post. She knows her stuff.

  9. Hi JD
    It’s true “when the pupil is ready the teacher will appear.” I have been beating myself up about all these things for years, just c(w)ouldn’t make it work. My mind c(w)ouldn’t process all the project management stuff in daily life.
    Suddenly … Wham! it all comes together. Thank you. This course – the checklists – the slide show. Watch this space .. Suddenly it seems quite do-able!

  10. The beauty of one-liner reminded me of a philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein. The beauty is in a bold simple conclusion after a series of thought experiments where each idea has equal validity, nothing right or wrong.

    The one-liner also reminded me of this saying, “If I had more time I would have written a shorter letter.” It is absolutely true. We can arrive at a powerful and personal one-liner (or a life sentence, as Joe Wilner said) if we truly and sincerely boil down what makes us feel excited, awaken, or angry.

    I wish I can proudly share my shining one-liner here, but it’s not cooked enough yet. When it’s ready, it should sound just right and make me smile every time I think of it. I have a feeling that it would be something about inward tranquility, healing, acceptance, understanding or something along these theme. I want my liner to makes me feel intoxicated with the depth of what it means to me and what it can do for anyone willing to hear me out.

    • > if we truly and sincerely boil down what makes us feel excited, awaken, or angry.
      Not to long ago a friend of mine said he thinks my one-liner reminder should be:

      “Go beyond.”

      I thought it was too simplistic but then I remembered how much I get excited when Captain Kirk talks about their mission in the original Star Trek:

      Space: The final frontier.
      These are the voyages of the Starship, Enterprise.
      Its 5 year mission: To explore strange new worlds,
      To seek out new life and new civilizations
      To boldly go where no man has gone before.

      Maybe it’s “to boldly go” 😉

      See if your friends might help you gain insight into your one-liner reminder.

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