I believe everybody has one thing they do better than anything else. The right place to start is with your one thing. I learned this from my dad. In fact it was a Maxwell house rule when I was growing up. When we were kids, my dad’s message to my brother, sister, and me was to find your strength—your one thing—and stay with it. He never encouraged us to try to do lots of different things. He wanted each of us to do one thing exceptionally well. A long running joke in our family was that we felt sorry for multi-gifted people. How would they know which of their gifts to focus on?
In my eyes, my father became an exceptional man not because he was exceptionally gifted, but because he found his one thing and stuck with it. He was a great encourager. As a result, he rose to way above average. He mastered the art of encouraging others and never departed from it. Excellence comes from consistency in using our strengths, and Dad has been consistent.
Henry David Thoreau wrote, “One is not born into the world to do everything, but to do something.” I found my something in Hillham: communication. That was what I focused on. I poured myself into it. I spent hours crafting my messages. I went to see good communicators every chance I got. I was determined to become the best I could.
I look back now and realize that back then my messages were very informational, but they weren’t transformational. I wanted to facilitate transformation in others, but I was falling short. I didn’t realize that I needed to change first. Viktor Frankl was right when he said, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” I’ll talk about that change in the next chapter.
When I got started doing my one thing, I had no idea it would lead me to where I am today. Besides, even if I’d wanted to start big, I wasn’t sophisticated enough to, so I just started with what I had and did it as well as I could. As a result, my ability multiplied. That came from working at it with consistency. I am where I am today, not because I have done several big things, but because I have worked at communicating ever since my twenties, and this intentionality has compounded in my life.
Investing in yourself is like taking a penny and doubling its value every day. If you did that for a month, how much would you end up with? A hundred dollars? A thousand dollars? A million dollars? Not even close.
If you start with just a single penny and double it every day for thirty-one days, you end up with $21,474,836.48. Personal growth is like that. Practice your one thing with excellence daily, and you will get a return. It’s like putting money in the significance bank.
What’s your one thing? What do you have the potential to do better than anything else? Do you have a sense of what that is? If not, then ask people who know you well. Or look at your history. Or take a personality or skills assessment to get clues. Don’t think about what you can’t do. Think about what you can. There is always a starting line. You just need to find it. It’s about beginning with what you have, not with what you don’t have. Find your one thing and start developing it.
John C. Maxwell, Intentional Living: Choosing a Life That Matters (New York City, NY: Center Street, 2015).