Find Your One Thing

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Can you sum up your professional you in one or two words?

I was very touched watching the documentary, Being Elmo, on PBSIndependent Lens. The movie is about Kevin Clash (the puppeteer behind Sesame Street‘s Elmo). From a very young age, Clash demonstrated a strong desire to be a puppeteer. While that seems quaint and points to someone who was focused on what they wanted to do in life from a very young age, you can imagine the struggles he faced growing up in Baltimore. While all of the other kids were out playing baseball or causing mischief, Clash was at home sewing puppets together and entertaining the local toddlers.

Becoming Elmo.

One of the highlight in the documentary comes when Clash explains how he was able to take the character of Elmo and turn him into such a beloved character. He says that each and every muppet needs to have its own, one unique thing. For Miss Piggy, her one thing is a truck driver who wants to be a movie starlet. For Fozzie Bear, it’s being a Vaudeville performer. For Elmo, it is love. Elmo loves everyone. Elmo loves love. He loves to hug and he loves to kiss and everything that Elmo does is an expression of his love for others. As basic and as simple as that sounds, kids know it and they feel it… and that’s why he is the most beloved muppet of them all.

What’s your one thing?

I often think about why one blog is that much more popular than another. My friend, Chris Brogan, has one of the top-ranked marketing blogs in the world. Why? I think Chris’ one thing is: making business human. It’s who he is. He genuinely wants to meet and help everyone he sees. While we’re on the road together, I’m busy trying to get to my hotel room and get some sleep, while Chris is busy trying to connect and meet up with more people. It’s not wonder he has an audience that is ten times the size of mine. He is deeply in touch with his one thing. Not only that, everyone who connects with him believes it to be true. This is the interesting part: you may not like him, his content or what he stands for, but you can’t deny that it is who he is. That one thing has be believable… not just a platitude.

Being in touch with your one thing.

If you do a quick survey of the most successful people you know, it’s clear how direct and in-touch they are with their own thing. It’s no different for brands. You can have all of the values and brand expressions in the world, but if you can’t sum it up into one, unique, thing, it’s going to be hard to truly do groundbreaking things. While this may seem like a simplistic concept and one that has been bandied around when it comes to branding for years, it was enlightening to see Clash capture that concept, transpose it to muppets and be able to see how those characters connect with the human emotion. Too many individuals and brands are clamoring for attention, while those same brands and individuals probably grapple to define that one great thing. 

We could all use a little more Elmo in our lives.


  1. Excellent post, Mitch, and one that really resonates with what I’m currently thinking a lot about right now.
    At the moment, I’m listening to an audiobook called ‘Start With Why’ by Simon Sinek. In the book, Sinek talks in-depth about how companies and individuals that start with WHY they do what they do (as opposed to WHAT they do) connect with others that believe what they believe and thus create a following around their brand or message.
    Although Sinek uses Apple a lot as an example, I think he’s right to do so. It’s clear to most people (both Apple fans and naysayers) what Apple is about: challenging the status quo and thinking ‘different’. Apple’s WHY and ‘one thing’, as you put it, has allowed them to build a loyal following and challenge multiple industries despite originally starting out as a computer company.
    I think you’re absolutely right to focus on your ‘one thing’. I’d like to think mine is about ‘customer focus’, so whatever I do – whether it’s working for myself, another company or just blogging – I will always be about ‘customer focus’ in one way or another.
    Simon Sinek’s TED talk:
    My blog post: The Golden Circle: a formula for inspiring action

  2. Mitch…amazing how a short, simple piece can crystallize what’s important. I didn’t expect this gem today. It’s a great take on the question, “what are you trying to accomplish?” or…”what are you?”, or even, “who are you?” This is why so many of us love writing (or just reading). Read for two minutes, think for hours. This is why I check your blog daily!

  3. Hi Mitch, this is my first time to your blog, and I’m glad I’m here. Many of my friends and colleagues at LoyaltyOne (AIRMILES) speak highly of you, and I can now see why. I had spent some time in recent years becoming clear on my life’s purpose, and had developed a short statement that I refined to two words last night because of your post. At my best and most authentic self, I “inspire elevation.” I think this is accurate, and I thank you very much for YOUR inspiration!

  4. Excellent post, Mitch. Reminds me of my favourite line from Freaks and Geeks: “You need to find your reason for living. You’ve gotta find your big, gigantic drum kit.”

  5. Just one thing? Is that what I’ve been missing as I try to focus on multiply tasks, goals and objectives? Well, darn Mitch. Why didn’t you tell me sooner. In all seriousness, this really does come at an excellent time for me. Thank you.

  6. Hey Mitch
    I listen to the Six Pixels Podcast every week. Definitely some of the most stimulating discussions on the web, particularly the man Jaffe!
    My two words: Work Smarter
    Have a great day and thanks for your contribution to the global conversation
    best regards

  7. For most of us “Finding your one thing” is like getting to absolute zero. You can keep getting closer but you never get all the way. I keep working at it! Thanks for the encouragement.

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