“Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”
- Ecclesiastes 12:13
There’s a great moment in the movie “City Slickers” when Curly, the crusty old cowboy, offered Mitch, the city slicker, some invaluable advice about the secret to life. He held up his index finger to which Mitch responded, “You mean it’s your finger?” “No,” Curly replied, “it’s one thing.” “But what is it?” Mitch presses on for an answer. Curly simply replied, “That’s what you’ve got to figure out.”
My first boss out of college also gave me some invaluable advice which I’ve never forgotten. Learn how to do one thing really well, he said, and you’ll be successful. And he was right. So I worked hard at becoming a competent bond trader, and when I did others began to take notice, then my career took off and started to broaden into other areas. But it all stemmed from that “one thing”.
Then some thirty years later I embarked on a new career as an independent executive coach. Again I received some invaluable advice from some of the seasoned veterans of that profession who had become my teachers and mentors. Find your niche, they advised; define it as concisely as you possibly can and you will become successful – just another way of saying, “it’s one thing”.
“Meaningless! Meaningless! . . . Utterly Meaningless! Everything is Meaningless,” Solomon lamented over and over in the book of Ecclesiastes. Here’s the richest and wisest man in the ancient world who had access to anything and everything – wealth, knowledge, great accomplishments, leisure time, sensual pleasures, a good reputation, beauty, almost anything one could imagine – yet found little meaning or purpose in any of it. “Now all has been heard,” he finally summed up, “here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” Or as Curly so cleverly explained with his index finger to his city slicker mentee, Mitch, “It’s one thing,” and “that’s what you’ve got to figure out.” But in the end Solomon did figure it out. He figured out THE one thing . . . And so must we; for it is the real secret to life.