Are you wondering how to succeed in life? Most people are and the question is phrased in many different ways. So what is the secret to life?
One movie that attempts to answer this question is City Slickers. And what if this movie right? What if the secret of life (the way to truly succeed) all comes down to one thing? If you don’t recall this well-known scene, here is a quick refresher. In the movie City Slickers, Billy Crystal’s character, Mitch, is alone with a rough-and-tumble cowboy named Curly. As the two ride through the wilderness, Curly gives Mitch some life advice. The slightly censored version of their conversation goes like this:
Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is?
[holds up one finger]
Mitch: Your finger?
Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean crap.
Mich: But, what is the “one thing?”
Curly: [smiles] That’s what *you* have to find out.
The big tease throughout the rest of the movie is that, “the one thing,” is never revealed. Since the movie’s release in 1991, there have been many discussions about what this, “one thing” is. I would like to suggest that City Slickers is right,there is only one thing that you and I need, in order to succeed in leadership, relationships, and life.
Although I realize this is a big claim to make, I’m also going to warn you that this “one thing” is not easy. After learning what this “one thing” is, life will not be all rainbows and unicorns. Even though the secret to succeeding in leadership, relationships, and life is simple enough that it can be boiled down to a single word, it is also so complex that it takes a lifetime to master.
So, how do you succeed in life?
How to Succeed in Life: The One Thing You Must Have!
What is this one mysterious thing? Here it is…
The secret that many have been looking for and that City Slicker fans have been waiting for. This one thing sounds anti-climactic at first, but stick with me and hear my reasoning. I fully expect that by the end of this post, you will agree with me. To succeed in life, the one thing you and I absolutely must-have is… l-o-v-e, love. Yes, that’s right, love is the secret to success in all areas of life.
I warned you the one thing sound anti-climatic. But stick with me because I have some valuable news to share. The scene from City Slickers, found at the beginning of this post, is not the original story. It’s a remake of an event that occurred nearly 2,000 years earlier.
Success and The Original City Slickers, Story
In the original scene, an expert in the Mosaic Law comes to Jesus and asks, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?” Biblical scholars report that there are a grand total of 613 commandments in the Old Testament law. That’s a lot to remember! And this wise scholar came to Jesus, looking for “the one thing.”
The scene differs from the scenario with Billy Crystal in that the conversation is between two experts–an Old Testament Ph.D. (or the equivalent thereof) and Jesus. Jesus’ answer to this esteemed scholar is found in Matthew 22:34 and goes like this:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment.And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Jesus’ reply to “the one thing” question hinges on a single word–love. According to Jesus, the 613 Old Testament commands are summed up in this one thing.
Why The One Thing is More Difficult Than You Think
Don’t say I didn’t warn you. The one thing that you and I need to succeed in life is both anti-climatic and difficult. The big challenge comes in putting the one thing into action.
Love is far more complicated than most people realize. The best definition of love that I know is this: “Love is doing the next right thing, for _______.” To complete this definition, fill in the blank space with the name of the person that you are trying to love.
It is this empty space that makes love so challenging. You see, love is person-specific and situation-specific. When it comes to love, there is no single, overarching answer. Love is a complex, ongoing conversation.
Let me illustrate. If you and I discussed how to show love to a small child who had skinned her knee, our conversation would be simple. Doing the next right thing for someone who is hurt is relatively simple. In this case, love involves providing emotional comfort and treating the wound. However, if you and I discussed how to do the next right thing for someone struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction, the conversation would be more difficult. It would be even more complicated if the addicted person is one’s child or spouse.
Success in Life and The Complexity of Love.
Because love is complex, life must become an ongoing conversation. Discovering the next, right action to take, is exceedingly difficult in situations where there is:
- An addiction.
- Longstanding anger issues.
- Mental health needs.
- Financial responsibilities.
- And a host of other nuances that life throws our way.
This means succeess in life is not easy. The factors that complicate love are endless, and it takes much wisdom to love well. The one thing applies to success in leadership too. Every day, leaders struggle with knowing how to do the next right thing, for:
- The coworker who tries hard but continually does not meet productivity.
- A worker who is productive but has a negative attitude that drags the rest of the team down.
- An employee who brings his or her personal problems to work.
- The employee struggles with addiction, anger issues, or longstanding mental-health needs.
If work was only about getting the job done, then leadership would be easy. But real-life, leadership involves influencing complex, messy people.
I started this blog is because love is complex. While wanting to love others is easy putting love into action is not. Discerning how to do the next right thing in the midst of life’s nuances can feel overwhelming. In most instances, there are multitudes of helpful and unhelpful actions that can be taken. Learning how to love others is a process that requires ongoing conversation. This site is all about enjoying the ongoing process of becoming a loving leader at home, work, and everywhere that we go.
Continue the Conversation
Dive deeper into how to succeed in life with these questions for reflection and discussion. Or, keep the conversation going in the comments below.
- What do you think about “the one thing?” Do you agree that love is how to succeed in life?
- Do you struggle with knowing how to put love into action in the midst of life’s complexities?
- Are there strategies you use to make practicing love easier?
- How do you know what love looks like in complex situations?
- What are your tips on how to succeed in life?
We look forward to hearing what you have to say!