Focus on One Thing … or Get a Constant Reminder

    Executive and sales teams I’ve worked with regularly give one another the finger and greatly appreciate the gesture! Where did this use of the finger originate? It comes from the 1991 movie “City Slickers,” an entertaining flick that combined philosophy and comedy (a “philomedy”)! In the movie, Mitch, played by Billy Crystal, and two of his buddies head off to New Mexico to “find themselves.” They take on the roles of cowboys and participate in a cattle drive headed by Curly, played by Jack Palance, a crusty but wise, tough-as-nails trail boss. After a rough beginning to their relationship, Mitch and Curly engage in a conversation that went like this:

    Curly: “You know what the secret of life is?”
    Mitch: “No, what?”
    Curly: “This.” (Curly holds up a single, crooked, arthritic-looking index finger.)
    Mitch: “Your finger?”
    Curly: “One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that, and everything else don’t mean sh#*!”
    Mitch: “That’s great, but what’s the one thing?”
    Curly: “That’s what you’ve got to figure out.”

    Curly’s message is simple yet profound, and it’s at the heart of becoming a high-performing individual or organization. We can all be high performers; both high performance and genius are created where our greatest passions and competencies intersect. For example, the only person I’ve ever known who could make me belly laugh until I cried, anytime she wanted, was a developmentally disabled woman named Ruth Ann. Ruth Ann struggled with many things, but she was a master of subtle humor and she loved to make people laugh.

    Individually, each of us needs to figure out, what’s my one thing? Businesses need to decide, what’s our one thing? When we do, life becomes simpler, less confusing and more focused -” putting us on the path to high performance.

    So what’s the one thing that you choose to be a high performer at? Will you be like most people and businesses and limit yourself from becoming a high performer, or will you identify and pursue your one thing? If you choose to pursue your one thing, consider asking those around you to give you the finger to remind you to stay focused on it. And if you happen to see somebody give the finger, that crooked single index finger, smile and give it back.

    Dr. TC North is a high-performance executive coach and speaker who accelerates individuals’ and organizations’ success by becoming high performers. For 24 years, he has coached business and sales leaders to create extraordinarily profitable, high-performing organizations that people love to work for. Contact him at

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    Richard Blanchard
    Rick is the Managing Editor of Corp! magazine. He has worked in reporting and editing roles at the Port Huron Times Herald, Lansing State Journal and The Detroit News, where he was most recently assistant business editor. A native of Michigan, Richard also worked in Washington state as a reporter, photographer and editor at the Anacortes American. He received a bachelor of arts from the University of Michigan and a master’s in accountancy from the University of Phoenix.