One Paradigm-shifting Idea That Will Change the Way You Communicate

It’s something professional speakers do. It’s something the best storytellers and broadcasters do. It’s something your favorite bloggers and writers do, too.

One Photo
Photo credit: Andre Chinn (Creative Commons)

But for some reason, I was neglecting it. I thought I was better than it, that I was somehow above the system. I was believing a lie.

The phrase that changed my mind

Earlier this week on a webinar, I heard Derek Halpern say this:

Stop writing lists. Write one tip that helps you get one result. (Click here to tweet that.)

Of course, this applies to more than tips and tricks. It applies to ideas and stories, too. We communicators need to stop cluttering our messages with too many inane details.

Sure, a blog post with “101 ideas about X” is catchy, but is it memorable? You may get people saying, “I’ll bookmark that!” but are they going back to read it? Or are they forgetting about it? Probably the latter.

How to be remembered

I’m sure I’ll still do the occasional list post (because they’re kinda fun), but I’m much more interested in providing one idea that sticks than seven forgettable ones.

Does this mean that you only have one point? Not at all. It means you have one objective, one goal — something you want to accomplish. Here are some possibilities:

  • To encourage
  • To convince
  • To notify
  • To inspire hope
  • To warn
  • To explain
  • To empower
  • To demonstrate

And so on. Once you’ve got your “one thing” (whether it be an idea, a story, a detail, or a tip), take that and back it up with a few rationale.

Why this makes sense

Be honest. Your memory isn’t that good. Neither is mine. Think about it:

  • Most people are busy. They don’t have time to remember something more complicated than one sticky idea.
  • Most people are distracted. Your message is competing with thousands of others. You can stand out by being remarkable.
  • Most people are forgetful. This is a byproduct of busyness and distraction. Strangers simply don’t have time to remember what you said, so keep it simple to stay at at the forefront of their minds.

I’m always forgetting appointments and meetings (heck, I lose my keys on a regular basis). I need to write things down to remember them. And it helps if they’re not too complicated.

Most people are like this. They need help understanding why what you’re saying is worth remembering. So that’s why you limit your talk or essay or blog post to one key idea worth remembering.

Finding your “one thing”

If you had one thing to say to the world, what would it be?

Mine would be something like this:

You are an artist; now go create.

You can tweet that, if you like, but I’d really like you to come up with your own.

It’s time for you to decide what one thing you want to say, and then say it. So let’s do that:

If this were your last day on earth, and you only had one song to sing, one tweet to share, one sentence to shout, what would it be? Share in the comments.

174 thoughts on “One Paradigm-shifting Idea That Will Change the Way You Communicate

  1. This quote says it all: And did you get what you wanted from this life, even so? I did. And what did you want? To call myself beloved, to feel myself beloved on the earth. — Raymond Carver

  2. I loved that advice too, Jeff.   Sometimes when I sit down to write my mind wants to go off in several different directions.  But if we say too much at once,  people are going to have a hard time remembering.    My one thing would be:

    Life is beautiful…seize it!

    1.  Hi Michael,  I just tried to click on your link up above and getting “page not found error.”  What is the name of the post?

  3. I’ve been thinking about encouragement lately.    Not simple pats on the back or a “great job” comments.  Not lies to make someone feel better or hollow compliments.   

    Real observant, meant to build up, truthful, meaningful encouragement.  What does it look like? What kind of personal confidence and vulnerability is required?  What kinds of risks do we have to take to live this way?

    I actually want another word than encouragement because it’s current use doesn’t reflect it’s real meaning.    

    Like I said, I’ve been thinking about it and making notes, but no real solid writing yet.  This may be my one thing.  At least for now.  

    1. Eyvonne, I have been looking for …you!  It seems to me you would be the one to leave a truthful comment, and right now, this is what I really need.

      I have posted as a guest on a site, footprints of the mind, and I need your help. Will you please read it and leave a comment? This is my very first published writing and a couple of comments are the “great job” kind.

      I want to be encouraged to continue to write and those comments make me feel good, but I don’t want a “pat on the back”. I need constructive criticism that will help me correct  mistakes whatever they might be and grow.

      We don’t know each other, but I really need a reader who won’t be afraid to hurt my feelings. What do you say? Please? This is the link…I thank you in advance!

    1. …and the fact I have typos makes me that much more special!  What I wanted to say in the above jumbled statement was…..I am who I am, and what I am, because of what I’ve gone through, and in that, I am special. 

                                                                                                        Jeez…….Thank God it’s Friday

  4. I love this principle.  It takes the stress out of writing posts for me- wow, I only have to give them one take-away, one thing to do or remember.  I love that.  I just have to zone in on something at the end and make my point.  I can do that!

    Hmm, last day on earth and one proclamation to me- it would be , “God planted a desire in you to be something.  Spend the time finding out what that is, and go be it.”

  5. My one message is this — The only way to find true joy and fulfillment is to live life according to the Maker’s design; find His purpose for your life and go after it with all you’ve got!

  6. I’m going through the webinar right now and it’s really useful and interesting. Thanks Jeff for providing it for us. And yes, I do agree with the one result thing; though it can be tricky if you’re writing about an idea and connecting it to many others. 

  7. This is a great topic.

    I’ve been looking at my writing and thinking it’s just too dang complex. Too many ideas and concepts causes brain freeze.

    Yesterday while I was writing a review of  Steven Pressfield’s new book Turning Pro, I came to the conclusion that genius is encoded in simplicity.

    Thanks for your mentoring Jeff!

  8. Embrace the failure because fearing it will keep those words unspoken, unsung or unwritten.

  9. Living in the UK I sadly couldn’t attend. The one sentence I would say is this……”Do something before it’s too late to do anything”

  10. Jeff, I have been wondering how I am going to use my site when it is ready. Following you and a few others had given me ideas. Derek a couple of days ago and this morning you and your ONE theme really did it for me!
    Based on “What is important is invisible to the eye” from the Little Prince my ONE theme would be this:
    “Look with your eyes by see with your soul!”
    How does this sound to you? What do you think Everyone?
    Thank you Jeff…for everything!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. I am where you are, too, Katina.  I hear Jeff’s words ring in my ears, “What are you going to offer to your followers that will keep them coming?”  I’m not sure yet.

      I LOVE your theme of looking with your eyes and seeing with your soul! 🙂


      1. Shari, I think you wrote somewhere something about  “journeys being more importand than destinations”. If I am right, what you wrote above is funny!

         You said that you are where I am… But I am where you are!  

        My book is about journeys and about what we need to do during our journey so that when we reach our destination, we will be …richer and wiser…

        Looking with the eyes but seeing with the heart is imperative in this journey of ours!

        If you want to see through my eyes and my heart something specific, I invite you to read my very first guest post that was published. Leaving a comment at the end of the post woul be great! Here is the link: Hope to see you there!  

  11. Love and accept who you are and extend that grace with the people around you.

    Good application of Derek’s post structure, Jeff, with the emotional hook, logical explanation, and appropriately placed tweetables and CTAs. ;). You should e-mail Derek and let him know how his advice led to a great result for you. 😉

    Thanks for showing how to translate Derek’s model into a more “writer friendly” format.

  12. Wow…this is one of those ‘thinky’ posts.  Love those!

    How about:  “Change Your World by Changing Yourself”

    Or…”Be Inspired to Be Yourself”

    Or..”Choose Wisely:  Today’s Choices Create Tomorrow’s Opportunities”

    Okay, I’ll stop now.

    Hope you all have a great day.

  13. Handcrafting ideas for ‘better’…

    I wonder if that’s still too broad? Regardless, as soon as I saw your headline I thought of Derek’s point-I sat in on the webinar.

    Good work digging deeper on that point. That was my biggest takeaway as well.

    Great post.

    Enjoy the weekend with your family!

  14. This is so hard. The first thought that came to my mind, the one thing I would tell people is “Go.” I’m not really sure how that’s supposed to play out, but that was my first thought. Also, “It will be ok.” I write out so much stress, worry, change, frustration, but by the time my words wear out, I always end up with, “It will be ok.” Oh, and “Write it down.” Ok, maybe three things…

  15. Don’t let mistakes paralyze you. God restores, brings hope, and a new day each morning; work to seek that restoration, hope, and new day.

  16. Your challenge has inspired me to start a new blog, to say the one thing I’ve always wanted to say. We’re in this together and we can defeat pain together.

  17. Having been struck with a gut-wrenching experience yesterday that made me ask if living is all that good after all, I can say with certainty that the absolute best thing in the world is to know that Christ is present and powerful in every dismal moment. I agree with the inspiring and motivating things people are saying, because we should not let life slip past us without noticing or participating. But when all that inspiring chatter is blown away in a blast of crushing reality, the presence of Christ lifts and empowers me in ways no happy aphorism can ever match.

  18. P.S. I love the image, above. Perfect. 
    One idea.
    Nine parts (blog sites) to communicate it all.

  19. It’s true, God longs to restore all that was lost to you.  

    (That’s my one thing.  Here’s where I can tell you guys the rest…He can restore ALL, not just 75% or 85%…ALL.  If He did it for me, He can do it for anyone.  How to wrap that up into one thing?  Still thinking…)

  20. I enjoyed the webinar – always enjoy Derel’s thoughts, so no surprise there.
    This focus that you talk about isn’t just narrowing down each blog post – for me, it’s also about coming up with topics to write on. I want them all to relate to my primary mission for my blog – and for my life.

  21. Jeff, you are my hero. I have used your advice to focus my blog in recent weeks, and, while I’m not sure I completely have it yet, at this point, I would say my one thing is this:

    Joy is available always. Sometimes you have to mine it, and sometimes you have to manufacture it, but you can always find choices that lead to a more joy-filled life.

    More and more, as I work to focus my blog, I realize that it’s designed mostly to help remind me how incredible this world and how much I want to do in it.

  22. You don’t have to live your life stuck in destructive patterns – all things are possible with the help of the Heavenly Father!

  23. If this were my last day on earth, and I only had one song to sing, one tweet to share, one sentence to shout, it would be; God is so… so… so good. 

  24. Wow!  All of these “one true things” are so thought provoking and lend to so much writing! 

     I really think mine would be,
    “It’s about the journey, not the destination.”  

    or something about process versus product.  It’s all just one wild ride, isn’t it? Shari

  25. I know I need to narrow my focus to one goal, one thing that I want to accomplish. I need to do that better with each blog post…so I’m working on one now… 🙂  My one song to sing would be: Let go of past mistakes and live like you were dying…

  26. Thanks for giving me an opportunity to watch the webinar! I’ll be finding the one idea for many of my blog posts, and maybe that will help my blog–and my actual writing.

  27. Gosh. It does seem obvious- yet we don’t do that. More is better, quantity over quality- these are common catch phrases in our society! You are right. I will work shortening my lists to one single suggestion. Thanks Jeff. 

  28. This was one of the major take-aways from the webinar. My one thing today?

    “Don’t throw away your confidence.”

    Rather than focusing on my “do”, I’m taking hold of God’s “don’t”. Really, his “don’t” is my “do.”

    Thank you for sharing your heart with your readers. There’s a lot to be gained in this place.


  29. This is a fabulous expansion on what Derek said in the webinar.  I  got what he was saying, but this post really fleshed it out for me and made it more doable–thank you!
    I’m not quite sure yet what my one thing would be, but I am going to spend the day working on it!  🙂

  30. “Enjoy the Journey.”

    Jeff!  I can’t express to you how much I needed this post.  You know those moments where you know what you want to say or do, but you just need to hear it from someone else? 

    This post is just that.

    My thing is telling stories, and after attending Derek’s webinar the other day, I felt constricted by the “perfect post format.”  I don’t like beating my readers over the head with the meaning or moral of my story; I love when they extract their own meaning.

    When I read your list of objectives (to inspire hope, to encourage, etc.) it was like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders.  I can still tell stories, influence my readers, AND generate more traffic to my site.

    Thank you so much,

  31. One Song to sing: Holy, Holy, Holy.

    One Sentence to shout: I’ll keep rewriting until they say Yes.

  32. I’m glad you addressed this, Jeff. When I heard Derek make that point in the webinar, I had trouble applying it to my blog – I wasn’t sure how I could do the “one tip” thing in a blog about faith and spirituality. So thank you for clarifying that for me – I get it now.

    My one thing: God is always with you, even in the midst of everyday grit.

  33. Song: 10,000 reasons – Matt Redman.

    And on that day when my strength is failingThe end draws near and my time has comeStill my soul will sing Your praise unendingTen thousand years and then forevermore 

  34. I heard this loud and clear in the webinar but second time round with your inimtable comments, it is crystal clear and on the to-do list for next week.  Thanks.

  35. After some thinking, the first “one thing” that comes from me:

    “Make a mark that lasts today, tomorrow, and until the end of mankind.”

    Alternatively: “Write for yourself, for others, and for a higher purpose (which may be God, but it doesn’t have to be).”

  36. For as long as you can take it. Cover your eyes to block out all light; put on sound blocking headphones; cover your mouth so you can’t talk – then go on with your day!…then appreciate…even if  just briefly –  a new world view. I had to write this first. 

    1. I sure didn’t last long with my own experiment. But I do have an improved world view…even if for a few fleeting minutes. I am a little more thankful for the things I take for granted.  Now I’m off  to ride my bike and write some story. Thanks Jeff for your clear and concise writing that I always learn from. I posted I AM A WRITER on FB…now there’s no turning back.

  37. After listening to the webinar replay today I was thankful for this post of yours.  While listening it was hard for me to transfer the information into a non-sales blog.  But your *list of possibilities above stating goals we may want to accomplish helped me to see the info in light of the type of blog I’m working on. I’ve had a blog full of randomness and I’m thankful for people like you who are helping me understand more about my voice and content.  My goal is to encourage people to believe that in this world the only thing we need to be satisfied is the love of Christ.  You and Derek have helped me get my head and heart back in that place!

  38. I actually loved this part about the call as well. I thought it had some very interesting points and clearly they worked for him throughout his career. I do think there is more than one way to build a platform though. But this piece of advice was almost worth the call in and of itself. Great followup!

  39. You know, Jeff, I struggle with my blog for this very reason. Been blogging since 2005 an my traffic has been the same from almost the beginning. Why?

    Lots of reasons, but the chief among them being that I dont’ write about one thing. You write about writing. Ann Vaskamp writes daily devotions for Christians. Michael Hyatt write about leadership. I have no idea what my niche is. I’m rudderless.So saying only one thing in a post is often a struggle. Thanks for the challenge. Off to think some more on it.

    1.  Shaun, after visiting your blog, I don’t think you’re rudderless.  Your writing obviously has drive and direction.   Of course, there are times that I feel I’m in the same boat as you. 

      Five years ago, my blog started off as a journal, without a care if anyone read it.  Then I started doing product reviews to help pay the bills during an extremely trying time in my life.  Traffic mattered.  And my writing suffered as I worked to get the word count up, and dollars in.

      At the beginning of this year, I changed my focus: I decide that traffic would no longer matter to me, and writing would become an exciting learning process.  Magically, my blog became a fun-filled playground.  Yes, if I tickle the fancy of a few readers, then all the better.  But for now, and for the next six months, I’m writing about anything that crosses my warped thoughts. 

      My plan, starting in January 2013, is to create a niche blog or two, have a couple of books ready, and then, perhaps, take the world by storm – or at least, with a good soaking.  Assuming I’ve learned my lessons well.

      I don’t know if this comment makes sense to you, Shaun.  Perhaps you, like me, just need to continue exploring huge topics of life until we can get them into tasty, bite-sized morsels to feed to those future readers hungry for our discoveries.  (Sorry, the neighbor is outside grilling steaks.  The tantalizing aroma reminds me I haven’t eaten yet.  And that I need to get my grill back.  I think it has been a miss-steak to lend it to him.)

      Anyway, don’t be discouraged.  With Jeff and other excellent resources, we’ll end up steering our course as we wish.  Yes?

    2. Have you followed Jeff’s Intentional Blog course Shaun? It’s really helping me – I’ve a way to go, but I know where I’m heading now. I still write about a few topics, but they are interconnected. Have you seen Chris Guillebeau’s work too? All the best!

  40. These are really great points. I actually just read a pre-release copy of a great book touching on this idea of finding that one thing that sets you apart and really motivates you in all you do. I think in today’s cluttered world, this is such an important concept to grasp. (The book is One Big Thing by Phil Cooke, by the way… I’d definitely recommend checking it out for those of us pursing this idea.)

  41. I thought that webinar was fantastic! I was sorely tempted to purchase Derek’s course, but it’s not in the budget. Also, if @StandardTheme:twitter v3 hadn’t launched today you would’ve “stolen” my post topic. 🙂

    I love the concept of ONE because I’m guilty of creating bloated lists and tagging “10 tips to…” in order to read it later and I never do. I’ve bookmarked some how-to stuff for blogging purposes, but that’s about the only stuff I actually refer to later.

    Thank you again for cohosting and introducing Derek to your tribe. Happy Friday!

    Btw, you really should checkout the new version of Standard. It’s amazing.

  42. Ugh! I don’t know! What if that were my last phrase on Earth? What a waste! Tonight, we wrapped up VBS and the main point was “God gives me a purpose so I will pass it on.” I liked that. Also, the preacher said something like, “Be a magnifying glass for God in this world.” That was cool too. Of course, I could stick to my mantra (courtesy of Jeff): “I am a writer. So I’m going to just write now.” Darn, this is hard. 🙂

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