How I Found my One Word
Recently, I listened to an audiobook from Evan Carmichael about how to find your one word.
Now, what's your "one word," and why does it matter?
Human beings are made to create. We are objects of creation: our parents made us, our society shapes us, and every moment, God holds us in being. But not only are we created -- we also create! We make poems and power lines, sonnets and spreadsheets, paintings and podcasts, songs and socks.
And due to the technology available today, it has never been easier to create. You can make record music and upload it to Sound Cloud; you can record a conversation and upload it as a podcast through Anchor; you can exhibit your photography on Instagram; you can host your writings on social media and blogs.
Yet there is a perceived problem. When there are so many people filling the pipes, how could you get noticed?
Now, I think this is a false problem on one hand -- I don't think we have to get noticed to make it worth it. If you're creating something only so other people can see it, you will never be genuinely fulfilled doing it. You need to find something that you enjoy so much that you'd enjoy doing it even if you failed at it.
But with that said, it's still normal to want your creations to be seen. You want the hard work you do to pay off. And more importantly, our creations can genuinely help one another. Your poem might genuinely lift someone up who needs to hear it.
My podcast is still very small. But I've already heard a few people say that it's helped motivate them to make some changes in their lives. At the end of the day, that's why I want people to have access to my work.
The Solution: Finding Your One Word
Now it is true that there is a lot of noise, and it's hard to get noticed.
Plus, when it gets hard, or when there are tough decisions to make, you need a strong sense of direction and motivation to pull you through.
This is where the concept of your one word comes in. The theory is this: every one of us has one word that explains all of the things we love. Every one of us has a single word that encapsulates our passions and purpose.
There is a big problem with mission statements. They don't motivate. They're too big and clunky. But if you can find that one word that has emotional juice in it, one that lights a fire and unites your passions, you will have the key to unlock your creativity.
Now, you might be skeptical. That's fine. But play along and do the exercise in this post, and see if it helps. Too many people try to decide philosophically that a piece of advice won't work for them. Just give it a try. At the very least, this will be a good opportunity for self awareness. So for the rest of this post, get yourself in the state of mind that finding your one word is exactly what you need to do in order to finally find clarity and purpose in your creative work.
How to Find Your One Word
The method that Evan proposes is actually pretty simple. You grab a piece of paper, and you take the following steps. (See my downloadable worksheet at the end of this post.)
First, make a list of all your favorites. List your favorite movies, songs, fiction books, non-fiction books, and so on.
Try to write down at least three for each of them.
Ask yourself, "What do my favorite movies all have in common?" Write down a few one word descriptions that unite your favorite movies. Do this for all your favorite songs and books as well.
At this point you should have a number of words written next to each of the categories. Circle any of them that occur several times.
Second, make a list of all the personality traits of people that you like. Notice who you enjoy spending time with. And then make a list right next to it of people you don't like. Notice from these lists any new words that jump out, and any words from the previous list that have shown up again.
Third, make a list of the top 5 or so words that jump out to you from the previous two steps. And then ask yourself: which of these words have always been true of me? Which will always be true of me? We want to find a word that describes you are to the core, no matter what -- the kind of things that would be true even if you were born on the other side of the world.
Pick your one word!
At this point, you need to make a decision. But make it a tentative decision. Feel free to pick one to three words, and "carry" them with you throughout the next few days. Try them on!
And remember that while picking your word, you can be creative!
How I found my one word
It was being creative that helped me find my one word. As you might be able to guess, my one word is all. It describes everything I stand for. But it was not the first word that came to mind. In fact, it wasn't even on my original lists anywhere!
Then how did I come to it?
I came to it because I needed to combine other words into one. For example, if you are torn between "hope" and "humor," you might pick a word like "laugh." The word laugh obviously relates to humor, but it also reminds me of the Proverb which says that lady wisdom "laughs at the day to come." She doesn't worry about tomorrow, because she has hope, so she is able to laugh. That's just one example.
For me, I was stuck with all kinds of words:
The word "fast" quickly rose to the top of my list. Why? Because when I thought of movies I enjoyed, they were all fast paced. And when I thought of character traits I hated, it's people who take up my time and talk really slowly.
Words like "passion," "ambition," and "fight" also were common. Every song I like has something to do with one of these three words, and I love to spend time with people who dream big.
I also found the word "holistic" on my list, mainly because I get very frustrated by people who are narrow minded, who try to say we have to pick between, for example, being religious and being reasonable. I want to have it all!
It was at this point I had an "aha" moment. "Have it all?" Then I realized how often the word "all" has mattered to me in my life.
When debating the goodness of God, I have become adamant that God's love extends to all people, not just some.
When defending the right to life of the unborn, I have tried to defend the sanctity of all life: in and out of the womb.
When talking to fundamentalists who want to say God only loves people who do X, Y, and Z, I try to push them to see that God created the entire world and He declared it all to be good.
So then I got a little creative: I took this word "all" and made it big enough to encapsulate all the other words I was considering.
Narrow and Broad
The idea here is that you want to find one word that can describe all your passions. So this is the last step you want to take on, after you pick your one word.
Make three "mini mission statements" out of it. For me, they are:
Give your all
Do it all
Give your all: this is all about the passion, the drive, the fight. I rarely meet anyone who is living life with 100% of the God-given power and intensity that they could be. Yes, rest is important. But even among those who value rest, I hardly meet anyone who knows how to go all-out on resting! We often waver back and forth and never dive in, fully committed.
Do it all: this is about resisting narrow-minded thinking. And it's about enjoying the entirety of life. And it's about having high standards for the entirety of your life. It's corny, but true: you will only be as strong as your weakest link. So raise the standard in everything you do. Stop being average and complacent in any area of your life. Strive to always be growing spiritually, physically, psychologically, financially, and professionally.
Love all: at the end of the day, all your effort is about love. Love God, love humanity, and love even the animals and earth! It's way too easy to be successful and unfulfilled -- that's what Tony Robbins calls the Ultimate Failure. But why do people lack fulfillment? It's because of a lack of love. True joy is only found in giving away. Gary Vee has said many times that he wants to be remembered for one thing: he gave more than he took. Regardless of how people remember us, this is how we truly ought to live, for joy is found in the act of giving.
In order to help you find your one word, I made a worksheet. It gives you step-by-step directions on how to find your one word. Let me email it to you:
What about Evan's book?
So should you still get the book?
It depends. If you want to build a business (even a small one), then the answer is definitely YES, because he shows how your one word applies to every aspect of business, from marketing to sales to hiring to firing to scaling and everything else.
But if you are just seeking to create, the information in this post and the worksheet I included are more than enough to get going.
If you want to pick up the book, consider using my link so I can get a tiny reimbursement from Amazon :)