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What’s the one thing you do immensely well?

07.17.15

I’ve learned more about tear ducts in the past few months than I ever thought possible.

What started as a watery eye last Fall eventually led to a recurring (and ugly) infection in the Spring. At its worst, it looked like I’d gone 15 rounds with Muhammad Ali in his prime.

By mid-April, Dr. Larry Allen, a surgeon at the Ivey Eye Institute, had weighed in. “You’ve got a blocked tear duct, badly infected. You can live with it for the rest of your life by treating the infection, or I can operate and remove the blockage.”

So, on June 10, Dr. Allen did his thing.

Two hours later my tear duct was clear. And now my eye is recovering.

Larry’s thing — what Strategic Coach founder Dan Sullivan calls Unique Ability — is specialized eye surgery.

Eye lids and tear ducts. It’s all Larry does.

Nothing else.

Why is this important?

By focusing on his one thing, Larry becomes the go-to-guy for eyes. He’s highly credible and talented. He inspires confidence. Truth is, I don’t want anyone else treating my eye.

Doing one thing immensely well is much more difficult than doing a few things pretty well… or creating a long list of features and add-ons that detract you from your unique ability.

  • Long snappers on NFL teams are on the field for 10-15 plays per game, maybe 10% of the action. All they do is snap the ball to a kicker or holder on punts, extra points and field goals.
  • That little company called Google? Here’s #2 on its list of core beliefs: “It’s best to do one thing really, really well. We do search.”
  • The anesthetist who sent me off to never-never land before surgery? Hers was a five-minute job… but a highly specialized one.

And the opposite is also true.

When Ray Kroc opened his first McDonald’s in 1955, he served burgers, fries and shakes. Period.

Fast forward to today.

A bloated menu now has McDonald’s in a deep rut… in stark contrast to the laser focus of In-N-Out Burger. You’ll find no McChicken or McRib at In-N-Out. It never strays. (The menu above is proof.)

Two good reasons to find and focus on your one thing:

  1. It hones your craft. The more you do something, the better you get at it. You can innovate faster and better. You’re able to solve your customer’s problem better than it’s been solved in the past. You can please more people with your solutions.
  1. It distances you from your competitors. If you solve a difficult problem for a long time, you’ll surge ahead of other players in your market. The network effects in our economy are stronger than ever. If you do something well, the company that does it really well will eat your lunch. You can make good Italian food and good Chinese food in the same restaurant, but the Italian place down the street will probably have better Italian food and the Chinese joint around the corner will probably have better Chinese food. And you’ll soon be suffering

The real kicker: applying this thinking to each member of your team.

Imagine every person around you in a role that capitalizes on the one thing they do immensely well. How powerful would that be for your brand?

Enough said.

So the next time you think about adding that killer new feature or just one more bell or whistle, pause for a moment and think of your one thing.

And then do it even better.

Ask yourself:

  1. Are you doing one thing immensely well?
  2. Are you resisting the urge to stray?
  3. Are you surrounding yourself with people who do the same?

~Craig

P.S.
Happy Summer to everyone in the Northern Hemisphere.
To my friends south of the equator… your time is coming!