Evan Carmichael offers sound guidance in his book, Your One Word: The Powerful Secret to Creating a Business and Life That Matter , which was written with entrepreneurs in mind, but it also has powerful messages for anyone who believes they have untapped potential in their professional or personal lives. Carmichael portends that too many people accept mediocrity in their jobs and in their lives. The first step in breaking free is finding a defining “One Word” philosophy that encompasses all aspects of a person’s life and inspires goal achievement. This One Word should reflect who people have been their entire lives, rather than representing fleeting events or others’ expectations. “If you want to succeed, you need to start with what makes you happy,” he states.
Throughout the book, Carmichael illustrates his concepts by using vignettes about how successful entrepreneurs and industry leaders—including women leaders such as Maria Rodale, CEO of Rodale Publishing, among others—have employed One Word strategies and techniques to develop their personal brands and accomplish their goals.
A Woman’s Perspective
Women have some unique considerations related to the One Word philosophy. “I am always careful to not paint with broad strokes, but if I look at the women who I have worked with who have gone through the process of determining their One Word, two things come to mind. First, I recommend talking with others less and talking with yourself more. Women who have gone through the process are very used to collaboration, and seeking input and getting others’ opinions, and working together. The One Word process is a different circumstance because it isn’t a team project or something we have to rally a group around. This is a very personal exercise to figure out what your One Word is. At the end of the day, it has to be you who makes the decision,” Carmichael says.
He also emphasizes that the One Word philosophy requires living your version of your life, not one that others expect of you. “Many women find their One Word faster; I think women are more self-aware than men. But they sometimes have a fear of executing their One Word and being bold with it and sharing it because they are worried about judgment,” Carmichael says. “But even having that awareness and understanding that this is what you stand for, and you are not living it and having that shine in your face every day can give you the courage to go out and say, ‘I am going to let go of expectations of other people. I am going to live my version of my life. I say I am about this, and now I am going to start living it.’”
The Three Cs: Core, Campaign, Company
In the first section of the book, titled “Core,” Carmichael encourages readers to discover their One Word through various contemplative exercises. For example, readers are instructed to think about all the things they enjoy, such as their favorite people, jobs, music, books, and movies. Carmichael says readers should take their time and think about the connection between these favorite things. That connection can be boiled down to one powerful word that defines and guides readers’ decisions and actions.
To help readers understand the One Word concept, Carmichael shares possible One Word choices for well-known leaders: Martin Luther King Jr. may have chosen “equality,” and Steve Jobs’s choice may have been “impact.” Carmichael encourages creativity in this exercise: A One Word can be an admired person or a word that embodies two different concepts. In addition, determining your One Word may take a few hours, weeks, or even months. The key is to take the time to determine a One Word that embodies who the reader is and what guides that person’s goals and actions.
The second section of the book, “Campaign,” teaches readers how to use their One Word to communicate what they care about. Carmichael includes a planning checklist with clear explanations for each item in a successful campaign, such as the right mind-set, a founding story, and knowing your enemy.
“When you stand for something powerful, something that means something to you, something that other people can easily understand, people will share it and rally behind you,” Carmichael says.
The third section, “Company,”explainshow to apply your One Word to building a business and career. Of particular interest to aspiring or experienced leaders are the sections on hiring, using rituals to strengthen teams, and project management.
For example, Carmichael explains how he used his One Word, “believe,” to hire a team for his consulting business for entrepreneurs. His job ads emphasized the word “believe,” so that only those who were in line with his philosophy would apply. In addition, instead of using the traditional interviewing process to vet candidates, he paid candidates to complete a freelance project, choosing new hires based on their performance.
Team rituals designed around a leader’s One Word build and reinforce the desired culture. For example, if a leader’s One Word is “calm,” that leader might recognize on a weekly basis the customer service representative who remained calm when dealing with an agitated customer.
Having One Word can also help leaders manage projects. “Your One Word sits on top of your project-management system,” Carmichael says. “It helps you align your team, not just to a common goal, which is the result of the project, but also to a common way of believing why and how things should get done.”
A Call to Action
Carmichael inspires his readers to go beyond the immediate rewards of money or recognition, which may provide quick results but not long-lasting foundations to build businesses or careers. “The idea of working hard at something you don’t like just so you can live the life you want at some point in the future is crazy to me. Start living that life now,” Carmichael says.
He recommends immediate action, even if it’s in a small or imperfect way. “It’s way more important to do something right now than to do the perfect thing later because there is no perfect thing. And you likely won’t do anything later,” Carmichael advises.
Betty Hintch is senior editor for HFMA.