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The ONE Thing is Flawed

Melvyn Tan
Melvyn Tan
2 min read

The best advice can come from the least expected sources.

In the movie, City Slickers, Curly gave city dweller, Mitch Robbins this advice:

Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is? [holds up one finger]
Curly: This.
Mitch: Your finger?
Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean shit.
Mitch: But, what is the “one thing?”
Curly: [smiles] That’s what you have to find out.

It messes with your head

For years, I've struggled with not being able to define what I do within the confines of a job description.

I would feel ashamed whenever someone asked me, "So what do you do?"

My inability to provide an answer that others were looking for—a consultant, a trainer, retired—would affect my mental health.

It caused me to feel like an imposter—I’m not good enough. It caused me to lose sleep at night—what if I run out of money because I'm not good enough. It caused me to lose my self-esteem—people think I'm a loser.

"You're depressed," my psychiatrist confirmed my worst fear. And shame.

"Now people are really going to think I'm a loser," I told myself.

It felt like a mess

In 2019, I decided to work with organizations other than schools.

I would become a first Asian video evangelist on LinkedIn. I would become a digital content strategist for brands. I would become an advisor helping brands leverage LinkedIn as they transit from serving consumers to serving businesses.

"You're not focused," they'd say. "You try to do too many things. You'd end up not doing anything well." Another generalized statement. "So what is it you do exactly?" With a confused look on their faces.

The conventional wisdom was to focus on ONE thing. Doing so would enable you to unlock the powerful secret that would change your life, both personally and professionally.

I disagree. For more than a decade, I was focused on providing advisory services to only schools. While I was perceived as an authority in the education management space, I had a problem.

The problem was to rely on a single source of income.

Never rely on a single source

I wrote this for my latest project:

The Oracle of Omaha—Warren Buffett— famously said to never rely on a single source of income.

Well. That's easy for him to say. For the rest of us, having more than one source of income is nice but difficult.

The pandemic has dealt a huge blow to the millions of freelancers and self-employed individuals:

By being dependent on a single source of income puts them in an extremely vulnerable position.

Now I am glad I did not bow to the conventional wisdom. The income from my consulting business for schools would be badly affected because of the pandemic. The other work I do due to my "lack of focus" would save me and my sanity.

Melvyn Tan

Over the last 19 years, I've built a badass one-person enterprise that allowed me to live life on my terms. Here, I write weekly about what I'm thinking and doing running my one-person enterprise.