What’s Your One Thing?

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Rom 12:2, NIV, emphasis added)

“The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.”  (2 Cor 10:5, The Message, emphasis added)

“Be still and know that I am God.”  (Ps 46:10)


How do you lead others during a crisis?  How do you use tragedies and traumas, headbutting and bullying, dilemmas and discouragements, to run a saintly home that shows peace amidst chaos. How do you do it?  How do you provide guidance, encouragement and leadership to your family, work colleagues and friends?  In truth, I suppose that the real question is, “How do you prepare to lead so that you are ready lead when when chaotic opportunity arises?”  Leadership is about peace, calm, composure and focus. Here are three resources that prepare leaders for victory in uncertain times. 

Admiral William McRaven  On May 23, 2014, Admiral William McRaven delivered an inspired commencement address to 8,000 graduates of the University of Texas (“UT”).  On that day, McRaven’s motivation was the Texas Longhorn slogan, “What starts here changes the world.” As a graduate of UT years earlier, he spoke on core values, teamwork and hope.  He challenged his world-changers to “Make Your Bed”.  In short, begin each day with one task completed!  Small tasks, performed with excellence, prepare leaders for greater endeavors. 

For Admiral William McRaven, making his bed set the tone for each day.  Good days were assured by the completion of a single task, well-done.  Bad days were softened by the achievement of that one task, done with excellence. Better tomorrows are built on tested hope!  According to McRaven, navy seals become tough, battle-hardened warriors by dogged dedication to a single task, done well, each morning.  Men who lead and serve their wives, children and colleagues with Christlikeness, prep-to-lead each morning by renewing themselves God’s Word and prayer (Rom 12:2).

Curly Washburn:  Jack Palance played the rawhide skinned, Marlboro bred trail boss on cattle drives in the 1991 hit movie, City Slickers.  In that movie, city dwellers like Mitch Robbins (Billy Crystal), Ed Furillo (Bruno Kirby) and Phil Berquist (Daniel Stern) who suffer from midlife crisis, use saddle camaraderie and manly endeavors to re-discover lost meaning in their lives. In one memorable exchange with Mitch, Curly bemoans the fate of unbalanced, over-stressed men who miss life’s crucial moments by chasing toys and misdirected accomplishments.  They use cattle drives to restore purpose to their hollow lives. 

Life, Curly explains, boils down to just “one thing”.  In City Slickers, we see how calamities, confrontation and catastrophes become pathways to clarity and purpose as men uncover their “one thing”.  In similar ways, Covid-19 represents a “do-over” opportunity for men to re-discover their “one thing”.  How often do I mistakenly allow the pressures of living to define my purpose for living?  I know that life is more that a paycheck, but I don’t behave like it.  I need to re-kindle the joy of dating my wife. I need to re-ignite the thrill of my kids’ first words. I must temper my drive for toys and accomplishment and invest in the rewards of relationships.  In ten years, maybe I will see this pandemic as the cattle drive that helped me to begin fitting loose thoughts, emotions and impulses into a life shaped by Christ. (2 Cor 10:5)


Dr John Townsend: Biola University and Dallas Theological Seminary graduate, business consultant, leadership coach, psychologist and CEO of the Townsend Institute of Leadership and Counseling at Concordia University reminds readers, students, followers and himself of the importance of collecting and calming ourselves at the start of each day.  Not as a Navy seal but as a Christian educator and business professional, Townsend stresses the importance of anchoring each day in God’s Word and prayer. Not as a trail boss but as a father and follower, Townsend begins each day with seeking God’s guidance and calming himself to His will … before checking the news … before meeting with his family … before returning calls or engaging colleagues. 

Dr Townsend reminds us that relationship is key to healthy living. Leaders run out of gas when they don’t fill their spiritual tanks before tackling tasks and engaging others.  In writing, teaching and speaking, he reminds us that God is the source of kindness and comfort. “God comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Cor 1:4)   We offer care and reassurance to others because we, first, allow God’s Spirit (and others He places in our lives) to refuel and refill us.  To that end, Dr Townsend begins each day “filling his tanks” with God’s presence and the comfort of His promises so that he can serve his wife, kids, colleagues and others in crisis!

Next Steps

How do you lead others during a crisis? 

Lead like Admiral McRaven: Renew yourself. Start each day with one task done well. (Rom 12:2) 

Lead like Curly Washburn: Follow “one thing” and fit loose thoughts, emotions and impulses into a life shaped by Christ. (2 Cor 10:5)

Lead like Dr John Townsend: Pause and fill you tanks each morning with God’s Word. Still yourself in His presence. (Ps 46:10)