Curly Understood Hedgehogs

Rewind the tape to 1991.  Mitch Robbins (played by Billy Crystal) is 39 years old, and stuck in the throws of a midlife crisis.  He and his city slicker buddies decide to head to New Mexico for a few days in an attempt to “get the knots out of their ropes.”

And so starts the movie, City Slickers.

Mitch and his friends find themselves on a dude ranch playing cowboy.  The plan is to drive a herd of cattle up into Colorado.  All under the guidance of a gnarly old trail boss named Curly.

Mitch and Curly are polar opposites.  But they do finally have a meaningful conversation.

Mitch asks Curly if he knows what the secret of life is.  The leathery cowboy says, “Yeah, one thing.”

When Mitch asks him what it is, Curly holds up his index finger and says, “This.”

Mitch says, “Your Finger?”

Curly tells him, “One thing.”

Mitch asks, “What’s the one thing?”

And then Curly gets it right.  He says, “That’s what you got to figure out.”

As a leader, it is important that you too figure out the one thing.  The one thing that you were born to do.

In Good to Great, Jim Collins calls it the “Hedgehog Concept.”  It is the second layer of disciplined thinking.

He defines the Hedgehog Concept as “the operating model that reflects understanding of three intersecting circles: 1) what you can be the best in the world at, 2) what you are deeply passionate about, and 3) what best drives your economic or resource engine.”


What is it that you have the potential to master?  The place where greatness is waiting to happen?  The thing that wakes you up early and keeps you up late?  A place where passion doesn’t have to be manufactured?

This is your “One Thing.”

If you ever hope to move from good to great in your life, I suggest you zone in on this one thing and line your life up accordingly.

I guarantee you, Curly would agree.



What is the “One Thing” that drives you?

Leave a comment


10 years ago

Good stuff again today! I think you’re achieved greatness in being an awesome brother…Glad God chose you as mine.
Love you. R


10 years ago

I detect some bias. But thanks Sis!


10 years ago

AH just “One thing”, and this may be the hardest thing we ever do as individuals. Looking at ourselves and figuring out what it is we really do best. It can take some time, just look on a college campus and see all who are seeking an education in a field they “think” they like only to find out later in life they have a passion for something different. We must pay attention to feedback we get from others, even if we don’t like it. This very well may lead us towards the “one thing”.


10 years ago

Great point Marlin!

Scott Humphrey

10 years ago

Wow. You make me want to get Collins book back out. The thought of the intersecting cirles really makes me wonder about my direction. I am good at what I do, but passionate about it. That is not the word I would use. It would seem to me that I have two options: 1) to create the job in such a way so I can be passionate about it or 2) to find the job I am passionate about…
I feel like there will be more to come on this…
And biased or not, I know Ronna is right!


10 years ago

Thanks Scott. I feel the love today! Keep working on discovery and I know you will find your sweet spot!


10 years ago

The prevailing philosophy in U.S. culture, I think, is, “You’ve got to do what feels right for you, and pursue it”. In fact, we were watching a TV series this past week and heard one of the characters give this advice to a “seeker”.
So, yeah, I think there needs to be an understanding of how we’re “wired”, and we need to factor in what we enjoy doing and are passionate about. God doesn’t hide that from us. But we’ll miss it if our primary focus is on the Hedgehog Concept, and not on God Himself.
Below is a devotional I read this morning on Philippians 1:21.
“For me to live is Christ.”—Philippians 1:21.
“From the moment of the new and celestial birth the man begins to live to Christ. Jesus is to believers the one pearl of great price, for whom we are willing to part with all that we have. He has so completely won our love, that it beats alone for Him; to His glory we would live, and in defence of His gospel we would die; He is the pattern of our life, and the model after which we would sculpture our character.
Paul’s words mean more than most men think; they imply that the aim and end of his life was Christ—nay, his life itself was Jesus. In the words of an ancient saint, he did eat, and drink, and sleep eternal life. Jesus was his very breath, the soul of his soul, the heart of his heart, the life of his life.
Can you say, as a professing Christian, that you live up to this idea? Can you honestly say that for you to live is Christ? Your business—are you doing it for Christ? Is it not done for self-aggrandizement and for family advantage? Do you ask, “Is that a mean reason?” For the Christian it is. He professes to live for Christ; how can he live for another object without committing a spiritual adultery?
Many there are who carry out this principle in some measure; but who is there that dare say that he hath lived wholly for Christ as the apostle did? Yet, this alone is the true life of a Christian—its source, its sustenance, its fashion, its end, all gathered up in one word—Christ Jesus.”


10 years ago

Thanks Tommy. Your comment is better than the blog itself!

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