Now I slide down a potentially slippery incline plane to make a case for a life philosophy based on a line from a cheesy comedy-western film. Hardly the fodder for rigorous academic inquiry.

Note: This is another installment in my participation in the 2022 Write 6×6 Challenge, they must sometimes shake their heads at what gets syndicated into their site! PS who even remembers what I mean by blog syndications? Oops I am already writing off my intended path…

But there was always something more to this sequence between Billy Crystal’s Mitch character and Jack Palance’s Curly in City Slickers:

Here I have the dialogue:

Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is?

Curly: This. [holds up one finger]

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 gotta figure out.

As usual with the internet, I am hardly the first or only to find meaning in it.

You find Curly’s Law used in blog posts that offer wisdom in marketing / branding, purpose-finding, theology, even skeet shooting. My first reference and maybe one of the more clever is Jeff Atwoods framing for an approach to programming.

To me I think in the edtech field there is often a Secret of Life desire for the “best tool” or teaching strategy or resource or X, this is the allure of solutionism (AI! eportfolios! Blogs! Web 2.0! Web3! Metaverse! the LMS! Badges!) when the better approach as a practitioner (be it teaching, using technology, etc) is that you have to (a) work at something like a practice (“stick to it”) and (b) that you need to figure out what it is, not rely on some company/blogger/consultant/keynoter to tell you what it is (“That’s what you gotta figure out”).

The one thing is… there is no one thing.

For me this has been at the core of things like a [obsessive] Daily Photo practice, the merging of that approach with the DS106 Daily Create, (which evolved into a WordPress theme for doing your own daily prompt activities) at one time it was running (which I still hate).

It’s not the most Important Thing (c.f. love, family, etc) it’s one thing you choose to devote energy to as a practice.

And yes I even once presented on this at Glendale Community College!

That’s fine, the usual CogDogBlog trope of sweeping up crumbs of the past. What about 2022?


I am slated to do an online conference session May 6 (yes I am being fuzzy on the details, still waiting confirmation) pitched as:

Take all suggestions for pitched solutions to pandemic sized challenges, inspirational messages from keynote speakers, promises of educational technology tools or teaching strategies as a magic fix, with the largest grain of salt. What can we get from a cliché dialogue from a Hollywood western character? Maybe more than you might think. I offer some lessons learned from the serendipity of the internet, tours of rabbit holes of curiosity, kitchen metaphors, image thinking, all to drive some discussion about finding and sticking to your one thing.

What’s Your One Thing?

I am seeking examples of types of “things” educators… well actually anyone, takes up in a Curly-like fashion. Something you do, likely outside the worky-work stuff, that you just stick with. That you find the practice eventually awards in maybe an achievement (running a marathon, baking a quiche, building a giant sculpture) but also, that gives you an internal sense of that Curly spirit.

It’s not something you are passionate about, it’s a thing you take on with a regular practice.

Is anyone willing to share their one thing? Often it is something our colleagues may not even know about.

What’s Someone Else’s One Thing?

If you are stuck on that, share what you know from a friend, colleague, maybe someone you see signs of the one thing in social media as a “One Thing” they seem to do…

Like I know Dave Cormier builds doors and garden gnomes and other wood things in his workshop.

Or Laura Ritchie runs a lot and wrote a book!). I see other colleagues building log cabins, long distance trail runners, being master gardeners, flying planes, making beer at home, heck I know 5 colleagues who make wood pens.

You see, these One Things would not really work for me, but it works for them. That’s a key.

It’s more than a hobby- I have a sense that the focus and practice that goes into someone’s one thing helps them decompress and even rethink their work or teaching practice.

That’s my experience when I take that deliberate time each day to go outside with a camera, try to relax and find something that would make for an interesting photo. I’ve not been doing Daily Photo thing 15 years to get an award or claim some achievement, it’s that the practice, the focus itself is the real reward.

Again I ask, what is your One Thing (and likely you have more than one, it’s not exclusionary). What is something you “stick to” doing on a regular basis? What does it do for you?

Update: A Few One Things

See comments below but also One Things

Featured Image: Yes a bit ironic that my photo was posted for the original @DailyShoot challenge (which inspired the DS106 Daily Create) but also references Curly’s Law.

Curly's Law
Curly’s Law flickr photo by cogdogblog shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so)


  1. I’ve had a passing interest in beekeeping since my mother-in-law decided to take a course – along with my wife – and keep a hive in their backyard. That first year, we watched as they tried to get a colony to live in the hive. The bees died that winter, but the next season, we were present when a swarm decided to move into the vacant hive to start over (unprovoked by us). Since then, the hive has sat empty, mostly unnoticed, in the garden.

    Two years ago, a friend convinced me that keeping my own hives was a good idea. I spent a fall and winter reading and watching every YouTube video I could find. I managed to catch my own swarms and spent the summer carefully tending my little buzzy friends. I went into our deep Michigan winter stressing about the cluster of bees shivering their way to warmer weather.

    Both of my hives are alive and well and I’m so eager to get back into the hive, I have a hard time focusing at work. I’m an afterthought to the bees – they don’t care about me or my fiddling. But when you’re working with 30,000 busy workers living their lives, I can’t help but feel a part of them at some level.

    The free honey is great, too.

    1. This is definitely the kind of thing I sought. See I knew from your social media trails / blog that you had done much of the building/designing on your home, and thought that was a Thing. But I do remember mention of hives, but not this as the story.

      So there is the one Thing, but maybe my one (of many) Thing is seeking to know the backstory. Thank you Brian.

  2. Today, my one thing is finishing a bachelor’s degree – that will be done at the end of this year. Every spare moment right now is being poured into the capstone project, which is fairly demanding compared with other programs. After that, I will need a new one thing and I’m looking forward to figuring out what it is in 2023. Loved this post, Alan.

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