The other day while driving to some weekend activity, I heard several one hit wonders on the radio. Eagle Eye Cherry’s Save Tonight came on as did Jacob Dylan’s One Headlight. I assure you, that you have heard these songs despite them being one hit wonders as they are ubiquitous in the advertising world. So many car commercials have these as the song that drives the mood (pun intended). These songs back to back on the radio got me thinking about one hit wonders. I like those songs but I wondered about the pejorative use of the phrase “one hit wonder”.
For some singers, these one-time hits can serve as an ego boost or can signal the end of their supposedly blossoming career. But it can’t be all that bad, I imagine. I once heard Sting (who is most definitely not a one-hit wonder) talk about how he gets $20,000 a month in royalties from just one song (Every Breath You Take) every year. That is a quarter of a million dollars a year from just one song that came out over 20 years ago. I can use a one-hit wonder. Well, let me rephrase, I can use a one-hit wonder from a song. However, I kind of detest one-hit wonders in the workplace.
These workplace one-hit wonders are like cracked mirrors that see themselves in a particular light yet the rest of them see them differently. They have a distorted point of view of themselves and tend to stick to just one talking point. Those of you that attend filed conference know what I am talking about. There are these people that no matter what meeting they are attending on whatever topic that is out there go to their safety topic and bring it up over and over again. You can be at a meeting about deforestation and they will raise their hands and say “what about saving the whales?” Huh? Seriously.
These are the people that are self-designated leaders that then the infrastructure buys into and invites the same people over and over again to these consultation meetings that are supposed to bring enlightenment, advancement and nuance to a pressing topic. I often sit in these meetings at the beginning and jot down, for the fun of it, what I think people around the table will bring up. Nine out of ten times, I am on the mark. These are the one-hits wonders of the everyday workplace. Some people get very comfortable with this structure and don’t venture past that comfort zone. It is as if their bookcases are filled with the same book in different languages and formats (i.e. picture book, graphic novel, hardback, paperback).
In a way, I blame cable television news for this phenomenon. The pundits get lines up based on their supposed area of expertise and you come to expect Al Sharpton, James Carville, Carl Rove, and Ana Navarro, for example, to bring up the same points they always do. What a snoozefest punditry has become. Punditry, in my eyes, should be about being a jack of all Trades. Providing insight into a variety of topics and now just bringing one topic to the table regardless of what is on that table.
I have notes in the past,that many colleagues in my field have complained that they don’t get me because they never know where I am going to land on a topic. That is because I try to listen and be fair and open-minded. I bring a core sets of principles and beliefs to the table and apply them across the board. Thus, I would never want to be a one-hit wonder in the workplace. I get that advocacy is about advocating for a certain marginalized population (in my field). However, you can’t have the same talking points for every situation and meeting. When I get jot down beforehand what the people at the table are going to say, holding a costly face-to-face meeting becomes moot. Just do a teleconference, because they are already phoning it in.
That is my rant for the table. As I set about on a new adventure, I promise myself to not engage in “slacktivism”. That was the runner-up word of the year. Did you all know that? According to Wikipedia slacktivism is a pejorative term that describes “feel-good measures, in support of an issue or social cause, that have little or no practical effect other than to make the person doing it take satisfaction from the feeling they have contributed.” Oh yeah, that is the workplace one-hit wonder to a tee.
While in rock n’ roll, you may be able to make a quarter of a million dollars a year on a one-hit wonder, in the everyday workplace it just signals that you are a lazy thinker.