“Make One Point, Not Ten”

Did you know there’s a difference between writing a ‘memoir’ and writing your ‘memoirs’? A memoir is a cohesive whole, with a story arc not unlike that of a novel, and often encompasses a smaller portion of the author’s life; memoirs usually refers to a more sprawling tome, covering several distinct sections of life. As might seem clear from the subtitle of the 2022 book by Bono (widely known as the lead singer of U2), Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story is a mix of both; memoirs as memoir, making a case that the distinct sections of his life are all part of his whole story arc, from the personal (as teenage singer in an Irish punk band living off other people’s leftover sandwiches) to the global (Oval office meetings working to cancel the debt for Africa’s poorest countries as part of the Jubilee 2000 coalition, and funding for antiretroviral drugs for HIV/AIDS relief).

Along the way, he shares some stories and wisdom he’s picked up from some of the greatest leaders of the 20th and 21st century. Like Forrest Gump, it seems Bono has met everyone – often in surreal circumstances, like when Mikhail Gorbachev visited Bono and his wife Ali’s Dublin home on an impromptu visit while they also had staying with them Ali’s goddaughter Anna, born in Belarus with severe physical disabilities due to the radiation poisoning of her parents, following the nuclear accident at Chernobyl. A few stories he shared can be useful to us in the world of work, including a piece of advice he received from Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of the Special Olympics, philanthropist, and sister of John F. Kennedy.

While trying to set up meetings with influential politicians, Shriver encouraged Bono to study arguments for and against debt cancellation; to understand every side of it and not be so enamored with your position that you miss the negatives and forget to be a student who keeps learning. But the line that stuck with me most is the one I’m not modeling right now. Having worked on JFK’s speeches, Shriver was well positioned to critique Bono as he practiced his talking points in her Potomac home with this advice: “Make one point, not ten!” When advocating, proposing, or making a pitch, our tendency is to bombard our listeners with as many points as we think it will take to convince them, but doing so can often be self-defeating; there’s a door that one object can pass through, but try jamming ten objects through at the same time, and there’s a chance that none of them make it.

This Week’s Tip:

Make one point, not ten. Follow Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s advice; when you are preparing for a conversation or meeting (or presentation/speech), practice keeping your thoughts simple and succinct. Take notes to plan what your main point is, and practice holding yourself back on the rest; your other points can come later in the conversation if necessary. Where possible, find the unifying point behind all the others: memoirs as memoir.

Try this out this week, and let us know how it goes! We’d love to hear from you.

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Published by Ian Jackson

Ian Jackson is the founder of Building Bridges Leadership, which works with individuals, teams, and organizations to create authentic community in the workplace. He also writes children's fiction and teaches creative writing.

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