December 14, 1992


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The world is moved by highly motivated people, by enthusiasts, by men and women who want something very much or believe very much.—John Gardner


The Power of One means that I treat everyone—no matter his or her position in life—as I would want to be treated.


Mike Abrashoff, author of It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy, is the epitome of someone who was ready for his golden opportunity when it came and who achieved success by practicing the Golden Rule. Before Mike took his first command, which was of the USS Benfold, he had already been successful. He had graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. He had excelled as an officer, attaining the rank of captain after 16 years, and had worked as military assistant to Dr. William J. Perry when he was Secretary of Defense. But when Mike took command of the Benfold, he saw it as a rare opportunity to do something different, to use a Golden Rule approach to leadership. Mike says,
The first sixteen years of my career, I went for the gold braid. I had success, but it wasn’t unusual success. The last two I went for the golden rule. I took command of the ship and took command of my life. Before, I was working according to what I thought were the organization’s expectations. But while working for Secretary of Defense Perry, I saw a departure from that kind of thinking. When I saw my predecessor leaving the ship, I thought about what my departure would be like.
The navy is like a tree full of monkeys. If you’re at the top of the tree, all you see when you look down is a bunch of smiling faces looking up to you. When you’re at the bottom of the tree and you look up, you have a different kind of view!

Mike decided to put himself in his sailors’ shoes. He interviewed every sailor on his ship individually to find out what they valued, and then he made changes to add value to his sailors. For example, he sent the ship’s cooks to culinary school and offered college courses aboard ship. He asked his officers to treat the new arrivals as they would want people to treat their children. And he empowered everyone—officer and enlisted person alike—to make decisions and work to make their ship the best in the Navy, trusting them and encouraging them with the words: “It’s your ship.”

“Good began to happen when I began going for the golden rule,” says Mike. “I put people instead of promotion first. And as a result, I was paid a thousand times over.” That’s what I call making the most of a golden opportunity!


1. Practicing the Power of One often requires stepping out from the normal march of conventional thinking and looking at life from a different perspective.
2. I must learn to do things because they are right not because they might come back to benefit me.
3. It is impossible to practice the Power of One without focusing on other people.
4. Seeing a person practice the Power of One is contagious.
5. Treating others the way you wish they would treat your children, parents, or best friend is a great way to begin practicing the Power of One.
6. Often we have to unlearn certain habits and tendencies when it comes to reacting and treating people the right way.


There’s no such thing as business ethics—there’s only ethics. People try to use one set of ethics for their professional life, another for their spiritual life, and still another at home with their family. Circumstantial ethics get them into trouble. Ethics are ethics. If you desire to be ethical, you live using one across-the-board standard.

Mike Abrashoff realized the need for a standard of ethics. And taking charge of his life was critical to his success. So he purposely set some new guidelines and boundaries to guide the way he treats other people. He said, “This is the way I want this to go and this is the way I want to act.” Then he learned to follow those guidelines, and reaped the rewards of a well-ordered life.

To further illustrate the need for clear guidelines, think about how a builder erects a house. He doesn’t just nail a few pieces of wood together at random and pour cement where it pleases him. He doesn’t cut holes into the sheet rock for windows without thinking through the placement. If he did, the result would be a disaster. He builds off of a blueprint before the first hammer swings.

Do you have a plan for your life? Have you set boundaries to follow that outline your every move? Mike Abrashoff did. And that’s what we need to do in order to live a powerful—and intentional—life.

Great minds have purposes, little minds have wishes.—Washington Irving

What motivates you? What fuels your engine to act the way you do, say the things you say, and respond the way you respond?

The other day a friend and I were lamenting the trials that used-car repairs bring to a father. My friend and his son had recently bought a used Honda. As used car stories go, within a month it needed an emergency room visit to the local mechanic. The Wrench Doctor diagnosed a bad carburetor. My friend’s options: buy a new carburetor, buy a used one, or have the mechanic rebuild the shot carburetor. Or take the advice of his young son.

The non-mechanical young teenager said to his dad, “Well, who needs a carburetor anyway?” The dad shook his head and said, “You must understand that your car will not run without the carburetor. It is not the most important thing to an engine but it is pretty central.” They chose a new carburetor and the boy is back on the road.

Central to the human machine is the “motivator.” That is the piece of internal equipment in all of us that signals our impulse to go a little farther than normal; to step in and get involved when we really don’t have the time or resources. Our motivator is the seat of our emotions and our will. It drives our behavior and steers our dreams. It is the thing that fuels our desires, catalyzes our energy, and commands our actions. Without a smooth running “motivator” it is hard to practice the Power of One.

When we are motivated by goals that have deep meaning, by dreams that need completion, by pure love that needs express, then we truly live life.—Greg Anderson

Motivation is a fire from within. If someone else tries to light that fire under you, chances are it will burn very briefly.—Steven Covey

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