The Bread Plate Lady and the Power of Your “One Big Thing”

Kathleen and I spent the weekend in London, returning from a documentary film project in Eastern Europe.  If we’re in London on a weekend, we always head out to Notting Hill for the Portobello Road street market.  It’s an incredible experience, and even in the dead of winter, it was packed with shoppers looking over the antiques, jewelry, rare books, clothes and other stuff.  Most of the stalls sold a variety of items, but toward the end of the day, we came upon a little old lady in one of the smallest stalls who sold only two things:  antique bread plates and their matching bread knives.

The British apparently call them “bread plates” but we’d call them cutting boards – although they are shaped like a plate and beautifully carved.  Kathleen picked out one from the mid-19th century.  While Kathleen was looking at the lady’s collection of plates, I struck up a conversation.  I discovered the lady was in her 80’s and had been selling antique bread plates for about 47 years.  I asked her:  Why just this one thing?  She replied that 47 years ago she wanted a way to stand out and get noticed.  She realized so many other stalls sold everything imaginable, so she decided she would focus.

She loved cooking, and was fascinated by rare bread plates so she decided that would be her thing.  Now, 47 years later, she’s still at it, and everyone at the market knows her as the “bread plate lady.”   She sells one thing and does it very well.  That very nice lady had never been trained in marketing, and for her, “branding” was something you do to a cow.  But she instinctively understood how to cut through the clutter and get noticed in a crowd of competition.

The question is – are you going to continue trying a little of this and a little of that?  Being unremarkable at a lot of things?  Getting lost of the clutter?  Or are you going to find out what your “one big thing” is, let go of everything else, and pursue that with all your passion?

What’s your answer?  What’s your “one big thing?”

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