How to Not Be a One-Hit Wonder (Three Tips Learned from That Thing You Do)

This post does contain some spoilers. 

Have you ever heard of the band Shocking Blue? How about Will to Power? Perhaps Oleta Adams?

There’s a chance you’ve heard of them. But if I were to sing you a line from one of their songs, you’d be more likely to recognize it.


Because these three bands were all one-hit wonders. 

There’s a 90s comedy film called That Thing You Do. It follows a one-hit wonder band, aptly named The Wonders, from how they start with their humble, small-town beginnings, to reaching national fame with a hit song, titled “That Thing You Do”. After a few fights, lots of yelling, and a contract broken, the band breaks up at the end of the film. 

As I watched this film last week, I noticed a few things that led to the breaking up at the end of the film. Indeed, it seems inevitable. The Wonders were a one-hit wonder for a reason. 

Do you want to avoid being someone who has only 15 minutes of fame? Then take note. 

Here are three tips on how to avoid being a one-hit wonder, learned from watching a comedy film, That Thing You Do. 

First: Have the same mission as your team. 

In the film, one of the problems that Jimmy — the singer and songwriter for The Wonders — keeps going back to is that no one else in the band is on board with his mission. All he wanted to do was write music and be sad about it. Instead, he’s acting in a film as a fictional band rather than writing his new record. He’s traveling on tour, appearing on TV shows, and he’s unhappy.

At the very beginning of the film, he’s unsure of signing a management contract, because he doesn’t like the idea of someone else having control over his music. But he caves into peer pressure from the other members of the band to sign the contract. He never wanted this.

Let’s also keep in mind the fact that Guy, the drummer of the band who was supposed to only join for one night because the previous drummer broke his arm, was the one who changed the pace of the song That Thing You Do the first time they performed it live. It wouldn’t have become a hit if they had kept it as a ballad as Jimmy wanted. It may not ever be addressed directly in the film, but I can promise you that Jimmy had some resentment towards Guy left over from that.

When you’re in a team, make sure you all have the same goal. Make sure everyone is on board and headed for the same thing. If you set out with different goals in mind, it’s going to come to a head someday. Someday, you will have to choose between one goal and another, and your team can fall apart if everyone isn’t on the same page. That’s exactly what led The Wonders to break up.

Second: Have committed teams members who aren’t there just until they move on to something else…

The bass player in The Wonders band is honest about the fact he’s only there till August. He’s joining the Marines, so he can’t stay. But when the chance to leave the band comes up earlier than expected, the bass player leaves without hesitation or looking back.

Granted, not everyone in your team is going to be able to dedicate the next 15 years to your mission. However, finding people who are committed for as long as they are there is important. It doesn’t matter if it’s two months or two years: if they’re committed, they’ll come through. But if they have the mindset, “I’m only here till this next thing happens in two months” I can bet you that you’re not getting anywhere with them. That doesn’t mean your team members can’t tell you they have other plans eventually; it just means making sure they are committed completely to your mission for however long they are there. Who knows? They might end up staying longer than they originally thought.

…or until something more fun turns up

There’s also Lenny, the guitar player of The Wonders, who is a bit of an idiot. The bass player at least tells the band members he’s leaving. Lenny decides to drop everything and go to Vegas to get married. Lenny was never committed to the band. At the beginning of the film, he’s the one who pushes everyone to sign the contract. He’s the one who is all in about acting in a movie. But the problem? He wasn’t ever actually committed to any kind of mission, other than a good time. And some money. That motivated him, too.
Make sure that the people who are in your team aren’t in it for the fun, the fame or anything superficial or not guaranteed like that. This is especially important when you’re first starting out.
The good news about this? It isn’t too hard. If you’re honest with someone that you may not succeed, someone who is in it just for the success won’t commit. No matter how great they might be as someone in your team, if they can’t commit, it won’t matter. And you’ll be relieved you didn’t take them on in the first place.

Third: Have more tricks up your sleeve than the “one hit”

There’s a principle in Praxis that has been following me around ever since I started the program. Two parts substance, one part style. It’s a basic concept: For every one bit of style, every one thing you show off, you have two more things behind the scenes that you don’t share.

You will never be a one hit wonder if you have more than one hit. This concept is true in any field you’re going in. Writing books, screenplays, songs. Marketing styles, sales tactics. Anything. Have more than what you show off.

Make sure that you’re not a one-hit wonder simply by having more than one hit.

I don’t want to be a one-hit wonder. I don’t want to ever be someone who has 15 minutes of fame and then disappears forever after. 

Is that what you want? 

I don’t think so.

Then don’t be. Be committed to your mission. Have others who are as well. Have more than you show. 

If you have these things, you have a good chance of not being a one-hit wonder.

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