I first read this book 2 years ago. Since then, I have integrated many of the key insights presented by authors Gary Keller and Jay Papasan into my life. I have set better goals, taken bigger actions, been more focused and productive and seen better results. And that’s just with one read-through, not really remembering exact details, taking notes or concertedly taking action with each chapter. Now that I’m reviewing it again, I intend to narrow my focus and see even bigger results to come.
On a side note, even if you don’t gain the insight that I and so many others have from reading this book, the great quotes at the beginning of each chapter and scattered throughout the book are worth it. One of my favorites is:
We are kept from our goal, not by obstacles but by a clear path to a lesser goal. – Robert Brault
Contents and Quick Links
- 1 The ONE Thing
- 2 The 6 myths:
- 2.1 #1: Everything matters equally
- 2.2 #2: Multitasking
- 2.3 #3: A disciplined life
- 2.4 #4: Willpower is a renewable energy
- 2.5 #5: Work life balance
- 2.6 #6: Big is bad
- 2.7 The focusing question
- 2.8 Live with purpose
- 2.9 Live by priority
- 2.10 Live for productivity
- 2.11 The four thieves
- 2.12 The journey
- 3 Recap
- 4 Action Steps
The ONE Thing
The key is over time. Success is built sequentially. It’s one thing at a time. – The ONE Thing
In 1983 there was an article published in the American Journal of Physics that demonstrated that a single domino is capable of knocking down another domino that is 50% larger in size. If every domino is sequentially larger by 50%, and you start with a domino that is 2” tall, the 57th domino would almost reach the moon. It starts small, 2” increasing to 3”, the 5th domino only 10½”. But by the 31st domino, it’s now taller than Mt. Everest by 3000’. The idea here is that while you start with a small 2” domino, and growth seems small at first, soon enough you see extraordinary change in size.
Note: All images from The ONE Thing are downloadable as free resources from their website www.the1thing.com.
The same can be said of success. If you find one thing that is the right thing you need to work on, then you do the next right thing, eventually you will see extraordinary results. One thing at a time.
What is holding you back?
It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so. – Mark Twain
Author Gary Keller presents six myths that hold you back from being highly successful.
The 6 myths:
- Everything matters equally
- A disciplined life
- Willpower is always on will-call
- A balanced life
- Big is bad
#1: Everything matters equally
- Everything matters equally is a myth because it means you aren’t prioritizing the tasks that will bring you the most results.
- To-do lists are just tasks written in the order they come to mind, rather than what should be prioritized and completed first.
- Success lists are focused tasks that get you to your goal, starting with the first domino and building for larger success.
- The 80/20 rule:
- 20% of your effort results in 80% of results.
- Some things matter much more than others.
- Prioritize your task list into a success list
- Take only the tasks that will help you succeed
- Narrow that list by 20%
- Then another 20%
- Then another 20%
- Until you have your ONE Thing that you need to do right now.
- Think big but go very small.
Doing the most important thing is always the most important thing. – The ONE Thing
- Multitasking is a waste of time and effort.
- To switch tasks you have to shift your focus to something else, then shift back again to what you were originally doing. This leads to lost time.
- You can’t focus effectively on two things at the same time.
- Researchers estimate that we lose 28% of our workday by switching between tasks. Workers who multitask are shown to make more mistakes, experience more stress and have a distorted view of how long it takes to complete a task.
- The average worker using the computer will change windows or check email nearly 37 times an hour.
Why would we ever tolerate multitasking when we’re doing our most important work? – The ONE Thing
#3: A disciplined life
- Those that experience great success do not lead a more disciplined life. They simply live a life built upon successful habits.
- The key is to choose the right habit to form and give it just enough discipline for that habit to become routine.
- Once it is routine, it doesn’t take as much effort and discipline to maintain.
- Continue to form the right habits, one habit at a time.
You can become successful with less discipline than you think, for one simple reason: success is about doing the right thing, not about doing everything right. – The ONE Thing
#4: Willpower is a renewable energy
- In Stanford study by professor Baba Shiv:
- 165 students were asked to remember either a 2 digit or 7 digit number.
- Students were given as much time as they needed to remember their number.
- Then they were offered a snack. The choice was either a sweet treat or fruit.
- Students asked to remember the 7 digit number were nearly twice as likely to indulge in the sweet treat.
- The extra brain power required to learn the larger number led to decreased willpower.
- Willpower gets drained throughout the day.
- Prioritize the most important tasks at the beginning of the day when willpower is greatest.
Don’t fight your willpower. Build your days around how it works and let it do its part to build your life. Willpower may be on willcall, but when you use it first on what matters most, you can always count on it. – The ONE Thing
#5: Work life balance
- Attempting to balance your work and your personal life is a losing battle.
- Give time to one thing over another and go out of balance.
- The challenge is how long you stay on your priority.
When you’re supposed to be working, work, and when you’re supposed to be playing, play. It’s only when you get your priorities mixed up that things fall apart. – The ONE Thing
Separate work and life into 2 buckets to counterbalance them.
- Work bucket: Think of a skill or knowledge that must be mastered to be successful at work and make this your one thing to focus on.
- Your work bucket is a counterbalance of:
- what matters most
- everything else
- Take what matters most to the extreme with infrequent counterbalancing to address everything else. Just like the 80/20 rule.
- Life bucket: Counterbalance the multiple areas that require your attention. Be aware of where your focus needs to be, give it full attention, then move on to the next.
Start leading a counterbalanced life. Let the right things take precedence when they should and get to the rest when you can.
An extraordinary life is a counterbalancing act. – The ONE Thing
#6: Big is bad
- Small actions lead to small outcomes.
- Instead, go big and take big action.
- Take your goal and make it even bigger.
- As you adjust your actions to reach a goal 2 times or even 10 times bigger than you think you can achieve, you guarantee success of your original goal and are likely surpass it.
- Don’t fear failure. Failure is as much of our journey as the success is.
We fail our way to success. – The ONE Thing
The focusing question
Ask yourself the following two questions:
#1: “What’s the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”
Now ask yourself the focusing question:
#2: “What’s my ONE Thing right now?”
The first question is the big, broader question
- A vision of the right direction you want your life to go.
- This applies to your career, it
- Helps you decide what you want to master
- How you want to give to others and your community
- Keeps relationships focused and healthy and
- Keeps daily actions on track
The second question is the focusing question. It is how you find the right action to get you to your big picture.
- Use your focusing question when you first wake up and throughout the day for leveraged action.
- This is your first domino by which you can start taking down the bigger and bigger goals.
- Using the 80/20 rule, maintain awareness of the most important tasks and people in your life.
Keller uses the focusing question as a foundational habit to achieve extraordinary results and lead a big life. He applies it to spiritual life, physical health, personal life, key relationships, job, business, and financial life.
Until my ONE Thing is done – everything else is a distraction. – The ONE Thing
Live with purpose
Who we are and where we want to go determine what we do and what we accomplish.
A life lived on purpose is the most powerful of all – and the happiest. – The ONE Thing
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- Happiness happens on the way to fulfillment. Like the book Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence: Fully Revised and Updated for 2018 money makes you happy to a certain extent.
For more on the money/happiness balance, see Defining Your Enough: How Much Money Do You Need To Be Happy?
Financially wealthy people are those who have enough money coming in without having to work to finance their purpose in life. – The ONE Thing
- You have to have a purpose in life to know when you have reached financially wealthy. Otherwise you will always strive for more and never feel you have enough.
- Discover your why: What’s your purpose that drives you, gets you up in the morning and keeps you going when you are tired.
Live by priority
Purpose without priority is powerless. – The ONE Thing
- Goal set to the now:
- Like my 10 year goals 10-Year Goals: Why You Need Them Today Keller breaks it down even further into:
- Someday goal
- 5 year goal
- 1 year goal
- Monthly goal
- Weekly goal
- Daily goal
- Right now goal
- So live by priority by asking: What’s the ONE Thing I want to do someday?
- Based on my someday goal, what’s the ONE Thing I can do in the next 5 years? And so on.
- Like my 10 year goals 10-Year Goals: Why You Need Them Today Keller breaks it down even further into:
- Learn to think Big but go Small.
- Skipping the steps doesn’t work because your someday goal is too far into the future, you lose priority and motivation.
- Write your goals and keep them close. As I often say, revisit them often.
Live for productivity
The most successful people are the most productive people. – The ONE Thing
- Time block your ONE Thing and protect your time block. This is important!
- If the biggest results come from one activity, give that one activity the time it needs.
- Don’t overlook the importance of time off, it is just as important as time worked.
- Block 4 hours for your ONE Thing, as early in the day as possible when willpower is greatest.
- Revisit those goals: block an hour each week to review your annual and monthly goals.
- Since there is always something that needs your attention, when you think of it, write it down and then forget it, you can work on “everything else” after your ONE Thing.
The people who achieve extraordinary results don’t achieve them by working more hours. They achieve them by getting more done in the hours they work. – The ONE Thing
The four thieves
There are four habits that hold us back from finding success:
- Inability to say no
- When you say yes to one thing, you have to defend that task with a thousand no’s.
- When you say yes to something important, understand what you are saying no to.
- Fear of chaos
- When you focus on your ONE Thing, clutter adds up.
- Get used to it and get over it.
- Don’t be a victim of your circumstances; be creative and continue to protect your time block. Your time is important and your success relies upon it.
- Poor health habits
- Take care of your health so that you have the energy to focus on your goals.
High achievement and extraordinary results require big energy- The ONE Thing
- Environment doesn’t support your goals
- Physical surroundings and the people in your life matter. Kick out the people and environments that don’t support you, surround yourself with people that do support you.
Surround yourself only with people that are going to lift you higher – Oprah Winfrey
- One step at a time, it is a sequential process.
- At any moment in time there can only be ONE Thing. Make sure that ONE Thing aligns with your purpose and supports your priorities. Actions build upon actions, habits upon habits and success upon success. One step at a time.
The ONE Thing in a nutshell: Think of the single ONE Thing that you want for your future. Now narrow your focus all the way down to the single ONE Thing that you can do right now to work towards your future ONE Thing. Now block time early in your day and work on just that ONE Thing that you can do now. When you take it one step at a time, ONE Thing at a time, in any area of your life, you will find extraordinary results and success.
This one’s pretty easy. If you would like to see bigger results or feel like you have limited your own potential and want to reach bigger, check out this book. There is a reason it is has made more than 350 appearances on national bestseller lists, including #1 Wall Street Journal, NewYork Times, and USA Today. It won 12 book awards, has been translated into 27 languages, chosen as one of the Top 5 Business Books of 2013 by Hudson’s Booksellers and one of Top 30 Business Books of 2013 by Executive Book Summaries. Voted one of Top 100 Business Books of All Time on Goodreads. It’s actually a good read. Enjoy and go time block your ONE Thing!
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