The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller & Jay Papasan
June 8, 2017
This book is grounded on the key question you should ask yourself to focus on what’s most important and what will have the biggest impact on your life. This question is:
What's the ONE Thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?
In this book, Gary Keller has identified that behind every successful person is their ONE Thing. No matter how success is measured, personal or professional, only the ability to dismiss distractions and concentrate on your ONE Thing stands between you and your goals. The ONE Thing is about getting extraordinary results in every situation.
The ONE Thing:
“Be like a postage stamp— stick to one thing until you get there.” —Josh Billings
extraordinary results are directly determined by how narrow you can make your focus.
The key is over time. Success is built sequentially. It’s one thing at a time.
Passion for something leads to disproportionate time practicing or working at it. That time spent eventually translates to skill, and when skill improves, results improve. Better results generally lead to more enjoyment, and more passion and more time is invested. It can be a virtuous cycle all the way to extraordinary results.
The real solutions we seek are almost always hiding in plain sight; unfortunately, they’ve usually been obscured by an unbelievable amount of bunk, an astounding flood of “common sense” that turns out to be nonsense.
Lies That Mislead Us. Lie 1: Everything Matters Equally
When everything feels urgent and important, everything seems equal. We become active and busy, but this doesn’t actually move us any closer to success. Activity is often unrelated to productivity, and busyness rarely takes care of business.
Not everything matters equally, and success isn’t a game won by whoever does the most.
A to-do list is simply the things you think you need to do; the first thing on your list is just the first thing you thought of. To-do lists inherently lack the intent of success.
Instead of a to-do list, you need a success list—a list that is purposefully created around extraordinary results. To-do lists tend to be long; success lists are short. One pulls you in all directions; the other aims you in a specific direction.
Pareto points us in a very clear direction: the majority of what you want will come from the minority of what you do. Extraordinary results are disproportionately created by fewer actions than most realize.
Don’t focus on being busy; focus on being productive. Allow what matters most to drive your day. Go extreme. Once you’ve figured out what actually matters, keep asking what matters most until there is only one thing left. That core activity goes at the top of your success list. Say no. Whether you say “later” or “never,” the point is to say “not now” to anything else you could do until your most important work is done. Don’t get trapped in the “check off” game. If we believe things don’t matter equally, we must act accordingly. We can’t fall prey to the notion that everything has to be done, that checking things off our list is what success is all about. We can’t be trapped in a game of “check off” that never produces a winner. The truth is that things don’t matter equally and success is found in doing what matters most.
Lies That Mislead Us. Lie 2: Multitasking
Multitasking is a lie. It’s a lie because nearly everyone accepts it as an effective thing to do.
“Multitasking is merely the opportunity to screw up more than one thing at a time.” —Steve Uzzell
People can actually do two or more things at once, such as walk and talk, or chew gum and read a map; but, like computers, what we can’t do is focus on two things at once. Our attention bounces back and forth. This is fine for computers, but it has serious repercussions in humans.
The results are unambiguous: multitasking slows us down and makes us slower witted.
Lies That Mislead Us. Lie 1: A Disciplined Life
When you see people who look like “disciplined” people, what you’re really seeing is people who’ve trained a handful of habits into their lives. This makes them seem “disciplined” when actually they’re not. No one is.
The trick to success is to choose the right habit and bring just enough discipline to establish it. That’s it. That’s all the discipline you need.
Establishing the right habits also simplifies your life. Your life gets clearer and less complicated because you know what you have to do well and you know what you don’t. The fact of the matter is that aiming discipline at the right habit gives you license to be less disciplined in other areas. When you do the right thing, it can liberate you from having to monitor everything.
It takes an average of 66 days to acquire a new habit. Easier behaviors taking fewer days on average and tough ones taking longer.
Build one habit at a time. Success is sequential, not simultaneous. No one actually has the discipline to acquire more than one powerful new habit at a time. Super-successful people aren’t superhuman at all; they’ve just used selected discipline to develop a few significant habits. One at a time. Over time.
Lies That Mislead Us. Lie 1: Willpower Is Always On Will Call
Everyone accepts that limited resources must be managed, yet we fail to recognize that willpower is one of them. We act as though our supply of willpower were endless.
when our willpower is low we tend to fall back on our default settings.
These use up your willpower: Implementing new behaviors Filtering distractions Resisting temptation Suppressing emotion Restraining aggression Suppressing impulses Taking tests Trying to impress others
You want to get the most out of your day, do your most important work—your ONE Thing—early, before your willpower is drawn down
Lies That Mislead Us. Lie 1: A Balanced Life
The reason we shouldn’t pursue balance is that the magic never happens in the middle; magic happens at the extremes.
The idea of counterbalancing is that you never go so far that you can’t find your way back or stay so long that there is nothing waiting for you when you return.
To achieve an extraordinary result you must choose what matters most and give it all the time it demands. This requires getting extremely out of balance in relation to all other work issues, with only infrequent counterbalancing to address them.
“We are kept from our goal, not by obstacles but by a clear path to a lesser goal.” —Robert Brault
No one knows their ultimate ceiling for achievement, so worrying about it is a waste of time.
It’s about bold ideas that might threaten your comfort zones but simultaneously reflect your greatest opportunities. How big you think becomes the launching pad for how high you achieve.
What you build today will either empower or restrict you tomorrow.
Don’t fear big. Fear mediocrity. Fear waste. Fear the lack of living to your fullest. When we fear big, we either consciously or subconsciously work against it. We either run toward lesser outcomes and opportunities or we simply run away from the big ones. If courage isn’t the absence of fear, but moving past it, then thinking big isn’t the absence of doubts, but moving past them. Only living big will let you experience your true life and work potential.
Think big. Avoid incremental thinking that simply asks, “What do I do next?” This is at best the slow lane to success and, at worst, the off ramp. Ask bigger questions. A good rule of thumb is to double down everywhere in your life. If your goal is ten, ask the question: “How can I reach 20?” Set a goal so far above what you want that you’ll be building a plan that practically guarantees your original goal. Don’t order from the menu. Apple’s celebrated 1997 “Think Different” ad campaign featured icons like Ali, Dylan, Einstein, Hitchcock, Picasso, Gandhi, and others who “saw things differently” and who went on to transform the world we know. The point was that they didn’t choose from the available options; they imagined outcomes that no one else had. They ignored the menu and ordered their own creations. As the ad reminds us, “People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the only ones who do.”
Act bold. Big thoughts go nowhere without bold action. Once you’ve asked a big question, pause to imagine what life looks like with the answer. If you still can’t imagine it, go study people who have already achieved it. What are the models, systems, habits, and relationships of other people who have found the answer? As much as we’d like to believe we’re all different, what consistently works for others will almost always work for us.
Don’t fear failure. It’s as much a part of your journey to extraordinary results as success. Adopt a growth mindset, and don’t be afraid of where it can take you. Extraordinary results aren’t built solely on extraordinary results. They’re built on failure too. In fact, it would be accurate to say that we fail our way to success. When we fail, we stop, ask what we need to do to succeed, learn from our mistakes, and grow. Don’t be afraid to fail. See it as part of your learning process and keep striving for your true potential.
The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret to getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks and then starting on the first one.
The Simple Path To Productivity: The Focusing Question
The quality of any answer is directly determined by the quality of the question.
Ask the most powerful question possible, and the answer can be life altering.
Anyone who dreams of an uncommon life eventually discovers there is no choice but to seek an uncommon approach to living it.
It ignores what is doable and drills down to what is necessary, to what matters.
The Focusing Question: What's the ONE Thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?
Great questions are the path to great answers. The Focusing Question is a great question designed to find a great answer. It will help you find the first domino for your job, your business, or any other area in which you want to achieve extraordinary results. The Focusing Question is a double-duty question. It comes in two forms: big picture and small focus. One is about finding the right direction in life and the other is about finding the right action. The Big-Picture Question: “What’s my ONE Thing?” Use it to develop a vision for your life and the direction for your career or company; it is your strategic compass. It also works when considering what you want to master, what you want to give to others and your community, and how you want to be remembered. It keeps your relationships with friends, family, and colleagues in perspective and your daily actions on track. The Small-Focus Question: “What’s my ONE Thing right now?” Use this when you first wake up and throughout the day. It keeps you focused on your most important work and, whenever you need it, helps you find the “levered action” or first domino in any activity. The small-focus question prepares you for the most productive workweek possible. It’s effective in your personal life too, keeping you attentive to your most important immediate needs, as well as those of the most important people in your life.
Apply this question to all important areas of your life: spiritual life, physical health, personal life, key relationships, job, business, and financial life.
Because I want my life to matter, I approach each area by doing what matters most.
Focusing Question Framework: Say the category first, then state the question, add a time frame, and end by adding “such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” For example: “For my job, what’s the ONE Thing I can do to ensure I hit my goals this week such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?
The Simple Path To Productivity: The Success Habit
“People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.” —F. M. Alexander
Low goals don’t require extraordinary actions so they rarely lead to extraordinary results.
So if “What can I do to double sales in six months?” is a Great Question, how do you make it more powerful? Convert it to the Focusing Question: “What’s the ONE Thing I can do to double sales in six months such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” Turning it into the Focusing Question goes to the heart of success by forcing you to identify what absolutely matters most and start there.
The Simple Path To Productivity: The Path To Great Answers
The first thing to do is ask, “Has anyone else studied or accomplished this or something like it?” The answer is almost always yes, so your investigation begins by finding out what others have learned.
A college professor once told me, “Gary, you’re smart, but people have lived before you. You’re not the first person to dream big, so you’d be wise to study what others have learned first, and then build your actions on the back of their lessons.” He was so right. And he was talking to you too.
As challenging as it can be, trailblazing up the path of possibilities is always worth it—for when we maximize our reach, we maximize our life.
Benchmark and trend for the best answer. No one has a crystal ball, but with practice you can become surprisingly good at anticipating where things are heading. The people and businesses who get there first often enjoy the lion’s share of the rewards with few, if any, competitors. Benchmark and trend to find the extraordinary answer you need for extraordinary results.
Purpose, priority, and productivity. Bound together.
Your big ONE Thing is your purpose and your small ONE Thing is the priority you take action on to achieve it. The most productive people start with purpose and use it like a compass.
“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” —George Bernard Shaw
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.
If we lack a “big picture” view, we can easily fall into serial success seeking.
There are five factors that contribute to our happiness: positive emotion and pleasure, achievement, relationships, engagement, and meaning. Of these, he believes engagement and meaning are the most important. Becoming more engaged in what we do by finding ways to make our life more meaningful is the surest way to finding lasting happiness. When our daily actions fulfill a bigger purpose, the most powerful and enduring happiness can happen.
Financially wealthy people are those who have enough money coming in without having to work to finance their purpose in life.
“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” —Alan Lakein
Live with purpose and you know where you want to go. Live by priority and you’ll know what to do to get there.
Economists have long known that even though people prefer big rewards over small ones, they have an even stronger preference for present rewards over future ones
People tend to be overly optimistic about what they can accomplish, and therefore most don’t think things all the way through. Researchers call this the “planning fallacy” Visualizing the process—breaking a big goal down into the steps needed to achieve it—helps engage the strategic thinking you need to plan for and achieve extraordinary results.
If money is a metaphor for producing results, then it’s clear—a time-managing system’s success can be judged by the productivity it produces.
the most successful people are the most productive people.
Time blocking is a very results-oriented way of viewing and using time. It’s a way of making sure that what has to be done gets done. Time blocking harnesses your energy and centers it on your most important work. It’s productivity’s greatest power tool.
If disproportionate results come from one activity, then you must give that one activity disproportionate time. Each and every day, ask this Focusing Question for your blocked time: “Today, what’s the ONE Thing I can do for my ONE Thing such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?
To achieve extraordinary results and experience greatness, time block these three things in the following order: Time block your time off. Time block your ONE Thing. Time block your planning time. Give yourself 30 minutes to an hour to take care of morning priorities, then move to your ONE Thing. My recommendation is to block four hours a day.
“Efficiency is doing the thing right. Effectiveness is doing the right thing.” —Peter Drucker
Graham divides all work into two buckets: maker (do or create) and manager (oversee or direct). “Maker” time requires large blocks of the clock to write code, develop ideas, generate leads, recruit people, produce products, or execute on projects and plans. This time tends to be viewed in half-day increments. “Manager time,” on the other hand, gets divided into hours.
To experience extraordinary results, be a maker in the morning and a manager in the afternoon.
Block an hour each week to review your annual and monthly goals.
Life doesn’t simplify itself the moment you simplify your focus; there’s always other stuff screaming to be done. Always. So when stuff pops into your head, just write it down on a task list and get back to what you’re supposed to be doing. In other words, do a brain dump. Then put it out of sight and out of mind until its time comes.
The path of mastering something is the combination of not only doing the best you can do at it, but also doing it the best it can be done.
Highly productive people don’t accept the limitations of their natural approach as the final word on their success. When they hit a ceiling of achievement, they look for new models and systems, better ways to do things to push them through. They pause just long enough to examine their options, they pick the best one,
“a different result requires doing something different.” Make this your mantra and breakthroughs become possible.
Taking complete ownership of your outcomes by holding no one but yourself responsible for them is the most powerful thing you can do to drive your success.
“One-half of knowing what you want is knowing what you must give up before you get it.
Your time is finite. If you don’t make your life about what you say yes to, then it will almost certainly become what you intended to say no to.
“To get through the hardest journey we need take only one step at a time, but we must keep on stepping.” —Chinese Proverb