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The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results
Publication: 2013 by Bard Press
Non-fiction | Self-help
The ONE Thing is incredible and one of my favorite reads in 2020. The main concepts that helped me are learning to use the focusing question, being aware of the domino effect, and time blocking.
- Mastery is a way of thinking and acting, not an end result.
- Developing mastery at one thing serves as a platform for, and speeds up the process of, mastery of other things.
- Knowledge begets knowledge and skills build on skills.
- Focus is a matter of deciding what things you’re not going to do. John Carmack
- When you lift the limits of your thinking you expand the limits of your life.
- Every day, do what matters most. When you know what matters most, everything makes sense. When you don’t know what matters most, anything makes sense.
- The things which are most important don’t always scream the loudest.
- Most people struggle to comprehend how many things don’t need to be done if they would just start by doing the right thing.
- People do not decide on their futures. They decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.
- To do two things at once is to do neither.
- Multitasking is a lie.
- When you focus on what is truly important, something will always be under-served.
- Leaving some things undone is a necessary trade-off for extraordinary results.
- Achievement and abundance show up because they are the natural outcomes of doing the right things with no limits attached.
- The more productive people are, the more purpose and priority are driving them.
- Planning is bringing the future into the present so you can do something about it now.
- Our ability to achieve extraordinary results in the future lies in stringing together powerful moments one after the other.
- How we use our time determines the money we make.
- My goal is no longer to get more done, but rather to have less to do. – Francine Jay
- Great success shows up when time is devoted every day to becoming great.
- Continually seek the very best ways of doing things.
Part 1: The Lies
Chapter 1: The ONE Thing
Everyone has the same number of hours in a day, but some people seem to get so much more done than others. They do more, achieve more, earn, more, have more. The answer: they go small.
Going small is ignoring all the things you could do and doing what you should do.
Don’t focus on being busy; focus on being productive.
It’s realizing that extraordinary results are directly determined by how narrow you can make your focus.
Chapter 2: The Domino Effect
A domino can knock over another domino that is about 1.5 times its own size.
If you want extraordinary results, you have to find the lead domino in your life.
Extraordinary success is sequential, not simultaneous. What starts out linear becomes geometric.
When you see someone who has a lot of knowledge or skills, they learned and developed it over time.
The key is over time. Success is built sequentially. It’s one thing at a time.
Chapter 3: Success Leaves Clues
No one succeeds alone. No one.
The ONE Thing sits at the heart of success and is the starting point for achieving extraordinary results.
The six lies are beliefs that get into our heads and become operational principles driving us the wrong way.
The six lies between you and success:
- Everything matters equally.
- A disciplined life.
- Willpower is always on will call.
- A balanced life.
- Big is bad.
Chapter 4: Everything Matters Equally (The First Lie)
Equality is a lie.
How do you decide what to do first?
The things which are most important don’t always scream the loudest.
Pareto Principle: The majority of what you want will come from the minority of what you do.
Start with a large a list as you want, but develop the mindset that you will whittle your way from there to the critical few and not stop until you end with the essential ONE. The imperative ONE. The ONE Thing.
Don’t get trapped in the “check off” game.
Chapter 5: Multitasking (The Second Lie)
Juggling is an illusion.
When you switch from one task to another, voluntarily or not, two things happen.
You can actually give attention to two things, but that is what’s called “divided attention”.
Research says that multitasking leads to mistakes, poor choices, and stress—we attempt anyway. When you try to do too much at once, you can end up doing nothing well.
Multitasking doesn’t save time—it wastes time.
Distraction is natural. Don’t feel bad when you get distracted.
Chapter 6: A Disciplined Life
The idea that successful person is the “Disciplined person” who leads a “discipline life” — a lie.
The truth is we don’t need any more discipline than we already have. We just need to direct and manage it a little better.
You don’t need to be a disciplined person to be successful. Success is about doing the right thing, not about doing everything right.
It takes an average of 66 days to acquire a new habit.
Build one habit at a time.
Chapter 7: Willpower is Always on Will Call
“The Marshmallow Test”
Willpower has a limited battery life but can be recharged with some downtime.
Time you task. Do what matters most first each day when your willpower is strongest.
Maximum strength power=maximum success
Chapter 8: A Balanced Life (The Fifth Lie)
A balanced life is a lie.
When you gamble with your time, you may be placing a bet you can’t cover.
To achieve an extraordinary result you must choose what matters most and give it all time it demands.
Chapter 9: Big is Bad (The Sixth Lie)
What you build today will either empower or restrict you tomorrow.
Think big. Believing in big frees you to ask different questions, follow new paths, and try new things.
“People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the only ones who do.”
Don’t fear failure. Extraordinary results aren’t built solely on extraordinary results. They’re built on failures too.
Don’t let small thinking cut your life down to size.
Part Two: The Truth
The simple path to productivity.
Chapter 10: The Focusing Question
Success comes down to this: being appropriate in themoments of your lfie.
Focusing Questions comes in two forms: big picture and small focus
Big-picture question: “What’s my ONE Thing?”
Small-focus question: “What’s my ONE Thing right now?”
Chapter 11: The Success Habit
The Focusing Question can direct you to your ONE Thing in the different areas of your life. Simple reframe the Focusing Question by inserting your area of focus.
- Physical health
- Personal life
- Key relationships
You can include a time frame with the question such as “right now” “this year” “in five years” “someday” to give your answer the appropriate level of immediacy.
- State the question
- Add a time frame
For my Spiritual life…
What’s the one thing I can do to help others?
What’s the one thing I can do to improve my relationship with God?
For my physical health…
What’s the one thing I can do to achieve my diet goals?
What’s the one thing I can do to ensure that I exercise?
What’s the one thing I can do to relieve my stress?
For my Personal life…
What’s the one thing I can do to improve my skill at whatever I may choose?
What’s the one thing I can do to find time for myself?
For my Key Relationships…
What’s the one thing I can do to improve my relationship with my spouse?
What’s the one thing I can do to improve my children’s school performance?
What’s the one thing I can do to show my appreciation to my parents?
What’s the one thing I can do to make my family stronger?
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?
What’s the one thing I can do to improve my skills?
What’s the one thing I can do to help my team succeed?
What’s the one thing I can do to further my career?
For my Business…
What’s the one thing I can do to make us more competitive?
What’s the one thing I can do to make our product the best?
What’s the one thing I can do to make us more profitable?
What’s the one thing I can do to improve our customer experience?
For my Finances…
What’s the one thing I can do to increase my net worth?
What’s the one thing I can do to improve my investment cash flow?
What’s the one thing I can do to eliminate my credit card debt?
How to make the ONE thing part of your daily routine.
- Understand and believe it.
- Use it. Ask the focusing question.
- Make it a habit.
- Leverage reminders. “until my one thing is done, everything else is a distraction.”
- Recruit support.
Chapter 12: The Path to Great Answers
People do not decide on their futures. They decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.
The ultimate success habit: Ask a great question, then seek out a great answer.
Think big and specific.
Research and role model.
A possibility answer exists beyond what you already know. A great answer is a new answer.
Whether offline or online, you’re trying to find people who have already gone down the road you’re traveling, so you research, model, benchmark, and trend their experience. Books, reading, and published works are great go-to resources.
Gary’s college professor told him, “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.” Very powerful!
Part Three: Extraordinary Results: Unlocking the Possibilities Within You
The most productive people start with purpose.
The more productive people are, the more purpose and priority are driving them.
Chapter 13: Live with Purpose
Our purpose sets our priority and our priority determines the productivity our actions produce.
Who we are and where we want to go determine what we do and what we accomplish.
Discover your big why. What’s the thing that gets you up in the morning and keeps you going tired and worn down?
Author’s purpose “My purpose is to help people live their greatest life possible through my teaching, coaching, and writing.”
Chapter 14: Live by Priority
Hyperbolic discounting—the further away a reward is in the future, the smaller the immediate motivation to achieve it.
We need a simple way of thinking to save us from ourselves, set the right priority, and move closer to accomplishing our purpose.
Goal setting to the now.
Our ability to achieve extraordinary results in the future lies in stringing together powerful moments one after the other.
Based on my someday goal, what’s the one thing I can do in the next five years to be on track to achieve it?
Based on my five-year goal, what’s the one thing I can do this year to be on track to achieve my five-year goal?
Based on my goal this year, what’s the one thing I can do this month so that I’m on track to achieve my how this year, so that I’m on track to achieve my five-year goal so that I’m on track to achieve my someday goal?
Based on my goal this month, what is the one thing I can do this week so that I am on track to achieve my goal this month?
Based on my goal this week, what’s the one thing I can do today so that I’m on track to achieve my goal this week?
Based on my goal today, what’s the one thing I can do right now so that I’m on track to achieve my goal today?
Connect today to all of your tomorrows.
Chapter 15: Live for Productivity
My goal is no longer to get more done, but rather to have less to do. Francine Jay
Productive action transforms lives.
How we use our time determines the money we make.
Time block your ONE thing. It’s a way of making sure that what has to be done gets done.
Time block these three things:
- Your time off.
- Your ONE thing.
- Your planning time.
Block time as early in your day as you can.
Efficiency is doing the thing right, effectiveness is doing the right thing.Peter Drucker
Four proven ways to battle distractions.
- Build a bunker.
- Store provisions.
- Sweep for mines.
- Enlist support.
Chapter 16: The Three Commitments
Three commitments to your ONE Thing:
- Follow the path of mastery – When what you’ve chosen is the right thing, then pursuing mastery of it will make everything else you do either easier or no longer necessary
Mastery: giving the best you have, to become the best you can be at your most important work.
Knowledge begets knowledge and skills build on skills.
Are you doing this to do the best you can do, or to do it the best it can be done?
2. Move from “E” to “P”- Entrepreneurial to Purposeful. In the long run, “P” beats “E” every time
3. Live in the accountability cycle – accountable people achieve results others only dream of
- Can come in the form of a mentor, peer, or, in its highest form, a coach.
- An accountability partner is not a cheerleader. He/she gives objective feedback on your performance, creates an ongoing expectation for productive progress, and can provide critical brainstorming or even expertise when needed.
Chapter 17: The Four Thieves
Four thieves that will rob you of productivity:
- Inability to say “no” – you can’t please everyone, so don’t try.
- The fear of chaos
- Poor health habits
- An environment that doesn’t support your goals
Chapter 18: The Journey
To get through the hardest journey, we need only take one step at a time, but we must keep stepping. That step is called the ONE Thing.
Imagine your life as big as you possibly can. Whatever you can see, you have the capacity to move toward. When what you go for is as vast as you can possibly envision, you will be living the biggest life you can possibly live.
For example, write down your current income and multiply it by any number.
Ask yourself, “will my current actions get me to this number in the next five years?” Now make your actions match your answer, you’ll be living large.
Apply this to all areas of your life: Spiritual, physical condition, personal relationships, your business, or anything else that matters to you.
A life worth living might be measured in many ways, but the one way that stands above all others all a living a life of no regrets.
Life is too short to pile up woulda, coulda, shoulda.
What advice would an older, wiser you give to yourself?
Live your life to minimize regrets you might have at the end.
Author’s recommended book: The Top Five Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware
- Wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- Wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
- Wish I had the courage to express my feelings.
- Wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- Wish I had let myself be happier.
Success is an inside job. Put yourself together, and your world falls into place. When you bring purpose to your life, know your priorities, and achieve high productivity on the priority that matters most every day, your life makes sense and the extraordinary becomes possible.
All success in life starts within you. You know what to do. You know ho to do it. You next step is simple.
You are the first domino.
Closing: Putting the ONE Thing to Work
Use the focusing question to bring clarity to the key areas of your life.
What’s the one thing I can do this week to discover or affirm my life’s purpose?
What’s the one thing I can do in 90 days to get in the physical shape I want?
What’s the one thing I can do today to strengthen my spiritual faith?
What’s the one thing I can do to find time to practice the guitar 20 minutes a day?
What’s the one thing I can do to take five strokes off my golf game in the next 90 days?
What’s the one thing I can do to learn to paint in six months?
What’s the one thing we can do this week to improve our marriage?
What’s the one thing we can do every week to spend more quality family time together?
What’s the one thing we can do tonight to support our kids school work?
What’s the one thing we can do to make our next vacation the best ever?
What’s the one thing we can do to make our next Christmas the best ever?
What’s the one thing we can do to make our next Thanksgiving the best ever?
What’s the one thing I can do today to complete my current project ahead of schedule?
What’s the one thing I can do this month to produce better work?
What’s the one thing I can do before my next review to get the raise I want?
What’s the one thing I can do every day to finish my work and still get home on time?
Your Work Team
What’s the one thing we can accomplish in this meeting and end early?
What’s the one thing I can do in the next six months to find and develop incredible talent?
What’s the one thing we can do right now to accomplish our goals ahead of schedule and under budget?
What’s the one thing we can do in the next 90 days to create a one thing culture?
What’s the one thing we can do to fund our annual financial needs?
What’s the one thing we can do to serve twice as many people?
What’s the one thing we can do to double our number of volunteers?
What’s the one thing we can do to decrease our drop out rate to zero?
What’s the one thing we can do to raise our test scores by 20%?
What’s the one thing we can do to increase our graduation rate to 100%?
What’s the one thing we can do to increase parent participation?
Your Place of Worship
What’s the one thing we can do to improve our worship experience?
What’s the one thing we can do to double our missions outreach success?
What’s the one thing we can do to max out our attendance?
what’s the one thing we can do to achieve our financial goals?
What’s the one thing we can do to improve our sense of community?
What’s the one thing we can do to help the home-bound?
What’s the one thing we can do to double volunteers?
What’s the one thing we can do to double voter turn out?
If you try to do everything you could wind up with nothing.
My Actionable Steps After Reading
- After reading, I do time blocking more consistently.
- I posted a sticky note on my desk asking the focus question “What’s the ONE thing I can do in my life that would mean the most to me and the world, such by doing it everything else would be easier or unnecessary?” This reminds me that I can achieve extraordinary results.
- I learned how to be more comfortable with chaos.
About the Authors
An Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year and finalist for Inc. Magazine’s Entrepreneur of the Year, Keller is recognized as one of the most influential leaders in the real estate industry. He has also helped many small business owners and entrepreneurs find success through three nationally bestselling books: The Millionaire Real Estate Agent, The Millionaire Real Estate Investor, and SHIFT: How Top Real Estate Agents Tackle Tough Times. A book, after all, is just another way to teach, but one with an infinitely large classroom. As a business coach and national trainer, Gary has helped countless others realize extraordinary results by narrowing focus to their own ONE Thing.
Jay Papasan is the vice president of publishing and executive editor at Keller Williams Realty, Inc. In 2003, with the release of The Millionaire Real Estate Agent, co-authored by Gary Keller and Dave Jenks, Papasan became a best-selling author when the book spent time on BusinessWeek’s best-seller list. In 2005, they co-authored their second bestseller, The Millionaire Real Estate Investor. After working on Rick Villani and Clay Davis’s best-selling FLIP: How to Buy, Fix and Sell Houses for Profit in 2007, he co-authored Your First Home with Gary Keller and Dave Jenks in 2009.
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