The One Thing Summary: Gary Keller’s Guide to Simplifying Success
Have you ever wondered why some people achieve extraordinary results while others, no matter how hard they work, never seem to get ahead? In this The ONE thing summary, I give you a quick overview of what author Gary Keller reveals as the secret to success in any field.
Through personal experiences and research-backed insights, Keller shows readers the surprisingly simple truth of how to identify their highest priority goals, align their life and work around those goals, and develop the focus and discipline needed to take consistent action.
With the help of Keller’s simple yet powerful advice, anyone can learn the secrets of success and achieve the extraordinary desired results.
The One Thing by Gary Keller is an incredible book that provides readers with a powerful and actionable plan for achieving extraordinary results in all areas of life. It is a must-read for anyone looking to increase productivity, eliminate distractions, and reach their goals.
By introducing the concept of “The Focusing Question,” Gary Keller and Jay Papasan demonstrate how to use laser-like focus to lead an extraordinary life. They break down the complex idea of goal-setting into a simple, three-step process and guide readers on how to stay motivated and on track. Let us start with this The ONE Thing book summary:
The Domino Effect
Gray Keller starts his book with the Domino-Effect. One single domino set in motion can bring millions of other dominos to fall. With this starting energy, the first domino is the foundation for every other domino, as it is with your goals and dreams.
Additionally, a tiny first domino can push down almost 50% larger domino. And the second can again push down one that is 50% larger. Imagine this after the tenth domino, the fiftieth, or even the thousandth domino. This reaches scales beyond our imagination.
The Six Lies Between You And Success
There are beliefs in our heads that can drive us the wrong way. Gary Keller and Jay Papasan write about the six most common false beliefs we generally have. Changing the perspective you have about these topics can make a huge difference. The six lies are:
- Everything Matters Equally
- A Disciplined Life
- Willpower Is Always on Will-Call
- A Balanced Life
- Big Is Bad
Everything Matters Equally
Equality is a lie. Not everything matters equally. Success isn’t a game won by whoever does the most. It’s won by whoever does the most important thing that matters the most. You can work ten or even 12 hours, but if you don’t do something that matters, it won’t bring you closer to your goal.
To-Do lists are a staple of the time management and success industry. But a To-Do lists inherently lack the intent of success. Several studies show that To-Do lists don’t work. So, for example, the Harvard Business Review has an in-depth study about To-Do lists, and they write:
“To-do lists don’t provide sufficient context for the tasks to help you determine what you should work on. All tasks look the same on paper — three or four words on a line. But it doesn’t capture or display the vital bits of information you need: how long will each task take?”
So, instead of To-Do lists, we need success lists, which are relatively short compared to To-Do lists. But how do you know which task is essential and which is not? When you have your To-Do list with dozens of positions, ask yourself: What makes the most difference when I’m doing it?
Generally, a small amount of causes creates the most of the results. This is also known as the Pareto Principle or the 80/20 principle. So try to cut down your To-Do list into a success list and start working on your most important task.
When you try to do two things at once, you either can’t or won’t do either well. Our focus bounces back and forth if we work on two things simultaneously. Every time we switch our attention, we need seconds or even minutes to fully emerge in the new task. We can do only these things together that run deep in our unconscious, like walking and talking.
One example is talking on the phone while driving. We can drive and talk on the phone if neither takes up all of our attention. As soon as one needs more attention, we can’t give the other what it needs. Because of this, driving and talking on the phone is dangerous. And this is why we should only do one thing at a time.
Researcher Dr. David Meyer says: It takes up to 25% more time to do a simple task and up to 100% and even more to do a more complicated job when we multitask.
A Disciplined Life
There is this saying that a successful person is a “disciplined person” and leads a “disciplined life.” It’s a lie.
You don’t need to be a disciplined person to be successful. However, you can become successful with less discipline than you think for one simple reason: extraordinary success is about doing the right thing, not about doing everything right.
You only need just enough discipline to set up a new success habit. As soon as the habit becomes part of your life, it takes less discipline to maintain these habits. Researchers estimate it takes about 66 days to establish a new habit in our daily life fully. Additionally, Gary Keller recommends only setting up one habit at a time.
Take all your discipline and take them into one new, powerful habit, and your life will change drastically. You don’t need to wake up at 3 a.m., do 3 hours of yoga, run for an hour, and so on. Instead, focus on one important thing a establish this habit. Everything else is easier when you’re doing the most important things regularly.
Willpower Is Always on Will-Call
Think of willpower like the power bar on your cell phone. Every morning you start with a full charge. Then, as the day goes on, you use a bit of battery every time you use your willpower. And when it goes red, you are done for the day.
Our brain uses 1 / 5 of our total energy, and what we eat influences our willpower tremendously. Gary Keller recommends eating correctly and feeding your brain the good stuff.
Additionally, do what matters most when your willpower is at its highest. In other words, do your most important task in the morning when your willpower is the highest.
A Balanced Life
Nothing ever achieves absolute balance. The work-life balance is something brand new that newspaper and magazine articles mentioned in the early 2000s. For thousands of years, work was life. Earlier, everybody was a hunter and gatherer.
We shouldn’t pursue a balanced life because the magic never happens in the middle. Magic happens at the extreme. Sometimes we work longer, and our personal life suffers. Other times we work less. It’s not a balance. It’s a mix between work and personal life, a mix between left and right.
Imagine you are balancing on a rope. It is not possible to walk completely straight. You are constantly unbalanced, tipping a little to the right, then to the left again. And again and again, you correct yourself to stay on the rope.
To achieve an extraordinary result, you must choose what matters most and give it all the time it demands. Unfortunately, this requires getting extremely out of balance with all other work issues. So instead of balancing your life, you have to counterbalance your life. Sometimes more, sometimes less. Counterbalancing looks something like this:
Big Is Bad
Big is bad is a lie. Sometimes you want small, and sometimes you want big. A big opportunity is better than a small one, but a small problem is better than a big one. When we believe big is bad, small thinking rules the day, and big never sees the light of it.
You have to think big to achieve big results. But it can be scary to ask big questions. Big goals can seem unattainable at first. But big requires growth, and by the time you arrive, you are big too.
Imagine what it would look like if you achieved your goal. Study other people who have achieved extraordinary results. Adapt a growth mindset; don’t be afraid of where it can take you. Don’t let small thoughts make your life small.
The Simple Path To Productivity
With the lies out of our way, let’s focus on how we can find our ONE thing to do. Generally, we overthink, overplan, and overanalyze our careers, businesses, and lives. The key to success isn’t in all the things we do but in the handful of things we do well. Gary Keller writes: “I learned that success comes down to this: being appropriate in the moments of your life.”
Finding the ONE thing comes down to three parts:
The Focusing Question
The first question you should ask is about focus. Answers come from questions, and the quality of the question directly determines the quality of any answer. Likewise, how we phrase the questions we ask ourselves determines the answers that eventually become our life. Therefore, asking the right questions is crucial.
The focusing question is: What’s the ONE thing I can do such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?
The focusing question is the first domino. It’s the leader, and every other domino falls from this one.
The focusing question builds up on three parts:
- The first part, “What’s the one thing I can do…” forces you toward something specific. You’re allowed to pick only one thing.
- The second part, “…such that by doing it…” adds a criterion to the question. It’s the connector between the task and the purpose.
- The third part, “…Everything else will be easier or unnecessary…” is the ultimate leverage test. It says that when you do this ONE thing, everything else you could do to accomplish your goal will now be either doable with less effort or no longer even necessary.
Most people struggle to comprehend how many things don’t need to be done if they would just start by doing the right thing. Find the first domino with the focus question and focus on it until it you knock it over. That’s the surprisingly simple truth behind achieving extraordinary results and living a successful life.
The Success Habits
The focusing question can be used in every aspect of your life. For example, your finances, business, job, relationships, personal life, physical health, and spiritual life. So is, for example, the focusing questions for your finances the following.
Focusing Questions For Finances:
- 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…?
Focusing Questions For Business:
- What’s the ONE thing I can do to make us more profit…?
- What’s the ONE thing I can do to improve our customer experience…?
Focusing Questions For Relationships:
- What’s the ONE thing I can do to improve my relationship with my spouse/partner…?
- What’s the ONE thing I can do to improve my children’s school performance…?
Focusing Questions For Job:
- What’s the ONE thing I can do to ensure that I hit my goals…?
- What’s the ONE thing I can do to improve my skills…?
Focusing Questions For Personal Life:
- What’s the ONE thing I can do to improve my skill at_____…?
- What’s the ONE thing I can do to find more time for myself…?
Focusing Questions For 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…?
Focusing Questions For 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…?
The Path To Great Answers
After you set up your focusing questions, you can go even deeper. The more specific you are, the better will be your answers and outcome. For example, instead of asking the question, “What can I do to double sales in six month?” make the question more powerful. The new reframed question is:
“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?”
But how to answer this question? Answers come in three categories: doable, stretch, and possibility. Doable is the easiest to achieve. These are skills and knowledge you already have.
Stretch is achievable, depending on your effort. Doing it can be difficult because you might have to push yourself beyond your limits right now.
High achievers understand these first two routes but reject them. You asked a great question, so you need a great answer.
If you want the most from your answers, you must realize that it lives outside your comfort zone. You can start by researching and studying other high achievers’ lives. By studying other successful people, you can establish a benchmark.
Having a clear purpose in life is crucial for extraordinary results. The most productive people start with a clear purpose and use it like a compass. The more productive a person is, the more purpose he has and the more priority he gives his ONE thing.
It’s like an iceberg. Only about 1/9 of an iceberg is visible, equivalent to a person’s productiveness. Behind the surface, other things drive this person to be productive.
Live With Purpose
Our purpose sets our priority, and our priority determines the productivity our actions produce. And ultimately, this defines who we are. When you ask people what they want in life, happiness is one of the most words that come back.
Being happy is not about having enough money. Happiness happens on the way to fulfillment. So what’s the thing that gets you up in the morning and keeps you going when you’re tired and worn down?
Live By Priority
In our modern world, we have a pluralized word for priority (priorities). However, priority comes from the Latin prior, which means first. And it is impossible to have multiple “firsts.” Therefore, the is only one first. So there is only ONE priority.
Generally, we, as people, prefer big rewards over small ones. Still, we have an even stronger preference for present rewards and future rewards. This occurrence has a name, hyperbolic discounting, and says: “The farther away a reward is in the future, the smaller the immediate motivation to achieve it.”
But goal setting to the now will get you there. Make a daily goal that works towards your ultimate goal. You’re lining up your dominoes this way. What’s the ONE thing you can do NOW to achieve your someday goal? Write your goals down and keep them close.
Live For Productivity
The most successful people are also the most productive. They accomplish more, achieve better results, and earn significantly more in their hours than the rest. They do so because they devote the majority of their time to being productive in their ONE thing.
You should block your time to ensure you are working on your top priority. And protect the time blocked. Most people think there’s never enough time to be successful, but here is when you block it. It’s a way to ensure that what must be done gets done.
Resting is important as working. So you should first block your time off. Then, after that, block time for your ONE thing. And make sure you stick to it. Day in and day out, your own need to do other things instead of your ONE thing may be your biggest challenge to overcome.
The Three Commitments
- First, you have to think like someone who wants to get better. Mastery is a commitment to being the best you can be, so if you want to get extraordinary results, you have to be willing to put in extraordinary effort.
- Second, you must continually seek the very best ways of doing things. Nothing is vainer than giving your all while applying a strategy that fails to produce results commensurate with your efforts.
- Third, you must be willing to be held accountable for doing everything you can to achieve your ONE thing.
You can’t put limits on what you do. You must be open to new ideas and ways of doing things if you want breakthroughs in your life. Break through the ceiling by doing the unnatural.
The Four Thieves
- Inability to Say “No”
- Fear of Chaos
- Poor Health Habits
- Environment Doesn’t Support Your Goals
Inability to Say “No”: When you say yes to something, you must understand you’re saying no to another thing. So choose carefully to what you say yes. You can’t please everyone. If the request is not connected to your ONE thing, better say no.
Fear of Chaos: Focusing on the ONE thing has a guaranteed consequence: Other things don’t get done. But this is precisely the point. When you strive for greatness, chaos is guaranteed to show up. It’s essential you accept it instead of fighting it.
Poor Health Habits: Personal energy mismanagement is a silent thief of productivity. Being highly productive uses a lot of energy, so you must take care of your overall well-being. For example, you can meditate in the morning. The health benefits of meditating are astonishing. Eat right, exercise, and sleep sufficiently for physical energy.
Environment Doesn’t Support Your Goals: Your environment is what you see and experience daily. No one is strong enough to avoid the influence of negativity forever. So, surrounding yourself with the right people can make all the difference. Unfortunately, the wrong surroundings may never let you get there.
Take only one step at a time. Significant changes don’t happen overnight. They require time and consistency to achieve. So at any moment, there can always only be ONE thing. And it’s crucial you don’t get distracted and work consistently on your task.
Read inspiring quotes: 35 Quotes From The ONE Thing To Succeed In Any Field
Always ask yourself: What’s the ONE thing? And make sure you have your goals written and close to you. Also, check in every week to see if you’re on track. Begin working on your success habits, one at a time. Ask the right questions, and you will get great answers. Take small steps, and work daily on your dream.
I hope this The ONE Thing summary helps you achieve your dreams. Always remember: What’s the ONE thing you can do NOW to achieve your someday goal?
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