Book Summary:

The One Thing is knowing that at any given point in time, there is only one most important thing to do. Always doing the One Thing will enable you to achieve anything and everything you want in life. It will either make everything else easier or even make those things unnecessary.

Favorite Quote:

“Its recognizing that not all things matter equally and finding the things that matter most.  A tighter way to connect what you do with what you want.  Realize that extraordinary results are directly determined by how narrow you can make your focus.” ~ Gary Keller


1. The One Thing

Something Had To Give

During mentoring meetings, Gary would regularly end the meeting with a short list of weekly tasks.  However, often times, what NEEDED to get done was not done.  Results suffered.  In desperation, the task list was reduced to one thing.

“I went as small as I could possibly go and asked, “what is the ONE Thing you can do this week such that by doing it everything else would be easier or unnecessary?”

p. 9

Going Small

“Its recognizing that not all things matter equally and finding the things that matter most.  A tighter way to connect what you do with what you want.  Realize that extraordinary results are directly determined by how narrow you can make your focus.”

p. 10

2. The Domino Effect

Dominos are not that dissimilar to the tasks we perform everyday.

“Line up enough dominos and with a simple flick, you can start a chain reaction of surprising power.  When one thing, the right thing, is set in motion, it can topple many things.”

p. 13

Getting Extraordinary Results

Everything happens over time.  Accumulation of wealth, knowledge, accomplishments — all of these happen over a period of time.

“So when you think about success, shoot for the moon.  The moon is reachable if you prioritize everything and put all of your energy into accomplishing the most important thing.  Getting extraordinary results is all about creating a domino effect in your life.”

p. 16

3. Success Leaves Clues

One Product, One Service

The list of businesses that have achieved extraordinary results with one product or service focus is endless (Microsoft, Intel, Disney, Google, etc).

“When you get to the ONE Thing, you begin to see the business world differently.  If today your company doesn’t know what its ONE Thing is, then the company’s ONE Thing is to find out.”

p. 19

One Person

“Everyone has one person who either means the most to them or was the first to influence, train, or manage them.  No one succeeds alone.  No one.”

p. 20

One Passion, One Skill

The lines between passion and skill can often times be blurred.  This is the result that very often they are connected.

Part 1:  The Lies – They Mislead and Derail Us

The Six Lies Between You and Success:

  1. Everything Matters Equally
  2. Multitasking
  3. A Disciplined Life
  4. Willpower Is Always on Will-Call
  5. A Balanced Life
  6. Big Is Bad

4. Everything Matters Equally

Everything does NOT matter equally on your list of to-do’s.  There is a to-do list and there is a success list.  Do only what matters.

“Knocking out a hundred tasks for whatever the reason is a poor substitute for doing even one task that is meaningful.  Not everything matters equally, and success isn’t a game won by whoever does the most.  Yet that is exactly how most play it on a daily basis.”

p. 34

Much To-Do About Nothing

“Achievers operate differently.  They have an eye for the essential.  They pause just long enough to decide what matters and then allow what matters to drive their day.  Achievers do sooner what others plan to do later and defer, perhaps indefinitely, what other do sooner.  The difference isn’t in intent, but in right of way.  Achievers always work from the clear sense of priority.”

p. 35

Juran Cracks the Code

The majority of what you want in life will come from a MINORITY of what you do.

“The 80/20 Principle (Vilfredo Pareto) asserts that a minority of causes, inputs, or effort usually lead to a majority of the results, outputs or rewards.”

p. 37

Extreme Pareto

Pareto can be taken even further.  The big idea here is that its not just the 20% of what you do, its the ONE Thing that you do that matters.  There is ALWAYS, at any given point, only ONE Thing you should be doing.

5. Multitasking

Cliff Nass conducted a research project at Stanford on the effectiveness of multitasking and the results were astounding.

“It turns out the high multitasker’s are suckers for irrelevancy.  They were outperformed on every measure.  Although they’d convinced themselves and the world that they were great at it, there was just one problem.  Multitasker’s were lousy at everything.  Multitasking is a lie.”

p. 44

Monkey Mind

Multitasking didn’t arrive on the scene until the 1960’s and was used to describe computers, not people.  It turns out that even computers can only do one thing at a time.

Juggling Is An Illusion

Juggling or “task switching” has a serious efficiency cost that we are likely not aware of.

“The cost in terms of extra time from having to task switch depends on how complex or simple the tasks are.  It can range from time increase of 25 percent or less for simple tasks to well over 100 percent or more for very complicated tasks.  Task switching exacts a cost few realize they’re even paying.”

p. 48

Brain Channels

You can do two things at once but you cannot focus on two things at once.  Take on two things, and your attention gets divided.

Driven to Distraction

Matt Richtel wrote a series of articles on the dangers of distracted driving.  Distracted driving is more dangerous than drunk driving and is responsible for 16 percent of all traffic fatalities.

6. A Disciplined Life

The truth is, we don’t need any more discipline than we already have.  We just need to manage it a little better.

Selected Discipline Works Swimmingly

“The payoff from developing the right habit is pretty obvious.  It gets you the success you’re searching for.  What sometimes gets overlooked, however, is an amazing windfall:  it 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.”

p. 57

Sixty-Six Days To The Sweet Spot

“The results suggest that it takes an average of 66 days to acquire a new habit.  The full range was 18 to 254 days, but the 66 days represented a sweet spot — with easier behaviors taking fewer days on average and tough ones taking longer.”

p. 59

7. Willpower is Always on Will-Call

Willpower is an incredibly important component of success.  The ability to control oneself, to determine one’s actions is a pretty powerful idea.  However, willpower is not on will-call.  There are moment of high willpower and moments of low/none.

Toddler Torture

Walter Mischel conducted the marshmallow test on toddlers at Stanford University’s Bing Nursery School.  The students who could delay the gratification had higher test scores, higher feelings of self-worth and better stress management.

Renewable Energy

Willpower has a limited battery life but can be recharged with some downtime.  The more we use our mind, the less mind power we have.

Food For Thought

The brain makes up 1/50th of our body mass yet uses 1/5th of the total body energy.

“Studies concluded that willpower is a mental muscle that doesn’t bounce back quickly.  If you employ it for one task, there will be less power available for the next unless you refuel.  To do our best, we literally have to feed our minds, which gives new credence to the old saw, “food for thought.”  Foods that elevate blood sugar EVENLY over long periods, like complex carbohydrates {FATS} and proteins, become the fuel of choice for high-achievers — literal proof that “you are what you eat.”

p. 67

Default Judgement

The lack of willpower will result in you falling back on your “default” settings.  It is helpful to know what those are.

Give Willpower The Time Of Day

We lose willpower because we don’t think about it enough.

“If you want to get the most of our your day, do your most important work — your One Thing — early, before your willpower is drawn down.  Since your self-control will be sapped throughout the day, use it when its at full strength on what matters most.”

p. 71

8. A Balanced Life

A balance life is a lie.

“Purpose, meaning, significance — these are what make a successful life. Seek them and you will most certainly live your life out of balance, criss-crossing an invisible middle line as you pursue your priorities.  The act of living a full life b giving time to what matters is a balancing act.”

p. 73

The Genesis Of A Myth

The term work-life balance was coined in the 1980’s when half of household women went to work.  Although it has captured our attention ever since, it is a myth.

Middle Mismanagement

“If you think of balance as the middle, then living out of balance is when you get away from it.  The problem with living in the middle is it prevents you from making extraordinary time commitments to anything.  And, the magic never happens in the middle; magic happens at the extremes.”

p. 75

Time Waits For No One

When you push things to the extreme, be aware of how long you do so.  You may find yourself in a permanent extreme.

Counterbalancing — The Long And Short Of It

Although achieving extraordinary results means you must at times get extremely out of balance in relation to all other issues.  Its all about how long you stay unbalanced.

“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.”

p. 80

Life Is A Balancing Act

“When you’re supposed to be working, work, and when you’re supposed to be playing, play.  It’s a weird tightrope you’re walking, but it’s only when you get your priorities mixed up that things fall apart.”

p. 82

9. Big Is Bad

Thinking big is a good thing.  However, it has become tangled with big problems, big stress, big sacrifice.  This is not necessarily the case.

Flat Wrong

“None of us knows our limits.  Borders and boundaries maybe clear on a map, but when we apply them to our lives, he lines aren’t so apparent.  I was once asked if I thought thinking big was realistic.  I paused to reflect on this and then said, Let me ask you a question first:  Do you know what your limits are?  No was the reply.  So I said that it seemed the question was irrelevant.  No one knows their ultimate ceiling for achievement, so working about it is a waste of time.”

p. 86

Going Big

“Everyone has the same amount of time, and hard work is simply hard work.  As a result, what you do in the time you work determines what you achieve.  And since what you do is determined by what you think, how big you think becomes the launching pad or how high you achieve.”

p. 88

The Big Deal

Carol S. Dweck has studied the science of how our self-conceptions influence our actions.  She discusses two mindsets; growth mindset and fixed mindset.  Those with growth mindsets are less likely to place limits on their lives and more likely to reach their full potential.

Part 2:  The Truth – The Simple Path To Productivity

“Here is what I found out:  We overthink, overplan, and over-analyze our careers, our businesses, and our lives; that long hours are neither virtuous nor healthy; and that we usually succeed in spite of most of what we do, not because of it.  I discovered that we cant manage time, ant that the key to success isn’t in all the things we do but in the handful of things we do well.”

p. 100

10. The Focusing Question

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 question is which one comes first?  The solution is the focusing question.

Life Is A Question

Answers come from questions, and the quality of any answer is directly determined by the quality of the question.

“The Focusing Question is that uncommon approach.  In a world of no instructions, it becomes the simple formula for finding exceptional answers that lead to extraordinary results.  Whats the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?

p. 106

11. The Success Habit

The Focusing Question way of life.  It should be something that you use every single day.  Use the Focusing Question for all stages of your life.  Know when to use the focusing question (big picture stuff).  Don’t over use it or you’ll drive yourself nuts.  Instead, focus on the big things and see where it takes you.

12. The Path To Great Answers

1. Ask a Great Question

Great answers come from great questions.  You can go small, big, broad and specific.  The best combination is BIG & Specific.  These types of big specific questions will lead you to big and specific answers.  Great questions lead to great goals.

2. Find a Great Answer

Extraordinary results require a great answer.  Great answers can often be inspired or assisted with the knowledge from others.  And, there is no better place to acquire this knowledge than from books (and the internet).

“The research and experience of others is the best place to start when looking for your answer.”

p. 125

Part 3:  Extraordinary Results – Unlocking the Possibilities Within You

“Connecting purpose, priority, and productivity determines how high above the rest successful individuals and profitable businesses rise.  Understanding this is at the core of producing extraordinary results.”

p. 134

13. Live With Purpose

Purpose is the combination of where we’re going and whats important to us.  Our priority is what we place the greatest importance on and our productivity comes from the actions we take.  The Purpose and the ONE Thing.  A life of purpose is a life of happiness.

Happiness on Purpose

There are five factors that contribute to happiness; positive emotion and pleasure, achievement, relationships, engagement, and meaning.

“Wanting more money just for the sake of getting it won’t bring the happiness you seek from it.  Happiness happens when you have a bigger purpose.”

p. 143

The Power of Purpose

Purpose is the straightest path to power and the ultimate source of personal strength — strength of conviction and strength to persevere.

14. Live By Priority

“When each day begins, we each have a choice.  We can ask ‘What shall I do?’ or ‘What SHOULD I do?’  Without direction, without purpose, whatever you “shall do” will always get you somewhere.  But when you’re going somewhere on purpose, there will always be something you “should do” that will get you where you MUST go.”

p. 147

Goal Setting to the Now

The goal setting of now is as simple as working backwards from your long term goal.  You can break down your one year goal in to a monthly goal to achieve it, then to a weekly, daily and RIGH NOW GOAL.  So, although your focusing on a one YEAR goal, whats the ONE Thing you can do right now?  Use this model.  Connect today to all the tomorrows on the way to getting there.

15. Life For Productivity

Putting together a life of extraordinary results simply comes down to getting the most out of what you do, when what you do matters.  Goal setting, time blocking and making sure you have enough time to plan your week are all critical steps in this process.

Time Blocking

Its a way of making sure that what matters most, gets done!  Literally block time on your calendar each and every working day to make sure that your ONE Thing gets done.  Time block all of these activities;

  1. Time Block Your Time Off – This is the first thing to time block.  Make sure you know when you’re going to get time to recharge.
  2. Time Block Your One Thing – This is the second thing you block, make sure that the One Thing gets priority.
  3. Time Block Your Planning Time – Block an hour or so each week to review your Weekly, Monthly and Annual goals.

“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another.”

p. 170

Protect Your Time Block

The world doesn’t know or care about your purpose and priority.  Thus, you will get many people trying to take your blocks of time.  Protect these blocks against distractions.

“Until my one thing is done, everything else is a distraction.”

p. 173

16. The Three Commitments

1. Follow the Path of Mastery

Hard work, dedication to a craft bears HUGE results.  Regardless of what journey we are all on, our path will be better if we follow a path of mastery.

“Mastery is a path you go down instead of a destination you arrive at, it starts to feel accessible and attainable.”

p. 176

2. Move from “E” to “P”

The E is the natural Entrepreneur in all of us.  It is bound by our natural ceiling of achievement.  However a purposeful approach will drive us to try things that we’ve never done before.

“You can’t put limits on what you’ll do.  You have to be open to new ideas and new ways of doing things if you want to breakthrough in your life.  As you travel the pat h of mastery you’ll find yourself continually challenged to do new things.  The Purposeful person follows the simple rule that ‘a different result requires doing something different.'”

p. 179

3. Live the Accountability Cycle

Hold yourself accountable and you will achieve incredible results!

“This single most important difference between these amateurs and the three groups of elite performers is that the future elite performers seek out teachers and coaches.”

p. 188

17. The Four Thieves

1. Inability to Say “No”

When you say yes to something, you have to understand that you’re saying no to one or many OTHER things.  It is critical for you to understand the trade-off you make when you’re saying yes.  You cannot please everyone and do everything.  So, don’t even try.  Focus on what matters by saying NO to that which is not a priority.

2. Fear of Chaos

When you strive for greatness, chaos will come along for the ride.  So, embrace the fact that chaos will be a part of life when you’re crushing life and being great.

“The art of being wise, is the art of knowing what to overlook.”

p. 198

3. Poor Health Habits

Personal health is a direct contributor to having big energy that is required to be great.  For more on this, read Head Strong by Dave Asprey.  The notes in this chapter are a good starting point.  If you’re not where you want to be in life, taking care of yourself matter immensely.

4. Environment Doesn’t Support Your Goals

No one succeeds alone, no one fails alone.  Who you surround yourself with matter immensely.

“Surround yourself only with people who are going to lift you higher.”

p. 205 (Oprah Winfrey)

18. The Journey

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  And then another single step.  And another …. These steps are all doing ONE Things in a chain of ONE Things on your journey.  Live a life of, “I’m glad I did” not a life of “I wish I had”.

“A life worth living might be measured in may ways, but the one way that stands above all others is living a life of o regrets.”

p. 212

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