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The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth About Extraordinary Results - Gary Keller, Jay Papasan

books, business14 min read

About the book



Some random quotes from beginning to end order. For the full context, please buy and read the book. I do this to help myself to quickly get the main ideas of the book.

If you chase 2 rabbits, you will not catch either one.

1. The One Thing

"Be like a postage stamp - stick to one thing until you get there" - Josh Billings

Where I'd had huge success, I had narrowed my concentration to one thing, and were my success varied, my focus had too.

If everyone has the same number of hours in a day, why do some people seem to get so much more done than others? How do they do more, achieve more, earn more, have more? If time is the currency of achievement, then why are some able to cash in their allotment for more chips than others? The answer is they make getting to the heart of things the heart of their approach. They go small.

"Going small" is ignoring all the things you could do and doing what you should do. It's recognizing that not all the things matter equally and finding the things that matter most. It's realizing that extraordinary results are directly determined by how narrow you can make your focus.

The way to get the most out of your work and your life is to go as small as possible. Most people think just the opposite. They think big success is time consuming and complicated. As a result, their calendars and to-do lists become overloaded and overwhelming. Success starts to feel out of reach, so they settle for less. Over time they lower their expectations, abandon their dreams, and allow their life to get small. This is the wrong thing to make small.

2. The Domino Effect

"Every great change starts like falling dominoes" - BJ Thornton

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.

Find the lead domino, and whack away at ut until it falls.

When you see someone who has a lot of knowledge, they learned it over time. When you see someone who has a lot of skills, they developed them over time. When you see someone who has done a lot, they accomplished it over time. When you see someone who has a lot of money, they earned it over time.

The key is over time. Success is built sequentially. It's one thing at a time.

3. Success Leaves Clues

"It is those who concentrate on but one thing at a time who advance in this world" - Og Mandino

Extraordinarily successful companies always have one product or service they're most known for or that makes them the most money.

"There can only be one most important. Many things may be important, but only one can be the most important" - Ross Garber

No one succeeds alone. No one.

"You must be single-minded. Drive for the one thing on which you have decided" - General George S. Patton

Often, the line between passion and skill can be blurry. That's because they're almost always connected. Passion for something leads to disproportionate time practicing or working at it. The 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 virtuous cycle all the way to extraordinary results.

"Success demands singleness of purpose" - Vince Lombardi

The one thing shows up time and again in the lives of the successful because it's a fundamental truth

Part 1. The Lies: They Mislead and Derail Us

"It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble, Ot's what you know for sure that just ain't so" - Mark Twain

4. Everything Matters Equally

"Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least" - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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.

"The things which are most important don't always scream the loudest" - Bob Hawke

Achievers always work from a clear sense of priority.

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.

  1. Go small: Don't focus on being busy, focus on being productive. Allow what matters most to drive your day.
  2. Go extreme: Keep asking what matters most until there is only one thing left.
  3. Say no: Say "not now" to anything else you could do until your most important work is done.
  4. Don't get trapped in the "check off" game: If we believe things don't matter equally, we must act accordingly.

Doing the most important thing is always the most important thing

5. Multitasking

"To do 2 things at once is to do neither" - Publilius Syrus

"Multitasking is merely the opportunity to screw up more than one thing at a time" - Steve Uzzell

  1. Distraction is natural: Don't feel bad when you get distracted. Everyone gets distracted.
  2. Multitasking takes a toll: At home or at work, distractions lead to poor choices, painful mistakes, and unnecessary stress.
  3. Distraction undermines results: When you try doing too much at once, you can end up doing nothing well. Figure out what matter most in the moment and give it your undivided attention.

6. A Disciplined Life

"It's one of the most prevalent myths of our culture: self-discipline" - Leo Babauta

You can become successful with less discipline that you think, for one simple reason: success is about doing the right thing, not about doing everything right.

When you do the right thing, it can liberate you from having to monitor everything.

Discipline is a habit. Once a new bahavior becomes a habit, it takes less discipline to maintain

Success is sequential, not simultaneous

If you are what you repeatedly do, then achievement isn't an action you take but a habit you forge into your life. You don't have to seek out success. Harness the power of selected discipline to build the right habit, and extraordinary results will find you.

7. Willpower Is Always On Will-call

"Odysseus understood how weak willpower actually is when he asked his crew to bind him to the mast while sailing by the seductive Sirens" - Patricia Cohen

When it comes to willpower, timing is everything

  1. Don't spread your willpower too thin: On any given day, you have a limited supply of willpower, so decide what matters and reserve your willpower for it.
  2. Monitor your fuel gauge: Never let what matters most be compromised simply because your brain was under-fueled. Eat right and regularly
  3. Time your task: Do what matters most first each day when your willpower is strongest.
  4. Mind your motivation: Your motivation, attention and beliefs about your willpower also impact your self-control.

8. A Balanced Life

The idea of balance is exactly that - an idea.

When we work too long, eventually our personal life suffers. Falling prey to the belief that long hours are virtuous, we unfairly blame work when we say "I have no life". Often, it's just the opposite. Even if our work life doesn't interfere, our personal life itself can be so full of "have-tos" that we again reach the same defeated conclusion "I have no life". And sometimes we get hit from both sides. Some of us face so many personal and professional demands that everything suffers. Breakdown imminent, we once again declare "I have no life"

When you act on your priority, you'll automatically go out of balance, giving more time to one thing over another.

9. Big Is Bad

"We are kept from our goal, not by obstacles but by a clear path to a lesser goal." - Robert Brault

Thinking big is essential to extraordinary results. Success requires action, and action requires thought. But's here the catch - the only actions that become springboards to succeeding big are those informed by big thinking to begin with.

Every level of achievement requires its own combination of what you do, how you do it, and who you do it with.

What you build today will either empower or restrict you tomorrow.

A "growth" mindset that generally thinks big and seeks growth and a "fixed" mindset that places artificial limits and avoids failure. Like any other habit, you set you mind to it until the right mindset becomes routine.

Don't fear big. Fear mediocrity. Fear waste. Fear the lack of living to your fullest. Only living big will let you experience your true life and work potential.

  1. Think big: Set a goal so far above what you want that you'll be building a plan that practically guarantees your original goal.
  2. Don't order from the menu: Ignore the menu and ordered your own creations
  3. Act bold: Once you've asked the big question, pause to imagine what life looks like with the answer.
  4. Don't fear failure: Adopt a growth mindset, and don't be afraid of where it can take you. Don't be afraid to fail. See it as part of your learning process and keep striving for your true potential.

Don't let small thinking cut your life down to size. Think big, aim high, act bold. And see just how big you can blow up your life.

Part 2: The Truth: The Simple Path to Productivity

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 quality of the answer is directly determined by the quality of the question. Ask the wrong question, get the wrong answer. Ask the right question, get the right answer. Ask the most powerful question possible. and the answer can be life altering.

"Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers" - Voltaire

11. The Success Habit

"Success is simple. Do what's right, the right way, at the right time" - Arnold H. Gaslow

Start with the big stuff and see where it takes you

12. The Path to Great Answers

"People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures." - F. M. Alexander

  1. Think big and specific: from "I'd like to do that" to "How do I achieve that?"
  2. Think possibilities: Setting a doable goal is almost like creating a task to check off your list. A stretch goal is more challenging. It aims you at the edge of your current abilities; you have to stretch to reach it
  3. Benchmark and trend for the best answer

Part 3: Extraordinary Results Unlocking the Possibilities Within You

"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." - Will Rogers

The most productive people start with purpose and use it like a compass. This is the straightest path to extraordinary results.

Personal productivity is the building block of all business profit

13. Live With Purpose

"Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself." - George Bernard Shaw

Live with purpose. Live by priority. Live for productivity.

Happiness happens on the way to fulfillment.

5 factors that contribute to happiness: positive emotion and pleasure, achievement, relationships, engagement, and meaning. When our daily actions fulfill a bigger purpose, the most powerful and enduring happiness can happen.

14. Live by Priority

"Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now." - Alan Lakein

priority originated from latin prior, meaning first

hyperbolic discounting - the farther away a reward is in the future, the smaller the immediate motivation to achieve it.

Think big but go small.

planning fallacy - people tend to be overly optimistic about what they can accomplish, and therefore most don't think things all the way through

Backwards planning helps people to to be more motivated and their behavior is more in line with their goals

15. Live for Productivity

"Productivity isn't about being a workhorse, keeping busy or burning the midnight oil... It's more about priorities, planning, and fiercely protecting your time." - Margarita Tartakosky

"My goal is no longer to get more done, but rather to have less to do." - Francine Jay

Productive people get more done, achieve better results, and earn far more in their hours than the rest.

  1. Take time off. Resting is as important as working
  2. Block 4 hours a day for priority work.
  3. Block 1 hour a week to review annual and monthly goals.
  4. Protect your time blocks.

"Efficiency is doing the thing right. Effectiveness is doing the right thing." - Peter Drucker

16. The 3 Commitments

"Nobody who ever gave his best regretted it." - George Halas

  1. Follow the Path of Mastery: not so different from one pursuit to the next.
  2. More from "E" Entrepreneurial to "P" Purposeful: "Doing what comes naturally" to "doing what comes unnaturally".
  3. Live the Accountability Cycle: Take ownership of your outcome.

Knowledge begets knowledge, skills build on skill

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.

Too many people reach a level where their performance is "good enough" and then stop working on getting better.

Look for the better models and systems, the ways that can take you farther. Then adopt new thinking, new skills, and new relationships to help you put them into action.

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.

17. The 4 Thieves

"Focus is a matter of deciding what things you're not going to do." - John Carmack

"The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook." - William James

"Surround yourself only with people who are going to lift you higher." - Oprah Winfrey

"The road to success is always under construction." - Lily Tomlin

  1. Inability to say "No": a "yes" must be defended over time by 1000 "nos".
  2. Fear or chaos: deal with untidiness, unrest, disarray, disorders and move past them.
  3. Poor health habits: fuel up, head to your exercise spot to relieve stress and strengthen your body and mind.
  4. Environment doesn't support your goals: don't let the environment lead you astray.

The art of saying yes is, by default, the art of saying no. Saying yes to everyone is the same as saying yes to nothing. You can't please everyone, so don't try. Say yes to your priority.

When you strive for greatness, chaos is guaranteed to show up.

"If you don't take care of yourself, where will you live?". High achievement and extraordinary results require big energy.

Attitude is contagious, it spread easily. So, surround yourself with the right people is the right thing to do.

18. The Journey

"To get through the hardest journey we need take only one step at a time, but we must keep on stepping." - Chinese Proverb

"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go." - T. S. Eliot

"My son, the battle is between 2 wolves inside us. One is Fear. Ot carries anxiety, concerns, uncertainty, hesitancy, indecision and inaction. The other is Faith. It brings calm, conviction, confidence, enthusiasm, decisiveness, excitement and action" - "Which wolf wins" - "The one you feed"

"20 years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." - Mark Twain

A life worth living might be measured in many ways, but the one way that stands above all others is living a life of no regrets.