The ONE Thing Book Summary

the-one-thing

The ONE Thing by Gary Keller
The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results

My Thoughts

The ONE Thing is incredible and is on my list of best books of 2018. It shares several similar concepts with Essentialism. The main concepts that helped me are learning to use the focusing question, being aware of the domino effect, and time blocking.

My Favorite Quotes

  • Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.
  • 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 their futures. They decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.
  • To do two things at once is to do neither.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Key Questions

  • How do you decide what to do first?
  • What’s the one thing I can do, such that by doing it, everything else will be easy or unnecessary?
  • See chapter 11 for examples of how to use the focusing question in different areas of life.
  • 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? (etc, down to what you should do right now)
  • Are you doing this to do the best you can do, or to do it the best it can be done?
  • What advice would an older, wiser you give to yourself?

Chapter 1: The ONE Thing

Go small.
Ignoring all the things you could do, and doing what you should do.
Not all things matter equally.

Chapter 2: The Domino Effect

A domino can knock over another domino that is about 1.5 times its own size.
Find the lead domino in your life.

Here is a video illustrating the domino effect.

Chapter 3: Success Leaves Clues

Part 1: The Lies

The lies 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.

Chapter 4: Everything Matters Equally (The First Lie)

Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.

How do you decide what to do first?
The things which are most important don’t always scream the loudest.

It’s not enough to be busy; so are the ants.

Paraeto principle. (80/20 rule)
Extreme Paraeto.
Find the 20% then go smaller and find the vital few of the vital few.
Find the top 20% of the top 20%.

Chapter 5: Multitasking (The Second Lie)

To do two things at once is to do neither.

Chapter 6: A Disciplined Life
Chapter 7: Willpower is Always on Will Call

(I didn’t take any notes on chapters 6 and 7)

Chapter 8: A Balanced Life (The Fifth Lie)

When you gamble with your time, you may be placing a bet you can’t cover.
Counterbalance.
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.

Chapter 9: Big is Bad (The Sixth Lie)

We are kept from our goal not by obstacles but by a clear path to a lesser goal.
Believing in big frees you to ask different questions, follow new paths, and try new things.
Achievement and abundance show up because they are the natural outcomes of doing the right things with no limits attached.

Part Two: The Truth

The simple path to productivity.

Chapter 10: The Focusing Question

What’s the one thing I can do, such that by doing it, everything else will be easy or unnecessary?

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.
Big picture with small focus.

Chapter 11: The Success Habit

Apply the focus question to all important areas of your life in this order. Each area is a foundation for the next.

  1. Spiritual
  2. Physical health
  3. Personal life
  4. Key relationships
  5. Job
  6. Business
  7. Financial

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.

  1. Category
  2. State the question
  3. Add a time frame

Spiritual
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?

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?

Personal
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?

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?

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?

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?

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.

  1. Understand and believe it.
  2. Use it. Ask the focusing question.
  3. Make it a habit.
  4. Leverage reminders. Sign at work. Calendar. Etc. “until my one thing is done, everything else is a distraction.”
  5. Recruit support.

Chapter 12: The Path to Great Answers

People do not decide their futures. They decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.

Ask a great question, then seek out a great answer. It’s the ultimate success habit.
Think big and specific.
Research and role model.

Step 1: Ask a Great Question

Ask the focusing question.
The great question matrix.
Think big and specific.
Example using the question: what can I do to double sales in six months?
See figure 19 from the free resource guide for a visual illustration.
Quadrant 4: small and specific. Increase sales 5% in the year. Low goals do not require extraordinary actions.
Quadrant 3: small and broad.
What can I do to increase sales?
Quadrant 2: big and broad?
What can I do to double sales?
Quadrant 1: big and specific.
What can I do to double sales in six months?

Step 2: Find a Great Answer
Three categories of answers:

  1. Doable
  2. Stretch (uncover the best research and study the highest achievers).
  3. Possibility

A possibility answer exists beyond what you already know. A great answer is a new answer.

Search for clues and role models to point you in the right direction.
Books, reading and published works.

A new answer usually requires new behavior.
Benchmark and trend for the best answers.

Part Three: Extraordinary Results

  1. Purpose
  2. Priority
  3. Productivity

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

Life is not about finding yourself, life is about creating yourself.

Author’s purpose: my purpose is to help people live their greatest life possible through my teaching, coaching, and writing.

Teaching is the author’s one thing.

Chapter 14: Live by Priority

Planning is bringing the future into the present so you can do something about it now.

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.

Knowing your future goal is how you begin.

Chapter 15: Live for Productivity

Productivity is about priorities, planning and fiercely protecting your time.
Productive action transforms lives.
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

Time Block
Time block your ONE thing.
Great success shows up when time is devoted every day to becoming great.

Time block these three things:

  1. Your time off.
  2. Your ONE thing.
  3. Your planning time.

You can’t happily sustain success in your personal life if you neglect your personal recreation 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

Protecting your time block.
Four proven ways to battle distractions.

  1. Build a bunker.
  2. Store provisions.
  3. Sweep for mines.
  4. Enlist support.

Chapter 16: The Three Commitments

Three commitments required for achieving extraordinary results:

  1. Adopt the mindset of someone seeking mastery.
  2. Continually seek the very best ways of doing things.
  3. Be willing to be held accountable for doing everything you can to achieve your ONE thing.
Steps:
  1. Follow the path of mastery
  2. Move from E to P (entrepreneurial to purposeful)
  3. Live the accountability cycle

Mastery
Mastery is a way of thinking and acting, not an end result.
Healthy definition of mastery: giving the best you have, to become the best you can be at your most important work.
Mastery means you are a master of what you know and an apprentice of what you don’t know.
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.
Are you doing this to do the best you can do, or to do it the best it can be done?
A different result requires doing something different.

Accountability Partner
Can come in the form of a mentor, peer or, in it’s highest form, a coach.
An accountability partner is not a cheerleader.
An accountability partner provides frank, objective feedback on your performance.
Creates an ongoing expectation for productive progress.
Can provide critical brainstorming or even expertise when needed.

Chapter 17: The Four Thieves

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

Four thieves that will rob you of productivity:

  1. Inability to say no
  2. The fear of chaos
  3. Poor health habits
  4. An environment that doesn’t support your goals

Inability to Say No
One yes must be defended over time by a thousand nos.
One half of knowing what you want is knowing what you must give up before you get it. Sydney Howard
Steve Jobs cut Apple from 350 products to 10.
Saying yes to everyone is the same as saying yes to nothing.
The more things you do, the less successful you are at any one of them.
If you don’t make your life about what you say yes to, it will almost certainly become about what you intended to say no to.

The Fear of Chaos
Focusing on the ONE thing has a guaranteed consequence: other things don’t get done.
There will always be unfinished work and loose ends lying around.
Move past your fear of chaos.

Chapter 18: The Journey

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

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.
Example, write down your current income and multiply it by any number.
Ask yourself, will my current actions get me to this number in 5 years? Now make your actions match your answer.

Apply this to all areas of your life: Spiritual, physical condition, personal relationships, your business, or anything else that matters to you.

When you lift the limits of your thinking you expand the limits of your life. It’s only when you can imagine a bigger life that you can ever hope to have one.
Living big always begins with going small, you must focus.
Actions build on actions, habits build on habits. Big lives are built sequentially, you can’t just skip to the end.

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

Extraordinary results are built on faith and purpose. You must have faith in your purpose and priorities.

What advice would an older, wiser you give to yourself?
Live your life to minimize regrets you might have at the end.

Recommend book: The Top Five Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware.

  1. Wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. Wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. Wish I had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. Wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. Wish I had let myself be happier.

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.

Success is an inside job.
Live with purpose, priority, and productivity.
Illustration: When I put the man together, the world just fell into place. Put yourself together and your world falls into place.
All success in life starts within you. 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.

Personal 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?

Family
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?

Job
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?

Your Non-profit
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?

Your School
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?

Your Community
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.

To dive deeper and get more information go to the website the1thing.com
The author has made several figures and graphs available as a free PDF download here.

My Action Steps After Reading

  • Time blocking more consistently.
  • Learning to be more comfortable with chaos.
  • Asking myself the focusing question(s) regularly.
  • Further evaluating my priorities to make sure I am living with purpose.
  • Understanding the mental model of the domino effect.

Related Book Summaries

Hope you enjoyed this and got value from my notes.
This is the 81st book read in my 2018 reading list.
Here is a list of my book summaries.

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