“The ONE Thing” by Gary Keller

Summary

This book makes a simple, and seemingly blindingly obvious, recommendation: To succeed in a meaningful way, find the most important thing to do for your most important mission, then 'just' go do that. The real value for me came in three ways:
  1. The research and thought-provoking work on what 'meaningful' actually is;
  2. A practical approach with strategies, questions and tips to move this from being a statement of the blindingly obvious, to something that is eminently doable;
  3. The telling of some uncomfortable truths which you need to get over if you're to do this, key among them being that doing your one thing well means you either need to drop, or accept chaos, in other things. Get over it!
Here are my key highlights and notes: things I wanted to reflect more on and decide what to do with:

The ONE Thing

  • “Be like a postage stamp–stick to one thing until you get there.” —Josh Billings ([tweetthis]“Be like a postage stamp–stick to one thing until you get there.” Josh Billings [/tweetthis])
  • “What’s the ONE Thing I can do today such that by doing it everything else will be easier or even unnecessary?” ([tweetthis]“What ONE Thing can I do today such that everything else will be easier or even unnecessary?”[/tweetthis])
  • Make asking "what's the ONE Thing" question a habit to make a big difference. ([tweetthis]Make asking "what's the ONE Thing" question a habit to make a big difference.[/tweetthis])
  • Educate people around you about how you're prioritising "The ONE Thing" and get their support. ([tweetthis]Educate people around you about how you're prioritising "The ONE Thing" and get their support.[/tweetthis])
  • Go extreme. When you have the thing that matters most, ask repeatedly what's the ONE Thing needed to get it done until you have only one activity left. That goes top of your success list. ([tweetthis]Find what matters most. Ask what ONE Thing needed to get it done til you have one activity left.[/tweetthis])
  • Great questions are the path to great answers. This process will help you find the first domino for your job, your business, or any other area in which you want to achieve extraordinary results. ([tweetthis]Use the "ONE Thing" question to find the first domino for any area to achieve extraordinary results.[/tweetthis])
  • The ONE Thing Question is big picture and small focus: finding the right life direction, and finding the right action. ([tweetthis]The ONE Thing Question is big picture and small focus: finding life direction AND right action.[/tweetthis])
  • Use “What’s my ONE Thing?” to develop vision and direction for your career or company; it is your strategic compass. ([tweetthis]Use “What’s my ONE Thing?” to develop vision, direction and strategic compass for your career or company.[/tweetthis])
  • If today your company doesn’t know what its ONE Thing is, then the company’s ONE Thing is to find out. ([tweetthis]If today your company doesn’t know what its ONE Thing is, then the company’s ONE Thing is to find out. [/tweetthis])
  • Use “What’s my ONE Thing?” to decide what you want to master, what you want to give to others and your community. ([tweetthis]Use “What’s my ONE Thing?” to decide what you want to master, to give to others and your community.[/tweetthis])
  • Use “What’s my ONE Thing?” to decide how you want to be remembered. It keeps your relationships with friends, family, and colleagues in perspective and your daily actions on track. ([tweetthis]Use “What’s my ONE Thing?” to decide how you want to be remembered.[/tweetthis])
  • Use “What’s my ONE Thing right now?” when you wake up and throughout the day. ([tweetthis]Use “What’s my ONE Thing right now?” when you wake up and throughout the day.[/tweetthis])

No regrets

  • 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. ([tweetthis]Of the many ways to measure a life worth living, the one that stands above all is a life of no regrets. [/tweetthis])
  • Without effort you will never succeed at your highest level. Without Achievement you will never experience your true potential. Without purpose you may never find lasting happiness. ([tweetthis]You need effort to reach your highest level; Achievement for true potential;Purpose for lasting happiness[/tweetthis])
  • “Go live your life. Live it fully, without fear. Live with purpose, give it your all, and never give up.” ([tweetthis]“Go live your life. Live it fully, without fear. Live with purpose, give it your all, and never give up.”[/tweetthis])
  • Go live a life worth living where, in the end, you’ll be able to say, “I’m glad I did,” not “I wish I had.” ([tweetthis]Go live a life worth living where you’ll be able to say “I’m glad I did,” not “I wish I had.”[/tweetthis])
  • The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: 1. I wish that I’d let myself be happier—too late they realized happiness is a choice ([tweetthis]Top 5 Regrets of the Dying: 1. I wish I’d let myself be happier. Happiness is a choice[/tweetthis])
  • The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: 2. I wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends—too often they failed to give them the time and effort they deserved ([tweetthis]Top 5 Regrets of the Dying: 2. I wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends.[/tweetthis])
  • The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: 3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings—too frequently shut mouths and shuttered feelings weighed too heavy to handle ([tweetthis]Top 5 Regrets of the Dying: 3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.[/tweetthis])
  • The Top Five Regrets of the Dying 4, I wish I hadn’t worked so hard—too much time spent making a living over building a life caused too much remorse. ([tweetthis]Top 5 Regrets of the Dying: 4. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. Too much time earning, too little living.[/tweetthis])
  • The most common regret of the dying? I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself not the life others expected of me. ([tweetthis]Top regret of the dying: I wish I'd the courage to live a life true to myself, not the one expected of me[/tweetthis])
  • “Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.” ([tweetthis]Most had not honored their dreams and died knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.[/tweetthis])
  • On your way to living a life worth living, doing your best to succeed at what matters most to you not only rewards you with success and happiness but with something even more precious. No regrets. ([tweetthis]Doing your best to succeed at what matters most gives better rewards than success & happiness. No regrets.[/tweetthis])

Ambition and life

  • When you gamble with your time, you may be placing a bet you can’t cover. ([tweetthis]When you gamble with your time, you may be placing a bet you can’t cover. [/tweetthis])
  • The only actions that become springboards to succeeding big are those informed by big thinking to begin with. ([tweetthis]The only actions that become springboards to succeeding big are those that start with big thinking.[/tweetthis])
  • Life is a question and how we live it is our answer. ([tweetthis]Life is a question and how we live it is our answer. [/tweetthis])
  • Setting a doable goal is almost like creating a task to check off your list. ([tweetthis]Setting a doable goal is almost like creating a task to check off your list. [/tweetthis])
  • “What’s the ONE Thing I can do in my life that would mean the most to me and the world, such that by doing it everything else would be easier or unnecessary?” ([tweetthis]“What’s the ONE Thing I can do in my life such that everything else becomes easier or unnecessary?”[/tweetthis])
  • Think big. Avoid incremental thinking - this is at best the slow lane to success and, at worst, the off ramp. Ask bigger questions. ([tweetthis]Incremental thinking is at best the slow lane to success, and at worst the off ramp. Ask bigger questions.[/tweetthis])
  • Double down everywhere in your life. Set a goal so far above what you want that you’ll be building a plan that practically guarantees your original goal. ([tweetthis]Set a goal so far above what you want that your plan practically guarantees your original goal.[/tweetthis])
  • Don’t order from the menu. Ignore the menu and order your own creations. ([tweetthis]Don’t order from the menu. Ignore the menu and order your own creations.[/tweetthis])
  • Act bold. Big thoughts go nowhere without bold action. Once you’ve asked a big question, pause to imagine what life looks like with the answer. ([tweetthis]Act bold. Big thoughts go nowhere without bold action.[/tweetthis])
  • Study people who have already achieved it. What are the models, systems, habits, and relationships of other people who have found the answer? ([tweetthis]What are the models, systems, habits, and relationships of people who've found the answer to your quest?[/tweetthis])
  • Don’t fear failure. It’s as much a part of your journey to extraordinary results as success. Adopt a growth mindset, and don’t be afraid of where it can take you. ([tweetthis]Don’t fear failure: adopt a growth mindset, and don’t be afraid of where it can take you.[/tweetthis])
  • We fail our way to success. Don’t be afraid to fail. See it as part of your learning process and keep striving for your true potential. ([tweetthis]We fail our way to success. Don’t be afraid to fail and keep striving for your true potential. [/tweetthis])

Principles

  • Commit to be your best. Extraordinary results happen only when you give the best you have to become the best you can be at your most important work. This is the path to mastery ([tweetthis]Extraordinary results come when you give your best to be the best you can at your most important work.[/tweetthis])
  • Be purposeful about your ONE Thing. Go on a quest for the models and systems that can take you the farthest. ([tweetthis]Be purposeful about your ONE Thing. Go on a quest for the models & systems that can take you the farthest[/tweetthis])
  • Take ownership of your outcomes. Change occurs only when you’re accountable. So stay out of the passenger seat and always choose the driver’s side. ([tweetthis]Own your outcome. Change occurs when you’re accountable. Stay out of the passenger seat & choose to drive[/tweetthis])
  • Find a coach. You’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone who achieves extraordinary results without one. ([tweetthis]Find a coach. You’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone who achieves extraordinary results without one. [/tweetthis])
  • As effective as writing down your goals is, sharing your progress with someone regularly makes you almost twice as effective. ([tweetthis]Writing down your goals is effective, but sharing progress with someone regularly doubles effectiveness.[/tweetthis])
  • One of the fastest ways to bring accountability to your life is to find an accountability partner. ([tweetthis]One of the fastest ways to bring accountability to your life is to find an accountability partner.[/tweetthis])
  • The Purposeful approach says, “I’m still committed to growing, so what are my options?” ([tweetthis]The Purposeful approach says, “I’m still committed to growing, so what are my options?” [/tweetthis])
  • 6 Lies blocking success: Everything Matters Equally, Multitasking, A Disciplined Life, Willpower Is Always on Will-Call, A Balanced Life, Big Is Bad ([tweetthis]6 Success Lies:All Matters Equally/Multitask/Disciplined Life/Willpower on-call/Balanced Life/Big=Bad [/tweetthis])
  • Be clear about your most important work and home priorities. When you’re supposed to be working, work, and when you’re supposed to be playing, play. ([tweetthis]Keep clear priorities. When you’re working, work, and when you’re playing, play. [/tweetthis])
  • Put yourself together, and your world falls into place. ([tweetthis]Put yourself together, and your world falls into place. [/tweetthis])

The fallacy of too much to do

  • Success isn’t a game won by whoever does the most. Yet that is exactly how most play it on a daily basis. ([tweetthis]Success isn’t a game won by whoever does the most. Yet that is exactly how most play it on a daily basis.[/tweetthis])
  • The key to success isn’t in all the things we do but in the handful of things we do well. ([tweetthis]The key to success isn’t in all the things we do but in the handful of things we do well. [/tweetthis])
  • Go small. Don’t focus on being busy; focus on being productive. Allow what matters most to drive your day. ([tweetthis]Go small. Don’t focus on being busy; focus on being productive. Allow what matters most to drive your day[/tweetthis])
  • It’s not that we have too little time to do all the things we need to do, it’s that we feel the need to do too many things in the time we have. ([tweetthis]We don't have too little time to do what we need to do. We feel need to do too much in the time we have. [/tweetthis])

Direction

  • If “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step”, then the wrong first step begins a journey that could end as far as two thousand miles from where you want to be. ([tweetthis]A journey of 1000 miles begins with one step. The wrong first step could end 2000 miles from your goal![/tweetthis])
  • Extraordinary results become possible when where you want to go is completely aligned with what you do today. Tap into your purpose and allow that clarity to dictate your priorities. ([tweetthis]Tap into your purpose and allow that clarity to dictate your priorities.[/tweetthis])
  • Your time block is the most important meeting of your day, and requires the mantra “Nothing and no one has permission to distract me from my ONE Thing” ([tweetthis]Your time block requires the mantra “Nothing and no one has permission to distract me from my ONE Thing”[/tweetthis])

Not all actions or choices are equal

  • Achievers always work from a clear sense of priority. ([tweetthis]Achievers always work from a clear sense of priority. [/tweetthis])
  • Extraordinary results are disproportionately created by fewer actions than most realize. ([tweetthis]Extraordinary results are disproportionately created by fewer actions than most realize. [/tweetthis])
  • “We are kept from our goal, not by obstacles but by a clear path to a lesser goal.” —Robert Brault ([tweetthis]“We are kept from our goal, not by obstacles but by a clear path to a lesser goal.” —Robert Brault [/tweetthis])

Saying No

  • Each additional obligation chips away at your effectiveness at everything you try. The more things you do, the less successful you are at any one of them. ([tweetthis]Each additional obligation chips away at your effectiveness and makes you less successful at any one.[/tweetthis])
  • Just saying yes because you can’t bear the short-term pain of saying no is not going to help you do the work. ([tweetthis]Just saying yes because you can’t bear the short-term pain of saying no won't help you do the work.[/tweetthis])
  • If you don’t make your life about what you say yes to, then it will almost certainly become what you intended to say no to. ([tweetthis]If you don’t make your life about what you say yes to, then it will become what you intended to say no to[/tweetthis])
  • Say no. It doesn't matter how, but say “not now” to anything you could do until your most important work is done. ([tweetthis]Say no. No matter how, but say “not now” to anything you could do until your most important work is done.[/tweetthis])
  • Remember that when you say yes to something, you’re saying no to everything else. Learning to say no can and will liberate you. ([tweetthis]Remember when you say yes to something, you’re saying no to everything else. Saying no will liberate you.[/tweetthis])

Some chaos is inevitable (and desirable)

  • When you strive for greatness, chaos is guaranteed to show up. Get used to it and get over it. ([tweetthis]When you strive for greatness, chaos is guaranteed to show up. Get used to it and get over it.[/tweetthis])
  • Other areas of your life may experience chaos in direct proportion to the time you put in on your ONE Thing. Get over it. ([tweetthis]Expect chaos in other areas of your life in direct proportion to time you give your ONE Thing.Get over it[/tweetthis])

Multitasking is distraction, and overcoming both

  • “Until My ONE Thing Is Done—Everything Else Is A Distraction!” ([tweetthis]“Until My ONE Thing Is Done—Everything Else Is A Distraction!” [/tweetthis])
  • Distraction is natural. Don’t feel bad when you get distracted. Everyone gets distracted ([tweetthis]Distraction is natural. Don’t feel bad when you get distracted. Everyone gets distracted[/tweetthis])
  • Distraction undermines results. Try to do too much at once and you'll can end up doing nothing well. ([tweetthis]Distraction undermines results. Try to do too much at once and you'll can end up doing nothing well.[/tweetthis])
  • Distractions lead to poor choices, painful mistakes, and unnecessary stress. ([tweetthis]Distractions lead to poor choices, painful mistakes, and unnecessary stress.[/tweetthis])
  • Figure out what matters most in the moment and give it your undivided attention. ([tweetthis]Figure out what matters most in the moment and give it your undivided attention. [/tweetthis])
  • Computer workers change windows or check e-mail or other programs nearly 37 times an hour! ([tweetthis]Computer workers change windows or check e-mail or other programs nearly 37 times an hour![/tweetthis])
  • Sweep for mines. Turn off your phone, shut down your e-mail, and exit your Internet browser. ([tweetthis]Sweep for mines. Turn off your phone, shut down your e-mail, and exit your Internet browser. [/tweetthis])
  • Build a bunker. Find somewhere to work that takes you out of the path of disruption and interruption. ([tweetthis]Build a bunker. Find somewhere to work that takes you out of the path of disruption and interruption. [/tweetthis])
  • When stuff pops into your head, write it down on a task list and get back to what you’re supposed to be doing. ([tweetthis]When stuff pops into your head, write it on a task list and get back to what you’re supposed to be doing.[/tweetthis])
  • Place triggers, reminders and cues everywhere “Until my ONE Thing is done—everything else is a distraction” ([tweetthis]Place triggers/reminders/cues everywhere. “Until my ONE Thing is done everything else is a distraction”[/tweetthis])

The danger of the To Do List

  • To-do lists inherently lack the intent of success. ([tweetthis]To-do lists inherently lack the intent of success. [/tweetthis])
  • If your to-do list contains everything, then it’s probably taking you everywhere but where you really want to go. ([tweetthis]If your to-do list contains everything, then it’s taking you everywhere but where you really want to go. [/tweetthis])
  • A to-do list becomes a success list when you apply Pareto’s Principle to it. ([tweetthis]A to-do list becomes a success list when you apply Pareto’s Principle to it. [/tweetthis])
  • If we believe things don’t matter equally (and they don't!), then we must act accordingly. ([tweetthis]If we believe things don’t matter equally (and they don't!), then we must act accordingly.[/tweetthis])
  • Checking things off our list is NOT what success is all about. Things don’t matter equally and success is found in doing what matters most. ([tweetthis]Checking things off our list isn't what success is all about. Success is found in doing what matters most.[/tweetthis])

Time blocking

  • Block four hours a day to do the important stuff. ([tweetthis]Block four hours a day to do the important stuff.[/tweetthis])
  • Block time as early in your day as you possibly can - 30 minutes to an hour to take care of morning priorities, then move to your ONE Thing. ([tweetthis]Block time at start of day: half to 1 hour to clear morning priorities, then straight on to the ONE Thing[/tweetthis])
  • Time block in the following order: Your time off; Your ONE Thing; Your planning time. ([tweetthis]Time block in the following order: Your time off; Your ONE Thing; Your planning time. [/tweetthis])

What to do first

  • Every day line up your priorities anew, find the lead domino, and whack away at it until it falls. ([tweetthis]Every day line up your priorities anew, find the lead domino, and whack away at it until it falls. [/tweetthis])
  • There is magic in knocking down your most important domino day after day. Avoid breaking the chain, one day at a time, until you generate a powerful new habit in your life. ([tweetthis]Knock down the most important domino every day until you generate a powerful new habit.[/tweetthis])

Change

  • A new answer usually requires new behavior, so don’t be surprised if along the way to sizable success you change in the process. ([tweetthis]A new answer requires new behaviour, so don’t be surprised if you change along the way to sizable success.[/tweetthis])
  • Trailblazing up the path of possibilities is always worth it—for when we maximize our reach, we maximize our life. ([tweetthis]Trailblazing up the path of possibilities is always worth it. Maximize our reach and we maximize our life[/tweetthis])
  • As he was dying, the founder of judo called his students around him and asked to be buried in his white belt. ([tweetthis]As he was dying, founder of judo called his students around and asked to be buried in his white belt. [/tweetthis])
  • Mastery actually means you’re a master of what you know and an apprentice of what you don’t. ([tweetthis]Mastery actually means you’re a master of what you know and an apprentice of what you don’t. [/tweetthis])

Barriers and breaking them

  • 1. Inability to Say No; 2. Fear of Chaos; 3. Poor Health Habits; 4. Environment Doesn’t Support Your Goals ([tweetthis]Focus Barriers: Inability to Say No/Fear of Chaos/Poor Health Habits/Environment Doesn’t Support Goals[/tweetthis])
  • 1.  Meditate and pray for spiritual energy.    2.  Eat right, exercise, and sleep sufficiently for physical energy.    3.  Hug, kiss, and laugh with loved ones for emotional energy.    4.  Set goals, plan, and calendar for mental energy.    5.  Time block your ONE Thing for business energy. ([tweetthis]Replenish all your energies. Meditate; Eat well, move & sleep; Hug & laugh; Plan; Time block.[/tweetthis])

Discipline and Willpower

  • Don’t be a disciplined person. Be a person of powerful habits and use selected discipline to develop them. ([tweetthis]Don’t be a disciplined person. Be a person of powerful habits and use selected discipline to develop them[/tweetthis])
  • “People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.” ([tweetthis]“People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.” [/tweetthis])
  • The trick to success is to choose the right habit and bring just enough discipline to establish it. ([tweetthis]The trick to success is to choose the right habit and bring just enough discipline to establish it. [/tweetthis])
  • Aiming discipline at the right habit gives you license to be less disciplined in other areas. ([tweetthis]Aiming discipline at the right habit gives you license to be less disciplined in other areas. [/tweetthis])
  • Build one habit at a time. Super-successful people use selected discipline to develop a few significant habits. One at a time. Over time. ([tweetthis]Build one habit at a time. Successful people use selected discipline to develop a few significant habits.[/tweetthis])
  • We don't need more discipline - we need the habit of doing something, and just enough discipline to build the habit. ([tweetthis]We don't need more discipline. We need habit of doing something, & just enough discipline to build habit.[/tweetthis])
  • 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. ([tweetthis]Don’t spread your willpower too thin. You've a limited daily supply, so decide what matters use it there.[/tweetthis])
  • Full-strength willpower requires a full tank. Never let lack of healthy food and water compromise what matters most. ([tweetthis]Full-strength willpower needs a full tank. Don't let lack of healthy food & water compromise what matters[/tweetthis])
  • Time your task. Do what matters most first each day when your willpower is strongest. Maximum strength willpower means maximum success. ([tweetthis]Do what matters most 1st each day when your willpower is strongest. Max strength willpower = max success.[/tweetthis])
  • Make sure that the people around you and your physical surroundings support your goals. ([tweetthis]Make sure that the people around you and your physical surroundings support your goals.[/tweetthis])

Be fit

  • High achievement and extraordinary results require big energy. ([tweetthis]High achievement and extraordinary results require big energy. [/tweetthis])
  • If you've not walked at least 10,000 steps, make it your ONE “exercise” Thing to reach your 10,000-step goal before you go to bed. ([tweetthis]Make your ONE “exercise” Thing to at least reach your 10,000-step goal before you go to bed. [/tweetthis])
  • Manage your energy to do what you must do, achieve what you want to achieve, and live the life you want to live. Don’t sacrifice your health by trying to take on too much. ([tweetthis]Manage your energy to do what you must, achieve what you want to achieve & live the life you want to live[/tweetthis])

Balance

  • Think about two balancing buckets. Separate your work life and personal life into two distinct buckets—not to compartmentalize them, just for counterbalancing. Each has its own counterbalancing goals and approaches. ([tweetthis]Separate your work life and personal life into two distinct buckets for counterbalancing.[/tweetthis])
  • Your work life is divided into two distinct areas—what matters most and everything else. Take what matters to the extremes and be okay with what happens to the rest. ([tweetthis]Work is split into what matters most & everything else. Go extreme on what matters & chill about the rest[/tweetthis])
  • Your life actually has multiple areas and that each requires a minimum of attention for you to feel that you “have a life.” Drop any one and you will feel the effects. ([tweetthis]Multiple areas need attention for you to feel you “have a life.” Drop one & you'll feel the effect.[/tweetthis])
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