“The ONE Thing” by Gary Keller


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 (Tweet This)
  • “What’s the ONE Thing I can do today such that by doing it everything else will be easier or even unnecessary?” (Tweet This)
  • Make asking “what’s the ONE Thing” question a habit to make a big difference. (Tweet This)
  • Educate people around you about how you’re prioritising “The ONE Thing” and get their support. (Tweet This)
  • 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. (Tweet This)
  • 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. (Tweet This)
  • The ONE Thing Question is big picture and small focus: finding the right life direction, and finding the right action. (Tweet This)
  • Use “What’s my ONE Thing?” to develop vision and direction for your career or company; it is your strategic compass. (Tweet This)
  • If today your company doesn’t know what its ONE Thing is, then the company’s ONE Thing is to find out. (Tweet This)
  • Use “What’s my ONE Thing?” to decide what you want to master, what you want to give to others and your community. (Tweet This)
  • 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. (Tweet This)
  • Use “What’s my ONE Thing right now?” when you wake up and throughout the day. (Tweet This)

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. (Tweet This)
  • 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. (Tweet This)
  • “Go live your life. Live it fully, without fear. Live with purpose, give it your all, and never give up.” (Tweet This)
  • 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.” (Tweet This)
  • 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 (Tweet This)
  • 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 (Tweet This)
  • 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 (Tweet This)
  • 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. (Tweet This)
  • 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. (Tweet This)
  • “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.” (Tweet This)
  • 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. (Tweet This)

Ambition and life

  • When you gamble with your time, you may be placing a bet you can’t cover. (Tweet This)
  • The only actions that become springboards to succeeding big are those informed by big thinking to begin with. (Tweet This)
  • Life is a question and how we live it is our answer. (Tweet This)
  • Setting a doable goal is almost like creating a task to check off your list. (Tweet This)
  • “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?” (Tweet This)
  • Think big. Avoid incremental thinking – this is at best the slow lane to success and, at worst, the off ramp. Ask bigger questions. (Tweet This)
  • 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. (Tweet This)
  • Don’t order from the menu. Ignore the menu and order your own creations. (Tweet This)
  • 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. (Tweet This)
  • Study people who have already achieved it. What are the models, systems, habits, and relationships of other people who have found the answer? (Tweet This)
  • 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. (Tweet This)
  • 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. (Tweet This)


  • 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 (Tweet This)
  • Be purposeful about your ONE Thing. Go on a quest for the models and systems that can take you the farthest. (Tweet This)
  • 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. (Tweet This)
  • Find a coach. You’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone who achieves extraordinary results without one. (Tweet This)
  • As effective as writing down your goals is, sharing your progress with someone regularly makes you almost twice as effective. (Tweet This)
  • One of the fastest ways to bring accountability to your life is to find an accountability partner. (Tweet This)
  • The Purposeful approach says, “I’m still committed to growing, so what are my options?” (Tweet This)
  • 6 Lies blocking success: Everything Matters Equally, Multitasking, A Disciplined Life, Willpower Is Always on Will-Call, A Balanced Life, Big Is Bad (Tweet This)
  • 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. (Tweet This)
  • Put yourself together, and your world falls into place. (Tweet This)

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. (Tweet This)
  • The key to success isn’t in all the things we do but in the handful of things we do well. (Tweet This)
  • Go small. Don’t focus on being busy; focus on being productive. Allow what matters most to drive your day. (Tweet This)
  • 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. (Tweet This)


  • 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. (Tweet This)
  • 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. (Tweet This)
  • 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” (Tweet This)

Not all actions or choices are equal

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

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. (Tweet This)
  • Just saying yes because you can’t bear the short-term pain of saying no is not going to help you do the work. (Tweet This)
  • 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. (Tweet This)
  • Say no. It doesn’t matter how, but say “not now” to anything you could do until your most important work is done. (Tweet This)
  • Remember that when you say yes to something, you’re saying no to everything else. Learning to say no can and will liberate you. (Tweet This)

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. (Tweet This)
  • Other areas of your life may experience chaos in direct proportion to the time you put in on your ONE Thing. Get over it. (Tweet This)

Multitasking is distraction, and overcoming both

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

The danger of the To Do List

  • To-do lists inherently lack the intent of success. (Tweet This)
  • If your to-do list contains everything, then it’s probably taking you everywhere but where you really want to go. (Tweet This)
  • A to-do list becomes a success list when you apply Pareto’s Principle to it. (Tweet This)
  • If we believe things don’t matter equally (and they don’t!), then we must act accordingly. (Tweet This)
  • 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. (Tweet This)

Time blocking

  • Block four hours a day to do the important stuff. (Tweet This)
  • 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. (Tweet This)
  • Time block in the following order: Your time off; Your ONE Thing; Your planning time. (Tweet This)

What to do first

  • Every day line up your priorities anew, find the lead domino, and whack away at it until it falls. (Tweet This)
  • 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. (Tweet This)


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

Barriers and breaking them

  • 1. Inability to Say No; 2. Fear of Chaos; 3. Poor Health Habits; 4. Environment Doesn’t Support Your Goals (Tweet This)
  • 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. (Tweet This)

Discipline and Willpower

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

Be fit

  • High achievement and extraordinary results require big energy. (Tweet This)
  • 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. (Tweet This)
  • 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. (Tweet This)


  • 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. (Tweet This)
  • 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. (Tweet This)
  • 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. (Tweet This)
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