The One Thing

Book Notes from The One thing by Gary Keller, the American entrepreneur and best-selling author. He is the founder of Keller Williams, which is the largest real estate company in the world.

The one thing big vs now

Do You Know What
the Secret of Life Is?

The ONE Thing is the best approach
to getting what you want.

From the Hit Comedy City Slickers

Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is?
Mitch: No. What?
Curly: This. [He holds up one finger.]
Mitch: Your finger?
Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and everything else don’t mean sh*t.
Mitch: That’s great, but what’s the “one thing”?
Curly: That’s what you’ve got to figure out.

Whether the writers knew it or unwittingly stumbled on it, what they wrote was the absolute truth. The ONE Thing is the best approach to getting what you want.

Going small is a simple approach to extraordinary results, and it works.

The Focusing Question

What’s the ONE Thing you can do this week such that by doing it everything else would be easier or unnecessary?

The Focusing Question

The big idea in this book, is to ask yourself one question, which Gary calls the Focusing question:

What’s the ONE Thing you can do this week such that by doing it everything else would be easier or unnecessary?

The origin of this question for Gary was turning around his business. He asked himself if he could just three things this week. ... then just two things and finally out of desperation he went as small as he could to ask: “What’s the ONE Thing you can do this week such that by doing it everything else would be easier or unnecessary?” 

He writes that by asking the focusing question, Results went through the roof and he experienced huge success. These results were due to the narrowing of his concentration to one thing. And where his success varied, his focus had too.

The way to get the most out of your work and your life is to go as small as possible.

The Art of Going Small

To go small is to make the heart of things
the heart of your approach. 

Going Small

The idea is clear, if you want the absolute best chance at success at something, your approach should always be to Go small.

“Going small” is ignoring all the things you could do and doing what you should do. It’s recognizing that not all things matter equally and finding the things that matter most. It’s a tighter way to connect what you do with what you want. It’s realizing that extraordinary results are directly determined by how narrow you can make your focus.

So if we want the most out of our work and our lives, we go as small as possible. Gary points out most people think big success is timeconsuming and complicated.

Personally I don't value being 'busy'. I like to be relaxed, focused and simple. I always remember the Socrates quote, "beware the barrenness of a busy life".

The way to get the most out of your work and your life is to go as small as possible.

Gary makes the point that we all only have so much time and energ. And if we try and do too much we wind up spreading ourselves too thin. In our busy, tumultuous and distracted world, we can accomplish big success by doing a few things well. 

It's not about doing more, but doing less. To have our achievements add up, in a way meaningful for us, it takes subtraction, not addition.

Going small is a simple approach to extraordinary results, and it works. It works all the time, anywhere and on anything. Why? Because it has only one purpose — to ultimately get you to the point.

By going as small as possible, we wind up staring at just one thing. And this is the point. 

Going small is a simple approach to extraordinary results, and it works.

The Domino Effect

A geometric progression is like a long, long train — it starts out too slow to notice until it’s moving too fast to stop.

The Key to Extraordinary Results is Going Small

The book tells the story of the principle of geometric progression, and the domino effect, which is compared to a long, long train which it starts out too slow to notice until it’s moving too fast to stop. Very inspiring. My experience growing this site has been exactly that, very slow to start with a gathering momentum. Things can time to get moving. 

A Single Domino Is Capable Of Bringing Down Another Domino That Is Actually 50 Percent Larger

The give the account of Lorne Whitehead who in 1983 discovered domino falls could topple bigger things, as large . He described how a single domino is capable of bringing another 50 percent larger.  

The Key to Extraordinary Results is Going Small

To 'shoot for the moon' in terms of success, we must prioritize. And focus our energy into accomplishing the most important thing. This level of focus on the essential is the key to extraordinary results, and how we create our own a domino effect in our lives. He reminds us the reason this works, is that extraordinary success is sequential, not simultaneous. And what starts out linear, becomes geometric. One focused step leads to the next, and ads up over time. Success builds on success in a geometric progression. 

The key thing to remember here, is success is built sequentially, over time. All we must do is focus on the 'one thing' at a time.

Getting extraordinary results is all about creating a domino effect in your life.

Success Leaves Clues

The list of businesses that have achieved extraordinary results through the power of the ONE Thing is endless. 

What’s The ONE Thing?

Gary gives examples of businesses that have leveraged the principle of the one thing to great effect — Apple, Google and the Star Wars movie franchise. The key point here, is the most successful companies today are always asking: “What’s our ONE Thing?”. Because it changes. 

Google's ONE Thing was search, which led selling advertising today as its key source of revenue.

With Apple their extraordinary ONE Thing was the Mac, which then was transitioned to another extraordinary ONE Thing, the iMacs. Then of course it was the iPod and iTunes, followed by iPhones, the iPad and now in 2020 the Apple Watch. 

With Star Wars the ONE Thing is movies, which enables their merchandise, now a 10 billion dollar industry for the franchise (more than twice what the movies bring in).

The most successful companies (and people) are always asking: “What’s our ONE Thing?”

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

One Passion, One Skill

Look behind any story of extraordinary success and the ONE Thing is always there.

The ONE Thing is Always There

The One Thing is the fundamental truth and behind extraordinary success. 

Extraordinarily successful people can be defined by the intense emotion or one learned ability that drives them. And where you find extraordinary skill, you will find extraordinary passion as passion and skill are more often than not connected, 

The simplest way to the success you want, is to live by the principle of the ONE thing. 

"Passion for something leads to disproportionate time practicing or working at it."

"Better results generally lead to more enjoyment, and more passion and more time is invested. It can be a virtuous cycle all the way to extraordinary results."

The essential message here is to love what you do, be what you love, and success will follow. If that is, you must focus on being and doing the ONE thing, the most important thing, to propel yourself towards success. 

Be your one thing in your work, and in your life. Understand that the ONE thing is a fundamental truth. 

You must be singleminded. Drive for the one thing on which you have decided. — General George S. Patton

Living The One Thing

Where to begin? From all that life
has to offer, how do you choose? 

How to Live The One Thing

Intuitively we all understand the power of the ONE thing. It's a path of subtraction, with less being more.

To know what our one thing is, and where to begin, we ask the focusing question. 

What’s the ONE Thing you can do this week such that by doing it everything else would be easier or unnecessary?

"We sense intuitively that the path to more is through less, but the question is, Where to begin? From all that life has to offer, how do you choose? How do you make the best decisions possible, experience life at an extraordinary level, and never look back?"

The answer is ... to live the ONE thing. 

Live the ONE Thing.

Extraordinary results come from living the one thing.

The problem is we often possess limiting beliefs and ideas and are distracted. We focus on the wrong things, and wind up sidetracked. We accept our muddled thinking and limiting ideas as truths, and base our decisions and actions on them, we keep ourselves from living our one thing.

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so. — Mark Twain

Gary gives examples of limiting thinking:

“I just have too much that has to be done.” “I’ll get more done by doing things at the same time.” 

“I need to be a more disciplined person.” 

“I should be able to do what I want whenever I want.” 

“I need more balance in my life.” 

“Maybe I shouldn’t dream so big.” 

Not everything matters equally

We must understand that not everything matters equally. 

It's not about being busy or trying to do it all. In fact it's about the very opposite. 

The ONE thing is about keeping an eye the essential, pausing when we need to decide what is essential now, and then allowing that essential action to drive our day. 

The ONE thing is about maintaining awareness of what are one thing is, that is what is essential, and acting on it every day. 

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.

It's really spoke to me: 

 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 always work from a clear sense of priority.

The things which are most important don’t always scream the loudest. — Bob Hawke

Success Lists

Instead of a to-do list, you need a success list—a list that is purposefully created around extraordinary results.

To-do Lists Tend To Be Long; Success Lists Are Short

Gary distinguishes the difference between things you think you you need to do, and a shorter list of actions aligned with your one thing. he states a typical to do list is packed with survival items, the other steps in a clear and organised series of steps toward the life you actually want to create (actions towards your ONE thing).

"Let in its raw state, as a simple inventory, a to-do list can easily lead you astray. A to-do list is simply the things you think you need to do; the first thing on your list is just the first thing you thought of. To-do lists inherently lack the intent of success. "

Success Lists in Place of To Do Lists

A success list can deliver extraordinary results. They are short, aimed in a specific direction. Success Lists are built inline with the Pareto Principle, or 80/20 principle, which has proven that the minority of causes, inputs, or efforts usually lead to a majority of the results, outputs, or rewards.”

Pareto’s Principle

The Pareto Principle, or 80/20 rule, is the principle to be used to decide what matters most at any given moment on any given day. This 80/20 rule keep us on a clear path to success, due to the truth that the majority of what you want will come from the minority of what you do. Gary puts it like this, a small amount of causes creates most of the results. Put yet another way, 80 percent of your success comes from 20 percent of your effort.

Pareto’s Principle, it turns out, is as real as the law of gravity, and yet most people fail to see the gravity of it. It’s not just a theory—it is a provable, predictable certainty of nature and one of the greatest productivity truths ever discovered.

Taking the Pareto Principle to an Extreme

Gary advises taking the Pareto Principle even smaller. Identifying the 20 percent of the 20 percent that will produce the majority of the results. Do this until you get to the single most important thing.

We do this by starting with a large list, then whittling it down to the ONE thing. The ONE imperative thing.

Living by the Pareto Principle, is being aware of the inequality of effort versus results in all aspects of your life. 

Start with as large a list as you want, but develop the mindset that you will whittle your way from there to the critical few and not stop until you end with the essential ONE. The imperative ONE. The ONE Thing.

There will always be just a few things that matter more than the rest, and out of those, one will matter most. Internalizing this concept is like being handed a magic compass. Whenever you feel lost or lacking direction, you can pull it out to remind yourself to discover what matters most.

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

The Big Ideas

Sometimes it’s the first thing you do. Sometimes it’s the only thing you do. Regardless, doing the most important thing is always the most important thing.

Go Small

Go small. Don’t focus on being busy; focus on being productive. Allow what matters most to drive your day.

Go Extreme

Go extreme. Once you’ve figured out what actually matters, keep asking what matters most until there is only one thing left. That core activity goes at the top of your success list.

Say No

Say no. Whether you say “later” or “never, ” the point is to say “not now” to anything else you could do until your most important work is done.

Don’t Get Trapped In The “Check Off” Game

Don’t get trapped in the “check off” game. If we believe things don’t matter equally, we must act accordingly. We can’t fall prey to the notion that everything has to be done, that checking things off our list is what success is all about. We can’t be trapped in a game of “check off” that never produces a winner. The truth is that things don’t matter equally and success is found in doing what matters most.

My life is better when I’m spontaneous after I’ve done my most important thing. Being spontaneous before that, that’s where it becomes a distraction and does me harm.

A Big Picture Map
and Small Focus Compass

 The Focusing Question is a big-picture map and small-focus compass.

What’s the ONE Thing you can do this week such that by doing it everything else would be easier or unnecessary?

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