Gary Keller – The One Thing – Book Summary

The One Thing

  1. Introduction:
    1. The One Thing is that single thing which, if done, will make everything else easier or redundant.
    2. There can only be one most important thing. Many things may be important, but only one can be the most important.
    3. Getting extraordinary results is directly determined by how narrow you can make your focus, thus creating a domino effect in your life. Find the lead domino, and whack away at it until it falls.
  2. The 6 Lies of Success:
    1. All things matter equally.
      1. Use the Pareto principle (80/20 rule) and keep going down the path until you find the 20%, of the 20%, of the 20%. The One Thing.
      2. It doesn’t matter whether you say “no” or “later”, as long as you check off everything until The One Thing is done.
    2. Multitasking works.
      1. Examples:
        1. When you want massive success, look for the 1 action that creates the most results.
        2. When you’re choosing a business plan, choose just 1 plan out 100 plans.
        3. When you’re learning a skill or practicing, what is the #1 thing that has the most compound effect?
    3. A disciplined life.
      1. You don’t need any more discipline than you already have.
      2. People aren’t disciplined, they just have great habit.
      3. The trick to success is to choose the right habit and bring just enough discipline to establish it. That’s it.
      4. You just need to focus all of your discipline on creating one habit.
      5. Michael Phelps channeled all of his energy into a single habit, swimming 6 hours, 7 days a week.
      6. It takes 66 days to fully create a new habit.
    4. Willpower is always on will-call.
      1. Willpower is a limited, renewable resource.
      2. You want to eat healthy foods that improve and renew willpower.
      3. When you run out of willpower you resort to default decisions.
      4. Make sure to maintain and prioritise your willpower on The One Thing first. Timing is everything.
      5. Make sure you don’t sabotage your success after using up your willpower.
      6. Don’t fight your willpower, base your life around it.
    5. A balanced life.
      1. The magic doesn’t happen in the middle, it happens in the extremes.
      2. Time waits for no one. This is why you need to counterbalance.
      3. Counterbalancing means seeing what must get done and giving it as much time as it takes.
      4. You want to counterbalance your personal and work-life by identifying the things that must happen.
      5. There will always be things left undone, make sure you do what matters most and let go everything else.
    6. Big is bad.
      1. “We are kept from our goal, not by obstacles, but by a clear path to a lesser goal.”
      2. Thinking big is essential to extraordinary results. Success requires actions, and actions require thought.
      3. The only actions that lead to extraordinary success are those that are derived from big thinking.
      4. What you build today may restrict you tomorrow: the problem with success is that it also boxes you into glass ceilings of your current level, think big from the start to fix that.
      5. In order to reach the next level of success, you’ll have to think and then act in wildly different ways than you did before.
      6. Set goals that you cannot achieve in your lifetime, this makes sure that you won’t end up being boxed by your goals.
      7. Don’t fear big, fear mediocrity and regrets.
      8. Don’t set incremental goals, set 10X goals.
      9. Set 10X actions.
      10. Don’t be afraid to fail. Failure motivates us to find the right way to do it.
  3. More lies of success:
    1. Success isn’t frustrating, suffering isn’t success.
    2. You don’t need to act successful when you don’t feel like it.
    3. You don’t need to pump and motivate yourself up until you burn out.
  4. Truths of Success:
    1. There is no benefit to grinding over-long hours.
    2. Success is simply about taking the right actions at the right time.
    3. When you focus on The One Thing life becomes easier and simpler.
  5. The Focusing Question:
    1. “Be careful of your perceptions, they are all true.”
    2. Andrew Carnegie, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates all said: “The secret of success is to focus. Lay all your eggs in one basket and watch that basket very closely. Whatever path you’ve chosen, commit to see it exclusively all the way through.”
    3. Life’s Questions:
      1. “I bargained with life for a penny and life payed no more. Once you’ve set the wages, you must pay the task. Any wage I had asked of life, life would have willingly paid.
      2. To get the answers we seek, we must devise our own question.
      3. To find the right question, you want to ask The Focusing Question: “What’s the one thing that I can do, that would make everything else easy or unnecessary.”
      4. This question leads you to the next domino, asking this question and following through consistently will lead you to the domino effect.
      5. Breakdown:
        1. “What’s the one thing” – this directs you to only one thing specifically.
        2. “That I CAN do” – not “want”, or “hope” or “should” or “would”.
        3. “Such that by doing it” –  you have a specific purpose for doing this, you’re doing it to get a specific result.
        4. Everything else would be easier or unnecessary” – this is the ultimate leverage test. Once you’ve done it you’ll discover a line of dominos ready to fall or already down.
      6. Big picture questions are about the direction of your life.
      7. Little picture questions are about the right thing NOW.
      8. The focusing question is the ultimate success habit and will give you full clarity in all situations.
      9. To get the best answers, you want to ask questions that are BIG and SPECIFIC.
    4. The Three Types of Answers:
      1. Doable: easy and possible. Doesn’t stretch you.
      2. Challenging: will stretch you and force you out of your comfort zone.
      3. Extraordinary: the ultimate answers for high-performers. These answers explore what’s possible.
      4. Anytime you don’t know the answer, the answer is to go find the answer.
      5. Use books and mentors to find answers.
  6. Extraordinary Results:
    1. Your purpose, priority and productivity are the elements of extraordinary results.
    2. These are built on each other, the more productivity, the more priority you have. The more priority you have, the greater the purpose.
    3. Purpose: Where we’re going and what’s important to us. The bigger and more important your purpose is, the more staying power and momentum you’ll have.
    4. Priority: What your most important actions are. These are the actions that will take you to your purpose the fastest.
    5. Productivity: The degree to which you take the right actions of priority.
    6. Engagement and meaning are the most important factors of happiness. The more our actions are engaging and meaningful, the happier you’ll be.
    7. The surest way to happiness is taking purposeful actions that propel you towards your purpose.
    8. Live by purpose to know where you want to go, live by priority to know what you need to do to get there.
    9. Purpose without priority is meaningless.
    10. We’re always doing something even if we’re not doing anything.
  7. Setting Goals to the Now:
    1. You’ll never have the motivation to do what you need to do today if you fail to connect it with your primary goal.
    2. You want to break your primary goal to the point where you can fully know what you need to do NOW in order to make your dream come true.
    3. What is the one thing that I want to achieve that would give me an extraordinary life?
    4. Based on that, what is the one thing I can do 5 years from now to make sure I’ll achieve my goal?
    5. Based on that, what is the one thing I can do 1 year from now to make sure I’m on track to achieve my 5 year goal, to make sure I’ll accomplish my goal?
    6. Based on that, what is the one thing I can do this month to make sure I’m on track to achieve my 1 year goal, to make sure I’ll accomplish my goal?
    7. Based on that, what is the one thing I can do this week to make sure I’m on track to achieve my goal this month, to make sure I’ll accomplish my goal?
    8. Based on that, what is the one thing I can do today to make sure I’m on track to achieve my goal this week, to make sure I’ll accomplish my goal?
    9. Based on that, what is the one thing I can do right now to make sure I’m on track to achieve my goal today, to make sure I’ll accomplish my goal?
    10. For example:
      1. I want to be worth over $500 million dollars ($500,000,000) by the age of 40.
      2. To make sure I’m on track I’ll need to have about $300,000,000 of real estate by age 35.
      3. To make sure I’m on track I’ll need to have about $50,000,000 of real estate by age 30.
      4. To make sure I’m on track I’ll need to have about $10,000,000 of cash saved up by age 25.
      5. To make sure I’m on track I’ll need to make about $1,000,000 by age 23.
      6. To make sure I’m on track I’ll need to make about $200,000 / month.
      7. To make sure I’m on track I’ll need to make about $50,000 / week.
      8. To make sure I’m on track I’ll need to make about $10,000 / day.
      9. To make sure I’m on track I’ll need to make about 100 calls today.
      10. To make sure I’m on track I’ll need to be home and make calls right now.
  8. Time-management:
    1. Time-management is simple, the more time you block to your most leveraged activity the higher your production will be.
    2. You need to time-block 3 things:
      1. Your time-off.
      2. Your One Thing.
      3. Everything else.
    3. Protect your time-block by treating it as impossible to move.
    4. Ways to protect your blocked time:
      1. Make sure you won’t be distracted during the blocked time.
      2. Prepare ahead of time anything you might need such as beverages, food etc.. One interrupted bathroom break can distract your whole day.
      3. Turn-off anything that might distract you such as phone or email.
      4. Enlist support and ask people to respect your time.
      5. “What’s The One Thing I can do to protect my time, that if done would make everything else easy or irrelevant.
  9. The 3 Commitments:
    1. Following the Path of Mastery:
      1. Mastery isn’t a goal, it’s a way of thinking.
      2. Mastery is giving your best to be the best at your most important work.
      3. Mastery is a never-ending journey of learning and relearning the basics.
      4. Mastery had been found to be most often found in an investment of 10,000 hours at your craft.
      5. The math is 3 hours / day, every single day, for 10 years.
      6. You can also achieve mastery by investing 12 hours / day, 5.5 days a week, for 3 years.
      7. “If the people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it wouldn’t seem wonderful at all” – Michelangelo.
      8. Deciding to follow mastery has many benefits, such-as making other skills much easier to learn.
    2. Move From E to P:
      1. “Are you doing this to do the best you can do, or are you doing this to do it the best it can be done?”
      2. E = Entrepreneurial.
      3. P = Purposeful.
      4. Doing something in an entrepreneurial way means doing something immediately and focusing on “good enough”.
      5. When you hit the ceiling of skill on your One Thing you want to do whatever it takes to keep challenging the limit.
      6. Mastery is about staying a perpetual apprentice.
      7. Once you hit the “Good Enough” plateau on your One Thing, you have to keep challenging yourself.
      8. When we reach the “Good Enough” plateau we restart our journey and go after a different goal, this is a serious mistake that will keep you in a cycle of limited success.
      9. When you’ve done the best you can do but know it can be done better, change your approach and do whatever it takes to get to the next level.
    3. Live the Accountability Cycle:
      1. This is the most important of all 3 commitments.
      2. Accountable people don’t defend or justify efforts without results.
      3. The accountable person takes responsibility for all results, good and bad.
      4. The process of responsibility for Accountable managers:
        1. Life happens.
        2. Seeks reality.
        3. Acknowledges reality.
        4. Takes responsibility.
        5. Finds solutions.
        6. Makes it happen.
      5. The process of responsibility for Unaccountable managers:
        1. Life happens.
        2. Avoids reality.
        3. Fights reality.
        4. Blames.
        5. Makes excuses.
        6. Waits and hopes.
      6. The more you choose accountability or unaccountability, the easier they become.
      7. It’s critical that you get an accountability partner to give you honest feedback and expectations of future performance.
      8. Make sure you’re truly and fully accountable to your partner.
      9. Writing your goals and sharing them with your friends makes them 75% more likely to be achieved.
      10. Getting a coach is the absolute best way to be accountable. There are almost no high-performers without coaches.
  10. The Four Thieves of Productivity:
    1. “Focus is about choosing what you’re NOT going to do!”
    2. The inability to say “no”:
      1. 1 “yes” needs to be defended by 1,000 “no’s”.
      2. The best way to succeed big is to go small, the bigger you want to go the smaller you’ll need to go, sometimes much smaller than you’ve ever thought.
      3. The art of focus is not about saying “yes” to something, it’s about saying “no” to everything else.
      4. As good as it feels to help people, we must focus on ourselves first and say “no”.
      5. You have to say “no” to anything that is not related to your One Thing.
      6. You can build pre-recorded answers in order to help people without consuming your time.
      7. If you don’t make your life about what you say “yes” to, it will inevitably become what you intended to say “no” to.
    3. The fear of chaos:
      1. Focusing on The One Thing means that some things won’t get done, you must learn to be comfortable with the chaos of unfinished things that aren’t the musts.
      2. You must accept chaos will come with direct proportion to your height of greatness.
      3. Sometimes your circumstances make it hard to block-time for The One Thing. Don’t let this become an excuse to be a victim.
    4. Poor health:
      1. People who don’t understand The One Thing sometimes make deals with the devil and sacrifice their health and relationships for their goals. This isn’t smart and will fail you in the long-run.
      2. Choose instead to find The One Thing in all other areas of life and make sure to counterbalance by keeping them.
    5. Good Habits:
      1. Sleep well.
      2. Workout.
      3. Meditate.
      4. Set goals.
      5. Spend time with your loved ones.
    6. Unsupportive environment:
      1. Your environment must support your goals.
      2. Anyone and anything at any time can become a thief and destroy your focus, stay alert and aware.
      3. You always pick-up attitudes from the people around you, keep mind of this.
      4. If one of your close friends becomes obese, you’re 57% more likely to become obese yourself.
      5. No one succeeds or fails alone.
      6. Your logistic environment is also important, make sure your environment is void of distractions.
  11. The Journey:
    1. Every journey is made of small steps, no matter how large it is.
    2. Whatever goal you can imagine you can achieve.
    3. Living large is going after the biggest life you can imagine.
    4. Take any goal, for example, take your current income, multiply it by an amount, and ask yourself – “if I keep taking the actions I’m taking, will I reach this goal in the next 5 years?”, keep multiplying until the answer is “no” and set goals according to that.
    5. No matter how big you can think, you also need to take actions.
    6. The chances of you living an incredible life are directly proportional to the size, clarity and importance of your purpose (thinking), coupled with the clarity and keeping of your priorities (actions).
    7. The best way to measure a life worth living is inversely proportional to the amount of regrets you have, live your life to minimize the regrets you have.
    8. The 5 Most Common Regrets Before Death:
      1. I wish I let myself be happier.
      2. I wish I stayed in contact with my friends.
      3. I wish I had the courage to express my feelings.
      4. I wish I haven’t worked so hard.
      5. And the #1 regrets: I wish I had the courage to be true to myself and go after my dreams.
    9. The decisions you’ll end up regretting are those you DIDN’T make.
    10. In order to avoid regrets, you need to know your purpose and do The One Thing every day.
  12. Success is an Inside Job:
    1. You don’t need to make sense the world, you only need to make sense of yourself and your world will make sense.
    2. When you know your purpose, know your priorities and bring high productivity to your priorities, life will quickly begin to make sense again. You are the first domino.
  13. Putting The One Thing to Work:
    1. What’s The One Thing I can do today to know my life’s purpose?
    2. What’s The One Thing I can do in 90 days to get back in-shape?
    3. What’s The One Thing I can do to practice guitar every day for 20 minutes?
    4. What’s The One Thing we can do to make time to be together every day?
    5. What’s The One Thing we can do to make our next vacation the best ever?
    6. What’s The One Thing I can do today to complete my project ahead of time?
    7. What’s The One Thing I can do finish my work successful in half the time?
    8. What’s The One Thing we can do to create a One Thing culture?
    9. What’s The One Thing I can do to surpass my monthly financial goals?
    10. What’s The One Thing I can do right now to start using The One Thing in my life?
    11. What’s The One Thing we can do to find this goals?
    12. What’s The One Thing we can do to fill this seminar up?


  1. My One Thing is cold-calling people to sell coaching for high-performing clients.
  2. This needs to be my absolute first task of the day for maximum willpower.
  3. I can still maintain fitness and other habits as long as it’s done AFTER The One Thing.
  4. I’ll need to change my schedule, since I can’t start calling at 8:00. I need to wake up at 7:55 and immediately start making calls at 8:00 so I don’t have time to procrastinate.
  5. Procrastination and fear are what is burning up my willpower so fast. The solution is to not give them time.
  6. I can freely do other habits after 21:00.
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