“The ONE Thing”

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The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results

By:  Gary Keller, with Jay Papasan

Recommended if:

  • You want to understand the key concepts behind defining goals with the biggest payoff.
  • Want to learn how to break down long-term goals into smaller, more manageable steps.
  • Could use some very practical tips for focusing and increasing productivity.
  • You feel dedicating so much time to your passion creates an imbalance in other aspects of your life.


“The One Thing” is by far my favorite book on goal setting and productivity.  It’s written in a relatable language that really brings the concepts to life.  The case studies and research presented is ‘personalized’ by the author’s clever use of stories, metaphors, and hand-sketched pictures and charts.  It’s like having a great conversation over coffee with the author.

Quotes drive home the key concepts in a meaningful way, and really help me remember and relate back to key ideas presented.  Here’s a selection of my favorite quotes from the book, that helped me see some of my own productivity challenges with a different perspective:

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

“Multitasking is merely the opportunity to screw up more than one thing at a time.”  – Steve Uzzell

“We are kept from our goal, not by obstacles but by a clear path to a lesser goal.”  – Robert Brault

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

This book is an example of work that’s been done with the success of the reader in mind.  Each chapter ends with a summary of the “Big Ideas” presented to help lock in the learning.  If you, like me, love digging into the details of the studies and research presented, there’s a complete list of references by both topic and chapter.  The additional online tools and resources provided, like a 66-day habit tracking calendar, make it easy to start putting your big ideas into practice.

Values.  At Work.

From the book:

“Getting extraordinary results is all about creating a domino effect in your life.
Toppling dominoes is pretty straightforward.  You line them up and tip over the first one.  in the real world, though, it’s a bit more complicated.  The challenge is that life doesn’t line everything up for us and say, “here’s where you should start.”  Highly successful people know this.  So every day they line up their priorities anew, find the lead domino, and whack away at it until it falls.

Why does this approach work?  Because extraordinary success is sequential, not simultaneous.  What starts out linear becomes geometric.  You do the right thing and the you do the next right thing.”

Our values will always point us to our ‘right thing.’  Values cut through the noise and clutter of so many competing demands on our time and energy, and get us focused on what really matters.  Values help us identify our next domino because, by their very nature, they get us out of our head, and bring into the decision-making process a deeper form of wisdom.  And because of this deeper level of operation, they work across all aspects of life.  They guide our careers, relationships, finances, and health.

Values also give us insight into how to accomplish that ‘right thing’ in the ‘right way.’  For any goal you set, there may be dozens of ways to get there, but only a few will get you there in alignment with your values.  And it’s the approach we take – who we are while we’re in action toward our goals – that truly defines us.

Gary Keller says, “One of the most empowering moments of my life came when I realized that life is a question and how we live it is our answer.”  Living in alignment with our values is a way of life; It’s how we find both our right thing and know how to do it the right way.  That’s the real power of values, how they help us get value-driven outcomes and have incredible journeys on the way to getting there.