For me, The ONE Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan is a book about one thing, focus.
When I read this book, I was doing a lot of different things, I was constantly busy, but at the end of the day I wasn’t making much progress towards the very few and specific goals I want to accomplish before I die.
While this book didn’t solve the problem completely (no book can) it did give me some ideas and takeaways that have helped.
The best thing this book did for me: Forced me to decide what I want from life, eliminate the stuff I do that won’t help me get there and then focus hard on the few things that will help me get there.
Here are the highlights I saved. I highlight things when they spark an idea in my head, or answer a question I have. I hope they can give you an idea of what the book is about as well as shortcut you to some of the pieces I thought were important.
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“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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Where I’d had huge success, I had narrowed my concentration to one thing, and where my success varied, my focus had too.
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extraordinary results are directly determined by how narrow you can make your focus.
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You want your achievements to add up, but that actually takes subtraction, not addition.
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You need to be doing fewer things for more effect instead of doing more things with side effects.
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When you go as small as possible, you’ll be staring at one thing. And that’s the point.
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If today your company doesn’t know what its ONE Thing is, then the company’s ONE Thing is to find out.
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one person makes all the difference.
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No one succeeds alone. No one.
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turned his passion for painting into a skill, and ultimately a profession, by simply painting one painting a day.
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Bill Gates. Bill’s one passion in high school was computers, which led him to develop one skill, computer programming.
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Instead of a to-do list, you need a success list—a list that is purposefully created around extraordinary results.
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To-do lists tend to be long; success lists are short. One pulls you in all directions; the other aims you in a specific direction. One is a disorganized directory and the other is an organized directive.
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“The 80/20 Principle asserts that a minority of causes, inputs, or effort usually lead to a majority of the results, outputs, or rewards.” In other words, in the world of success, things aren’t equal. A small amount of causes creates most of the results. Just the right input creates most of the output. Selected effort creates almost all of the rewards.
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The 80/20 Principle says the minority of your effort leads to the majority of your results.
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A to-do list becomes a success list when you apply Pareto’s Principle to it.
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A few ideas gave me most of my results. Some clients were far more valuable than others; a small number of people created most of my business success; and a handful of investments put the most money in my pocket.
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Finally I quit thinking it was a coincidence and began to apply it as the absolute principle of success that it is—not only to my life, but also in working with everyone else, as well. And the results were extraordinary.
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I want you to take Pareto’s Principle to an extreme. I want you to go small by identifying the 20 percent, and then I want you to go even smaller by finding the vital few of the vital few. The 80/20 rule is the first word, but not the last, about success. What Pareto started, you’ve got to finish. Success requires that you follow the 80/20 Principle, but you don’t have to stop there.
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No matter the task, mission, or goal. Big or small. 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.
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One idea out of 100. That is Pareto to the extreme. That’s thinking big, but going very small. That’s applying the ONE Thing to a business challenge in a truly powerful way.
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Eric said that if I could do only one thing, then I should practice my scales. So, I took his advice and chose the minor blues scale.
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Go small. Don’t focus on being busy; focus on being productive. Allow what matters most to drive your day.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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“Multitaskers were just lousy at everything.” Multitasking is a lie.
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Steve Uzzell said, “Multitasking is merely the opportunity to screw up more than one thing at a time.”
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Contrary to what most people believe, success is not a marathon of disciplined action. Achievement doesn’t require you to be a full-time disciplined person where your every action is trained and where control is the solution to every situation. Success is actually a short race—a sprint fueled by discipline just long enough for habit to kick in and take over.
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You don’t need to be a disciplined person to be successful. In fact, you can become successful with less discipline than you think, for one simple reason: success is about doing the right thing, not about doing everything right. The trick to success is to choose the right habit and bring just enough discipline to establish it.
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Not to oversimplify, but it’s not a stretch to say that Phelps channeled all of his energy into one discipline that developed into one habit—swimming daily.
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What sometimes gets overlooked, however, is an amazing windfall: it also simplifies your life. Your life gets clearer and less complicated because you know what you have to do well and you know what you don’t.
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Build one habit at a time. Success is sequential, not simultaneous.
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Give each habit enough time. Stick with the discipline long enough for it to become routine. Habits, on average, take 66 days to form.
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If you are what you repeatedly do, then achievement isn’t an action you take but a habit you forge into your life.
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Think of willpower like the power bar on your cell phone. Every morning you start out with a full charge. As the day goes on, every time you draw on it you’re using it up.
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Willpower has a limited battery life but can be recharged with some downtime.
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The more we use our mind, the less minding power we have.
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So how do you put your willpower to work? You think about it. Pay attention to it. Respect it. You make doing what matters most a priority when your willpower is its highest. In other words, you give it the time of day it deserves.
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So, if you want to get the most out of your day, do your most important work—your ONE Thing—early, before your willpower is drawn down.
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When we work too long, eventually our personal life suffers. Falling prey to the belief that long hours are virtuous, we unfairly blame work when we say, “I have no life.” Often, it’s just the opposite. Even if our work life doesn’t interfere, our personal life itself can be so full of “have-tos” that we again reach the same defeated conclusion: “I have no life.” And sometimes we get hit from both sides. Some of us face so many personal and professional demands that everything suffers. Breakdown imminent, we once again declare, “I have no life!”
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When we say we’re out of balance, we’re usually referring to a sense that some priorities—things that matter to us—are being underserved or unmet. The problem is that when you focus on what is truly important, something will always be underserved.
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To achieve an extraordinary result you must choose what matters most and give it all the time it demands. This requires getting extremely out of balance in relation to all other work issues, with only infrequent counterbalancing to address them.
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Whether or not to go out of balance isn’t really the question. The question is: “Do you go short or long?” In your personal life, go short and avoid long periods where you’re out of balance. Going short lets you stay connected to all the things that matter most and move them along together. In your professional life, go long and make peace with the idea that the pursuit of extraordinary results may require you to be out of balance for long periods. Going long allows you to focus on what matters most, even at the expense of other, lesser priorities. In your personal life, nothing gets left behind. At work it’s required.
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The balls are called work, family, health, friends, and integrity. And you’re keeping all of them in the air. But one day you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls—family, health, friends, integrity—are made of glass.
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“We are kept from our goal, not by obstacles but by a clear path to a lesser goal.” —Robert Brault
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None of us knows our limits. Borders and boundaries may be clear on a map, but when we apply them to our lives, the lines aren’t so apparent.
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Thinking big is essential to extraordinary results. Success requires action, and action requires thought. But here’s the catch—the only actions that become springboards to succeeding big are those informed by big thinking to begin with. Make this connection, and the importance of how big you think begins to sink in.
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What you build today will either empower or restrict you tomorrow. It will either serve as a platform for the next level of your success or as a box, trapping you where you are.
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Dweck’s work with children revealed two mindsets in action—a “growth” mindset that generally thinks big and seeks growth and a “fixed” mindset that places artificial limits and avoids failure. Growth-minded students, as she calls them, employ better learning strategies, experience less helplessness, exhibit more positive effort, and achieve more in the classroom than their fixed-minded peers. They are less likely to place limits on their lives and more likely to reach for their potential. Dweck points out that mindsets can and do change. Like any other habit, you set your mind to it until the right mindset becomes routine.
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Pursue a big life and you’re pursuing the greatest life you can possibly live. To live great, you have to think big. You must be open to the possibility that your life and what you accomplish can become great. Achievement and abundance show up because they’re the natural outcomes of doing the right things with no limits attached.
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Don’t fear big. Fear mediocrity. Fear waste. Fear the lack of living to your fullest. When we fear big, we either consciously or subconsciously work against it. We either run toward lesser outcomes and opportunities or we simply run away from the big ones.
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Don’t let small thinking cut your life down to size. Think big, aim high, act bold. And see just how big you can blow up your life.
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I bought into getting up before the crack of dawn, getting revved up playing inspirational theme songs, and getting going before anyone else.
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ditched the lies and went in the opposite direction. I joined overachievers anonymous and went antiestablishment on all the success “tactics” that supposedly build success.
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I had breakfast with my family. I got in shape physically and spiritually and stayed there. And last, I started doing less. Yes, less. Intentionally, purposefully less. I was looser than ever, way laid back for me, and breathing. I challenged the axioms of success, and guess what? I became more successful than I ever dreamed possible and felt better than I’d ever felt in my life.
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Here’s what I found out: We overthink, overplan, and overanalyze our careers, our businesses, and our lives; that long hours are neither virtuous nor healthy; and that we usually succeed in spite of most of what we do, not because of it. I discovered that we can’t manage time, and that the key to success isn’t in all the things we do but in the handful of things we do well.
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If you can honestly say, “This is where I’m meant to be right now, doing exactly what I’m doing,” then all the amazing possibilities for your life become possible.
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“There is an art to clearing away the clutter and focusing on what matters most. It is simple and it is transferable. It just requires the courage to take a different approach.” —George Anders
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And here is the prime condition of success, the great secret—concentrate your energy, thought and capital exclusively upon the business in which you are engaged. Having begun on one line, resolve to fight it out on that line, to lead in it, adopt every improvement, have the best machinery, and know the most about it. The concerns which fail are those which have scattered their capital, which means that they have scattered their brains also. They have investments in this, or that, or the other, here, there and everywhere. “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” is all wrong. I tell you “put all your eggs in one basket, and then watch that basket.” Look round you and take notice; men who do that do not often fail. It is easy to watch and carry the one basket. It is trying to carry too many baskets that breaks most eggs in this country.
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Mark Twain agreed with Carnegie and described it this way: The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret to getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks and then starting on the first one.
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MY WAGE By J. B. Rittenhouse I bargained with Life for a penny, And Life would pay no more, However I begged at evening When I counted my scanty store. For Life is a just employer, He gives you what you ask, But once you have set the wages, Why, you must bear the task. I worked for a menials hire, Only to learn, dismayed, That any wage I had asked of Life, Life would have willingly paid.
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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. How we phrase the questions we ask ourselves determines the answers that eventually become our life.
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To stay on track for the best possible day month, year, or career, you must keep asking the Focusing Question. Ask it again and again, and it forces you to line up tasks in their levered order of importance. Then, each time you ask it, you see your next priority. The power of this approach is that you’re setting yourself up to accomplish one task on top of another. When you do the right task first, you also build the right mindset first, the right skill first, and the right relationship first.
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“What’s the ONE Thing I can do / such that by doing it / everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”
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PART ONE: “WHAT’S THE ONE THING I CAN DO… This sparks focused action. “What’s the ONE Thing” tells you the answer will be one thing versus many. It forces you toward something specific.
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PART TWO: “…SUCH THAT BY DOING IT… “But those Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas all ran away and hid from one little Did.” —Shel Silverstein This tells you there’s a criterion your answer must meet. It’s the bridge between just doing something and doing something for a specific purpose. “Such that by doing it” lets you know you’re going to have to dig deep, because when you do this ONE Thing, something else is going to happen.
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PART THREE: “… EVERYTHING ELSE WILL BE EASIER OR UNNECESSARY?” Archimedes said, “Give me a lever long enough and I could move the world,” and that’s exactly what this last part tells you to find. “Everything else will be easier or unnecessary” is the ultimate leverage test. It tells you when you’ve found the first domino.
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Great questions are the path to great answers. The Focusing Question is a great question designed to find a great answer. It will help you find the first domino for your job, your business, or any other area in which you want to achieve extraordinary results.
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The Focusing Question is a double-duty question. It comes in two forms: big picture and small focus.
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The Big-Picture Question: “What’s my ONE Thing?” Use it to develop a vision for your life and the direction for your career or company; it is your strategic compass. It also works when considering what you want to master, what you want to give to others and your community, and how you want to be remembered.
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The Small-Focus Question: “What’s my ONE Thing right now?” Use this when you first wake up and throughout the day. It keeps you focused on your most important work and, whenever you need it, helps you find the “levered action” or first domino in any activity.
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But we are unknowingly acquiring new ones all the time. When we start and continue a way of thinking or a way of acting over a long enough period, we’ve created a new habit.
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What’s the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?
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Because I want my life to matter, I approach each area by doing what matters most in it. I view these as the cornerstones of my life and have found that when I’m doing what’s most important in each area, my life feels like it’s running on all cylinders.
Hope you enjoyed peeking over my shoulder at my highlights. 🙂 If the book turns you on, you can get the book using my expertly added affiliate link here: The ONE Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan
P.S. If you wanna join in, post in the comments. What’s your ONE thing?