THE ONE THING: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results – Gary Keller with Jay Papasan


Gary Keller and Jay Papasan set the theme for their bestseller, by alluding to a dialogue between the late Jack Palance and Billy Crystal from the hit comedy, City Slickers. The conversation between a dour cowboy and a city slicker revolves around distilling the secret of life. Curly, the cowboy (Jack Palance) expounds to Mitch, the man from the city that the secret of life ultimately comes down to just “One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and everything else don’t mean s**t.”

Personally I scoff when it comes to self-help and self-enrichment books. More often than not they are symptomatic of scenarios where a shadow is greater than substance. However, Keller and Papasan’s work constitutes a refreshing exception. Embodying practical ideas that are implementable, measurable and justifiable, “The One Thing” is a portable checklist for ushering in changes in life that have the potential to bring about enriching outcomes. So what is “The One Thing” all about? Keller urges us to distill our goals in life in a segmental manner. This segmentation results in bestowing attention, providing direction and employing razor sharp focus to the “ONE THING” by doing which “everything will be easier or unnecessary.”  So how does one go about doing the one thing?

  • ·Line up your priorities in the same way one would line up dominos. Once the first one is tipped over, there is a geometric progression between the tipping over of the succeeding dominos. “So every day, line up your priorities, find the lead domino and whack away at it until it falls. Success is built sequentially. It’s one thing at a time”;


  • Identify the six culprits or lies that pose an intractable barrier between you and success. These perpetrators are notions that tell us:

1.     Everything Matters Equally;

2.     Multitasking;

3.     A Disciplined Life;

4.     Willpower is always on Will-Call;

5.     A Balanced Life; and

6.     Big is Bad

  • ·As has been illustrated in great lucidity by both Vilfredo Pareto and Joseph M. Juran, “the majority of what you want will come from the minority of what you do.” Hence instead of getting entrenched into the swamp of equality, identify the one task that actually matters, and say “later”, “never” or “not now” to everything else;


  • “Multitasking is a lie.”  Clifford Nass, a Professor at Stanford University conducted an experiment involving 262 students to determine how often they multitasked. Post ascertaining this facet, Nass and his team split their test subjects into two groups of high and low multitaskers. The result was a shock to the adherents of multitasking. “…. Multitaskers are suckers for irrelevancy” said Nass. “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.”  In order to put the principle of ONE Thing to practice, one needs to banish the received wisdom that attempting to do two or more things simultaneously is a feasible idea;


  • ·“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.” Diagnosed with ADHD as a child, Michael Phelps was written off as a personality without any future. 22 Olympic Gold medals, and the most-decorated Olympian distinction later, the world was privy to the secret of this astonishing swimmer’s astounding success. Training 7 days a week, 365 days a year, Phelps reckoned that by training even on Sundays, he got a 52-training-day advantage on the competition. So Phelps did the one right thing instead of attempting to do all things right;


  • Researchers at the University College of London established that a new behavior becomes automatic or ingrained when pursued over a period of 66 days on average. Do the one thing right and keep doing it until it is ingrained as a habit;


  • “On any given day, you have a limited supply of will-power, so decide what matters and reserve your will-power for it. Do what matters most first each day when your will-power is strongest. Maximum strength will-power means maximum success;


  • The clichéd notion of “work life balance” is almost as good as a myth. Instead, “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;


  • It is essential to get rid of the notion that big is bad and intimidating. A classic case in point being the now famous “Think Different” advertising campaign featuring greats such as Bob Dylan, Albert Einstein, Alfred Hitchcock, Picasso et al. The ad’s tag line was “people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the only ones who do it.” Avoid incremental thinking and think big. Do not fear failure;


  • Identify the “Focusing Question” to aid and abet the performance of the ONE THING. “How we phrase the questions we ask ourselves determines the answers that eventually become our life.”  Keep asking “What’s the one thing that I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”


  • It is essential that the Focusing Question be made into a habit. This is absolutely essential for deriving and enjoying the complete benefits of the outcome. The Focused Questioning process has to be routinized until it becomes innate in the questioner in the form of an ingrained habit;


  • Live with purpose; Live by Priority and Live for Productivity. Identify or discover your purpose by introspecting what is it that drives you. Prioritise the One Thing that you can do right now. Break down your goals into milestone slabs and block your time each day to do the ONE THING. Be digital and technology averse by turning off all your mobile devices, shutting down your emails and exiting internet browsers whilst doing the ONE THING. The most important task deserves 100 percent attention;


  •  Avoid these Four Thieves of Productivity like the plague:
  1.        Inability to Say “No”;
  2.        Fear of Chaos;
  3.        Poor Health Habits; and
  4.        Environment that doesn’t support your Goals
  • While the aforementioned points try to capture the essence of the book, a thorough reading and re-reading (wherever appropriate) is an indispensable necessity for one to reap the full benefits of the ideas detailed out by Keller and Papasan


  • “The ONE THING” is pleasantly the ONE THING to be read, digested and savoured

Our Iceberg is Melting – John Kotter & Holger Rathgeber

Image result for Our Iceberg is Melting - John Kotter & Holger Rathgeber

From the leading expert of organisational change and leadership comes an endearing fable that undoubtedly will – in fact it already has, since 2019 marks the tenth anniversary of its publication – stand the test of time. John Kotter in tandem with Holger Rathgeber takes his readers on an extraordinary journey involving a colony of threatened penguins.

Fred, a penguin who is intrepid by nature notices that the iceberg which his colony calls ‘home’ is in peril. Caves of water formed deep within the iceberg pose a potential threat of melting.  Being a penguin of little consequence and also being aware of the ridicule which a fellow penguin was subject to earlier on account of elucidating a similar potential threat, Fred finds himself in a confounded state. Finally mustering enough courage he presents his findings to Alice, an aggressive but logical penguin who is also part of the Head Penguin Council.

What follows is a riveting tale of organisational intricacies. Politics, leadership, decision-making, change culture, moving away from entrenched dogmas, mentoring, and managerial skills all coalesce together to form the cornerstone of the measure which the penguins hatch to protect and preserve their legacies.

It is easy for the reader to associate himself with the adorable cast of penguin characters, each of which is emblematic of attributes and traits representing variegated frames of thinking and perception. Louis is the greatly respected Head of the Penguins who while accommodating everyone’s suggestions, is firm on the ultimate decision to be made. Buddy is a genial penguin, who while not an intellectual behemoth by any stretch of imagination is the most loved in his colony on account of his transparency, selflessness and an uncanny ability to make friends – and attract lovers! Sally Ann even though a little penguin demonstrates ingenuity and innovation in making things happen. Jordan is the Professorial penguin who can ramble on and on in a purely technical vein but with facts that are astoundingly clear. Finally there is NoNo a pessimist par excellence who is rooted to the status quo and seeped in stereotypes, unwilling to accept change.

John Kotter using the medium of this unforgettable fable reiterates the need for an organisation and its personnel to commit to what he terms “The Eight-Step Process of Successful Change.” In a nutshell, these eight processes are:

  1. Create a sense of Urgency;
  2. Pull together the guiding team;
  3. Develop the Change Vision and Strategy;
  4. Communicate for Understanding and Buy-In;
  5. Empower Others to Act;
  6. Produce Short-Term Wins;
  7. Don’t Let Up; and
  8. Create a New Culture

If you think that a fable involving a group of Emperor Penguins is the preserve of bed time stories for getting your energetic child to sleep, then please think again. Kotter and Rathgeber’s penguins may change the way you go about your professional business – and for the good!

A Mendicant’s Biography

(Photo Credit: Crispina Kemp)

The makeshift letter box attached to the fence-cum-gate leading to the house was in danger of collapse. Not that Venky was expecting anyone to write to him. The twin perils of a disruptive digital world and a self imposed existence in isolation combined to ensure that neither post office nor postman would be subject to any trouble conveying messages in the written medium.

“You must write a book someday. Rather you will write one someday.” Ash had declared once with a conviction that was unreal mixed with a sincerity bordering on the surreal. Shrugging both the thought and his shoulders, Venky had dourly responded with a barely audible sigh.

Now ensconced in a derelict house –  close to zero rent being adequate compensation for an absence of civilization – he had commenced to write. But his Ash was not by his side to egg, spur and goad him on.

(Word Count: 149)

Written as part of the Crimson’s Creative Challenge #32 More details regarding this challenge may be found HERE.


Soaring Memories,Starry Hopes

(PHOTO CREDIT: Rochelle Wisoff-Fields)

“Airports rank second only to hospitals in kindling hopes and rekindling memories” wrote Venky. “Memories rooted in the head like giant pillars rooted to the sparkling floors. Hopes as capable of making hearts skip an involuntary beat as a turbulence is capable of taking stomachs out of passengers.

The steady stream of passengers striding into lobbies, and scurrying about a maze of terminals is nothing but the roiling cauldron of conflicting emotions that assail the restless mind.”

Venky’s philosophical musings came to an abrupt end as an Aer Lingus flight roared off the tarmac taking to the skies chasing Dublin.

(Word Count: 100)

This story was written as part of the FRIDAY FICTIONEERS challenge, more about which may be found HERE

For more stories based on the above prompt, click HERE 

The Ash Thumb

Lakshmi Bhat

(Photo Credit: Lakshmi Bhat)

The tree elicited in Venky a smile, as well as triggring a tinge of sorrow. This alternating paradox was courtesy the inimitable and mercurial Ash. Nature’s own child, optimism’s chosen daughter and the favourite offspring of positivity. “I am going to hold on to the beak like appendages and climb atop this tree one day”, she had squealed in undisguised and childlike delight.

Possessing a green thumb herself, plants were her gateway to ecstasy.  With eyes that were perennially sparkling and an equally enthralling beauty to go with it, she was an extraordinarily expressive personality.

But much to Venky’s chagrin, she understood plants more than she deciphered his desire. A desire that had at its very core Ash herself.  Or did she pretend that she was oblivious to the roiling cauldron that was tormenting Venky? Either way she presented a veneer of equanimity and detachment that in alternative measures amazed and enraged Venky.

The last time they visited her favourite tree, she hurled the bombshell at him in a matter-of-fact way, “I am off to Ireland.”  Venky stood staring at her as though he was struck by a bolt of lightning.

But he continues to wait. And wait he will.

(Word Count: 200)

Written as part of Sunday Photo Fiction. Write a story of around 200 words based on the photo prompt given (above). Hosted by Susan Spaulding. For more details visit HERE

To read more of the stories based on this week’s prompt, click HERE


The Orwellian Obsession

(Photo Credit: Valerie J. Barrett)

Venky read somewhere that the inspiration behind the dystopian epic, “1984” came to George Orwell only after the brilliant author had cloistered himself away from the scrutinising gaze of the world by renting a sparse cabin situated on an isolated stretch of  land.

Venky, desirous of emulating his literary idol, retreated into the refuge provided by the scenic hill station that was Cameron Highlands. A four hour drive from Kuala Lumpur, Cameron offered the perfect setting as well as solace.

With a kettle for company, & a clothes iron to ‘iron’ out the creases, he began writing “The Ash Chronicles”.

(Word Count: 99)

This story was written as part of the FRIDAY FICTIONEERS challenge, more about which may be found HERE

For more stories based on the above prompt, click HERE 

The Irish Premonition


(Image Credit: Crispina Kemp)

“One of these days I will book a berth in a boat such as this to a faraway land ” said Ash pointing to the moored or marooned (depending upon the mood of its owner and the predilections of its captain) boat in white.

Even though Venky had heard this monologue a billion times, on this sharp and crisp midsummer morning, a nasty chill ran down his spine. Cold sweat broke out on his forehead and very soon rivulets of them streamed down his face. “You are a walking rain!” exclaimed Ash in sincere wonderment.

“Enough!” hissed Venky in a voice that was singularly venomous and one which even he did not know he possessed. Startled by this incredulous reaction, Ash retreated into a silence that was both stony and deafening.

Exactly six months later Ash was on her way to Dublin. She didn’t sail though. She flew.

(Word Count: 148)

Written as part of the Crimson’s Creative Challenge #31 More details regarding this challenge may be found HERE.