Home Bookend - Where reading meets review THE ONE THING: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results – Gary Keller with Jay Papasan

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

by Venky


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

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