The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller

Today we’ll be talking about The ONE Thing, by Gary Keller. The surprisingly simple truth behind extraordinary results. Now, I know I say this about every book, but this is the ONE book that you need to read right now! Ok, that may be exaggerating, but only a tiny bit, because the concept that this book teaches augments everything else that you’re trying to do in your life. The concept is this: every day when you wake up, every time you think about your relationship, every time you start work on a project, you ask yourself this question: What’s the ONE thing I can do such that, by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary? This question gets to the heart of prioritization.

Here’s a great quote from Gary Keller: “When you say yes to something, it’s imperative that you understand what you’re saying no to.”This is the point of this book. He’s basically saying that, if you don’t ask yourself this question, you end up spending your time on everyone else’s priorities or just wasting your time in some other capacity. If you choose to do one thing, then you miss out on another. This is called opportunity cost.

Opportunity cost can apply to money as well, but money is a replenishing resource, so we won’t worry about that as much. We can always make more. But we will never get our time back, so we need to guard and cherish it. Whatever our goals in life are, if we ensure that we’re spending our time working towards what’s most important to us, we’ll be the happiest and most successful.

And here’s the kicker: Notice that the second part of the question is “everything else will be easier or unnecessary.” He draws a comparison to dominoes. If we can identify the lead domino, and knock it over, then it will help us with all the dominoes down the road, even if they’re larger. If we leverage our time like this, we can have the maximum impact on our lives.

That concept of opportunity cost is the first golden nugget for today. Always keep that in mind—we have limited time on this planet, so we need to consider our opportunities seriously. The other golden nuggets that we’ll go over today are all in the first of the three sections in this book.

He calls this section “The lies – they mislead and derail us.” (Section two is “The truth – the simple path to productivity,” and section three is “Extraordinary results – unlocking the possibilities within you.” We’ll have to save those two for another time.) The lies that we’ll look at are Multitasking, what he calls “a disciplined life,” and “big is bad.”

Let’s start off multitasking with one of my favorite proverbs: “If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one.” And this is the lie of multitasking. Keller argues that, even though there are millions of webpages teaching people how to become better multitaskers, and even though career websites list it as a high desire for employers and something that people should list on their resume, it is neither efficient nor effective.

What I usually say is that multitasking is just a way to do two things less than half as good as if you were doing just one. Let’s say less than half-assed, because that’s funnier. Steve Uzzell put it similarly when he said “multitasking is merely the opportunity to screw up more than one thing at a time.”

The term “multitasking” was originally created to describe computers. At the inception of the computer, the processing speeds were considered so insanely fast that they came up with this term. It’s funny, because your phone now has more processing power than a supercomputer from the 50s!

But, here’s the real fault of the term, it was describing computers processing things very fast, yes, but they were alternating between tasks, NOT doing them simultaneously. And our brain works the same way. We can only focus on one thing at a time. We can DO two things at once, but not focus on them both. So save multitasking for one task that takes focus, and one task that is subconscious like breathing.

Otherwise, you lose effectiveness because you’re bouncing between two tasks, and you lose efficiency, because every time you do this, it takes more time to refocus on the task currently at hand.

Ok, onto the next lie, “a disciplined life.” He says that “you don’t need to be a disciplined person to be successful… [because] success is about doing the right thing, not about doing everything right.

This gets into strategy vs. tactics, and this is why I focus so much on fundamentals like getting the right attitude towards whatever you’re approaching. Tactics are important, and it can take a long time to learn all the details that are needed to be successful. I think that’s why people focus on the details. But, if you’re running in the wrong direction, it doesn’t really matter how fast you’re running. Keep that in mind.

He says that you don’t need discipline, you need habits. Rather, you need just enough discipline to turn something into a habit. Researchers at the University College of London did a study that showed, on AVERAGE, it takes 66 days to develop a habit. Some are easier, some are harder, but maybe this gives you a good baseline.

Have you ever tried to do something for a week? Or maybe you even made a new-year’s resolution to go to the gym all of January, and it still didn’t stick? This is probably why. It takes quite a while to establish a new habit, especially if it’s a really good, life-changing one. The good news, though, is that less and less discipline is required once you establish that habit, so you can use it on something else. If you want to learn more about developing good habits, be sure to check out the video on Awaken The Giant Within, by Tony Robbins, if you haven’t already.

The third and final lie we’ll cover is that “big is bad.” There’s a book called The Magic Of Thinking Big that I really like—I’ll have to do a video on that at some point—but a big takeaway from that is that just allowing ourselves to think big opens up our creativity and helps us find a way to do things we previously thought impossible.

Have any of you read The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost? Man, this book is inspiring a lot of other quotes and works. Well it’s a very short poem, so check it out after this, but Robert Frost basically says that he took the path in life that others were afraid to take, and it made all the difference for him. Remember that our lives are about progress, so don’t be afraid to take that step.

Have you ever heard that good is the enemy of great? Keller says that usually it’s not obstacles that prevent us from achieving our goals. Rather, it’s a clear path to some lesser goal. This is certainly how I feel about the decade I was in corporate America. It was a clear path, a less risky path, and it kept me from my real goal for a long time. But no more!

And that makes me think about what I’m really capable of. What are you capable of? None of us really know until we try. Let’s embrace that this life is about experiments and progress, think big, and not hold ourselves back. There will be plenty of other people who try to do that; let’s not be our own worst enemies.

So, here’s what I recommend you do, and I promise I will do too. Tomorrow, when you wake up, ask yourself “what is the one thing I can do today that will make everything easier or unnecessary?” Then do it. And try to implement it in more specific ways, like “What’s the one thing I can do with my fiancé, such that everything around our wedding will be easier or unnecessary?” That’s our summary for the day. What’s your ONE thing?

Ok, and now the exercise. Pop open the exercise using the button, and answer these three questions: 1) What do you think of multitasking? 2) Where have you settled for good instead of great? And 3) What’s your one thing?

This book, a $10 purchase, is a great example of an asset. I can’t calculate how much money this book has made and saved me. And let me know how I can improve these lessons!