The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results
Gary Keller and Jay Papasan
Overview: The premise behind The One Thing is that an abundance of tasks does not always lead to success, but instead may hinder our
ability to reach our most desired results. By focusing on the One Thing, we can be more productive at work and home, and minimize the stress
and anxiety that comes with our daily pursuits. Gary Keller and Jay Papasan provide the tools for one to get to their One Thing, which is key
to achieving extraordinary results.
In Chapters 1-3, Gary Keller discusses how he got to the idea of The One Thing, as a very successful real estate company. After a decade of
growth, his business success began to decline. How did Keller turn his company around? How might this relate to your life; your work environment?
In Part 1, Chapters 4-9, Keller breaks down six lies that lead us to mediocrity. Where do you see the same pattern used around you? What can
you do to change this paradigm?
In Chapter 4, the first lie he discusses is that everything matters equally. Making all tasks equally important, creates a false sense of urgency,
which distracts from the most important tasks. Instead of a “to-do” list, one should implement a “success” list. The 80/20 rule will
help one understand that 80% of your results stem from 20% of your efforts. What would your personal success list look like? How else can you apply
the 80/20 rule to personal/unit productivity?
In Chapter 5, the second lie he addresses is that multitasking is good for productivity. We cannot do two things simultaneously, but multitasking
is actually switching back and forth between incomplete tasks, which ultimately leads to loss (time, productivity). Where have you seen this happen?
What would be the better response?
In Chapter 6, the third lie he gives is discipline is the only thing needed to be successful. Instead, one should train in a way to form habits
that support your desired result. In the military, we tend to focus on discipline to accomplish our tasks, but what else might be need to achieve success?
In Chapter 7, the fourth lie he challenges is the idea that will-power is on will-call and available at all times. Instead he discusses that
will-power is similar to battery power and will run out eventually. In that case, will-power should be managed to accomplish the most important
and demanding task and recognize when will-power has run out. When was a time your will-power ran out? What were the 2nd and 3rd order effects?
In Chapter 8, the fifth lie he addresses is the idea of having a “balanced life.” The problem this creates with productivity is when
balancing, we find a middle ground in which all things receive equal attention. In this case, we can only give a degraded amount of input into
those areas, and therefore will receive mediocre results. Instead, we should find the most important areas of life and put the large share of
effort into them. What are some sacrifices you have made when balancing life? What was the benefit/cost of doing this? How did you choose what to sacrifice?
In Chapter 9, the sixth lie he states is “big is bad.” We minimize our thinking when we are afraid to thing “big,” causing us
to lose sight of our true ceiling. How are individuals who think “too far” outside of the box treated inside the Air Force? Why do you
think they receive that treatment?
In Part 2, Chapters 10-12, Keller points us to those things that are true to productivity. In Chapter 10, he discusses creating and formulating
the “focusing question” by asking, “What’s the one thing I can do, such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”
How would you go about helping your team build a “focusing question for a problem area in your unit?” What would you apply this same
construct for each individual in your unit?
In Chapter 11, the author proposes that success should become the habit. Research says it takes 66 days to build a habit. How can you build success
to be a habit?
In Chapter 12, Keller shapes the path to great answers by following a four-quadrant breakdown: what is small and specific, small and broad, big and
broad, and big and specific. Then, focus on what is doable, but also “stretch” and look farther to anything that is “possible.” Why is
it hard for us to see the “possibilities”?
In Part 3, Chapters 13-17, Keller breaks down four principles to unlocking the possibilities. In Chapter 13, Keller proposes we should live with
purpose. Your purpose is the beacon of all you do. Sometimes we allow our tasks to be a means to the end; however, we forget to focus on the
journey and many lose sight of their purpose. What are examples in your life where you live with purpose? How are they helping you to reach your
goals, or are they getting in your way?
In Chapter 14, Keller states we should live by priority, coming from the Latin root of prior means “first.” It is impossible for
everything to be first, so one should choose the ONE thing that answers the focusing question, and make that your priority. What is top priority for
you/your unit? Are they the same?
Chapter 15 deals with living for productivity. Keller argues that once you identify your purpose and make it your priority, you should set aside the
time each day, week, month, etc. and protect that time (time block). How can we prevent non-value adding tasks from influencing our productivity?
In Chapter 16, the author gives three commitments we should adhere to: follow the path to mastery; move from entrepreneurial to purposeful;
and live the accountability cycle. While seeking mastery, it is always important to have a coach or mentor along the way, to help you stay on track.
Have you “mastered” anything in your current job or in life? If so, how did you choose this thing to master (purpose/obligation)?
In Chapters 17-18, Keller tells us to watch for the four thieves of our productivity and follow through journey. The four thieves are inability
to say no; fear of chaos; poor health habits; and environment that does not support your goals. Has your unit/personal pursuit of your desired
results been hindered by any of the above thieves? How can you prevent this from occurring in the future?