The One Thing

The One Thing - PictureIn their book, The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, authors Gary Keller and Jay Papasan suggest that a laser-like focus on the most important is essential to realizing success.

Since the book dovetails so closely to my views of simplify…eliminate…prioritize…focus, I recommend it highly.  Below, I give some quick notes on the key points found in the book.  But, I do encourage you to pick it up, read it, and follow its ideas.

  • We need to avoid the productivity myths and achievement lies so common today:
    • Everything matters equally
    • We can be good at multitasking
    • All it takes is self-discipline and willpower

  • Instead, in order to achieve results and success and be as productive as we can be, we need to focus on the most important.


  • The focusing question is:
    • “What’s the one thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary.”


  • The moment by moment focusing question is:
    • “What’s the one thing I can do right now such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary.”


  • To achieve our one thing, we need to create a success habit.
    • We need to create the habit to stay true to the focusing question by keeping our one thing as top priority every day.
    • “People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.”  M. Alexander


  • We need to time block our day to focus on ‘our one thing’ for up to four hours a day every day (usually first thing in the morning when we are freshest).
    • We must protect this time of day fiercely avoiding all distractions, interruptions, and temptations.


  • And we need to commit ourselves to being accountable to achieving ‘our one thing.’
    • By being accountable, we must
      • Seek reality
        • “What’s happening?”
      • Acknowledge reality
        • “This is the way it is.”
      • Own it
        • “If it’s to be, it’s up to me.”
      • Find the solution
        • “What can I do?”
      • Get on with it
        • “O.K., let’s do it!”


  • By all means, we need to avoid being a victim who
    • Avoids reality
      • Asks no questions.
    • Fights reality
      • “That’s not how I see it.”
    • Blames
      • “If everyone else would just do their job.”
    • Creates personal excuses
      • “It’s not my job.”
    • Waits and hopes
      • “If it was meant to be, it will happen.”


  • Realizing our one thing requires that we prioritize and eliminate. As such, we will need to:
    • Neglect or do just adequate work on other tasks of lower priority.
      • “Focusing on one thing has a guaranteed consequence: other things don’t get done.”
    • Constantly say “No” to less important items and requests.


  • In conclusion, “success is an inside job.”
    • It is on us to determine our one thing.
    • It is on us to create the habits and avoid the distractions and realize our one thing.
    • It is on us to get started today.

About David Shedd

David has been a President - CEO - COO of an up to $350M group of manufacturing, distribution, specialty retail and services companies, having led 22 different businesses from turnarounds to start-ups to fast growth companies.
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