The One Thing – Must Read Book

Excerpts of this article were take from the book: The One Thing

I suggest that you read this book at your earliest convenience.

In each area of life there is only One Thing that we should focus on at any given time.

However, our life has become so busy that we have too many things.

There are “6 lies”, which are beliefs that prevent us from focusing on the One Thing:

  1. Everything Matters Equally
  2. Multitasking
  3. A Disciplined Life
  4. Willpower is Always on Will-Call
  5. A Balanced Life
  6. Big is Bad

Everything Matters Equally

  • Not everything matters equally (some things matter more then others, a lot more) – and success isn’t a game won by whoever does the most. Yet, thats exactly how most play it on a daily basis.
  • Lacking a clear formula for making decisions, we get reactive and fall back on familiar, comfortable ways to decide what to do. As a result, we haphazardly select approaches that undermine our success. The best decision gets traded for any decision, and what should be progress simply becomes a trap.
  • “The things which are most important don’t always scream the loudest” Bob Hawke
  • Based on the 80/20 Rule, in the world of success, things aren’t equal. A small amount of causes creates most of the results. Just the right input creates most of the output.
  • Instead of a ‘to-do list’, you need a ‘success list’ – which is a list that is purposefully created around extraordinary results. A typical to-do list can become a ‘success list’ when you apply the 80/20 Rule to it. (BTW – you should apply the 80/20 Rule, several times to your list – each time select the top 20% and remove the less important 80% – until you get to your ‘The One Thing’)
  • Conclusion:
    • Go small – don’t focus on being busy – focus on being productive. Allow what matters most to drive your day.
    • Go extreme – keep asking what matters most until there is only 1 thing left. That core activity goes at the top of your success list.
    • Say no – whether you say ‘later’ or ‘never’, the point is to say ‘not now’ to anything else – until your most important work is done.
    • Don’t get trapped in the ‘checkoff’ game!


  • People are trying to do too many things at once and forget to do something they should do.
  • It’s not that we have too little time to do all the things we need to do, it’s that we we feel the need to do too many things in the time we have.
  • Conclusions:
    • Distraction is natural, so don’t feel back when you get distracted.
    • When you try to do too much at once, you end up doing nothing well.
    • So, figure out what matters most in the moment, and give it your undivided attention.

A Disciplined Life

  • You can become successful with less discipline that you think, for one simple reason: success is about doing the right thing, not about doing everything right.
  • Conclusions:
    • Be a person of powerful habits and use selected discipline to develop them.
    • Build one habit at a time. Stick with it until it become routine. Research proves that it takes 66 days to build a new habit (not 30 as others say).


  • Willpower has a limited battery life, but can be recharged with some down time.
  • On any given day you have a limited supply of willpower, so decide what matters most and reserve your willpower for it.
  • Eat right and regularly to make sure the brain is fueled.
  • Do what matters most first thing each day – thats when willpower is strongest.

A Balanced Life

  • There is no such thing as balance in life (in the past ‘work was life’ for thousands of years).
  • Balance is not a measure of success. Purpose, meaning, significance – these are what make a successful life.
  • In your effort to attend to all things, everything gets shortchanged and nothing gets its due.
  • We try to stay in the middle, but in reality magic happens at the extremes.
  • When you focus on what is truly important, something will always be underserved.  No matter how hard you try.
  • In personal life its best to avoid long periods of out balance.
  • In work, the pursuit of extraordinary results require you to be out of balance for long periods.
  • In personal life nothing should be left behind. In work, its required.
  • “Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls. The balls are called work, family, health, friends and integrity. And you’re keeping all of them in the air. But one day you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls – family, health, friends, integrity – are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.”

Big is Bad

  • “Big is bad” is possibly the biggest lie of all – for if you fear big success, you’ll either avoid it or sabotage your efforts to achieve it.
  • When you allow yourself to accept that big is about who you can become, you look at it differently. As you experience big, you become big.
  • Mindsets change, just like any other habit. You set your mind to it, until it becomes routine.
  • Only living big will let you experience your true life and work potential.
  • Conclusions:
    • Think big! Avoid incremental thinking that simply asks “what do I do next?”. Ask bigger questions. Good rule of thumb – to double down everywhere in your life (ie. if your goal is 10, ask how you can achieve 20.) Set a goal far above what you want – so you achieve your original goal.
    • Be original and take bold action.
    • Don’t fear failure. Adopt a growth mindset – because extraordinary results are built on failures also (ie. most of the time we fail our way to success)

 “Be careful how you interpret the world, it is like that.” ~ Erich Heller

The Focusing Question

Great questions are the path to great answers!

How we phrase the questions we ask ourselves determines the answers that eventually become our life.

What’s the ONE THING I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?

To stay on track for the best possible day, month, year or career, you must keep asking the Focusing Question. Ask it again and again, and it forces you to line up tasks in their leyered order of importance. When you do the right tasks first, you also build the right mindset first.

Big-Picture Question: “What’s my ONE Thing?”

Use it to develop a vision for your life and direction for your career or company. What you want to master. How you want to be remembered.

Small-Focus Question: “What’s my ONE Thing right now?”

Use this when you first wake up and throughout the day. It keeps you focused on the most important work.

If you want the most from your answer, you must realize that it lives outside of your comfort zone.

Anytime you don’t know the answer, your answer is “go and find your answer.” By default, your first ONE Thing is to search for clues and role models to point you in the right direction. The first thing to do is ask “Has anyone else studied or accomplished this or something like this?”

Dale Carnegie’s talk (1885) still holds true today:

“And here is the prime condition of success, the great secret — concentrate your energy, thought and capital exclusively upon the business in which you are engaged. Having begun on one line, resolve to fight it out on that line, to lead in it, adopt every improvement, have the best machinery, and know the most about it.

The concerns which fail are those which have scattered their capital, which means that they have scattered their brains also. They have investments in this, or that, or the other, here, there and everywhere.

“Dont put all your eggs in one basket” is all wrong. I tell you “put all your eggs in one basket, and then watch that basket.” Look round you and take notice; men who do that do not often fail. It is easy to watch and carry the one basket. It is trying to carry too many baskets that breaks most eggs in this country. “

My Wage (poem by J. B. Rittenhouse)

 I bargained with Life for a penny,
and Life would pay no more,
However I begged at evening
When I counted my scanty store.

For Life is a just employer,
He gives you what you ask,
But once you have set the wages,
Why, you must bear the task.

I worked for a menial’s hire,
Only to learn, dismayed,
That any wage I had asked of Life,
Life would have willingly paid.

The Focusing Question in All Areas of Life

  • Make a habit of asking the focusing question in every area of life

“People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.” F. M. Alexander

 “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself” George Bernard Shaw

Happiness happens on the way to fulfillment.

Dr. Martin Seligman, past president of the American Psychological Association, believes there are five factors that contribute to our happiness: positive emotion and pleasure, achievement, relationships, engagement, and meaning. Of these, he believes engagement and meaning are the most important. Becoming more engaged in what we do by finding ways to make our life more meaningful is the surest way to finding lasting happiness. When our daily actions fulfill a bigger purpose, the most powerful and enduring happiness can happen.

Focusing Question to Bring Purpose To Life

“What’s the one thing I can do in my life that would mean the most to me and the world, such that by doing it everything else would be easier or unnecessary?”

Focusing Question for Goal Setting

We tend to be overly optimistic about our goal achievement, so we don’t think things all the way through. Focus on visualizing the process to achieve a goal, instead of visualizing the outcome!

Focusing Question for Productivity

80/20 rule dictates that few items produce the most results. Which means that if disproportionate results come from one activity, then you must give that one activity disproportionate time.

Time block these 3 things to to be productive:

  1. Time block your time off.
    • Resting is as important as working.
  2. Time block your ONE Thing.
    • Work on your one thing, first thing in the morning.
    • Allocate 4 hours each day to work on The ONE Thing (yes, 4 hours).
    • Be a maker in the morning, and a manager in the afternoon.
  3. Time block your planning time.
    • Block 1 hour each week to review your annual and monthly goals.
    • When this time block must be move – remember “if you erase, you must replace”. So, immediately reschedule  your planning time (otherwise it won’t get done.)

Your own need to do other things instead of the ONE Thing may be the biggest challenge to overcome.

The 3 Commitments to Your ONE Thing

To achieve extraordinary success, you must commit to 3 things:

  1. Follow the Path of Mastery
    • Commit to become a master in your ONE Thing.
  2. Move from “E” to “P”
    • Entrepreneurial (E) approach is to get things done as they come to you. Its the natural way. Its limiting.
    • Purposeful (P) approach is to look for new way to get things done. Its the unnatural way.
  3. Live the Accountability Cycle
    • Take ownership for your actions
    • Find an accountability partner or coach!

The 4 Thieves of Productivity

  1. Inability to say “No”
    • You can’t please everyone, so don’t try.
    • If you say ‘yes’ to something, you always say ‘no’ to something else.
    • Simple rule: A request must be connected to my One Thing for me to consider it.
  2. Fear of Chaos
    • When you strive for greatness, chaos is guaranteed to show up.
  3. Poor Health Habits – You need lots of energy to achieve success, so:
    • Meditate and pray for spiritual energy
    • Eat right, exercise and sleep sufficiently for physical energy
    • Hug, kiss and laugh with loved ones for emotional energy
    • Set goals, plan and calendar for mental energy
    • Time block your ONE Thing for business energy
  4. Environment Doesn’t Support Your Goals
    • No one succeeds alone, and no one fails alone – pay attention to the people around you.
    • Make your physical space suitable to work in.